Ask not what your elected reps can do for you…

Ten sleeps till election day in Norn Iron and I’m losing little over my decision to sit this one out. The only backlash I feared was my Mother’s threat of a clip round the ear for refusing to exercise a privilege for which many fought hard. She didn’t disappoint. So indelible are the stains of struggle on the ballot box that any attempt to ignore them is construed as casually ducking out of the generational relay race of responsibility. Point taken. As a woman (allegedly), the perceived betrayal induces an uncompromising wrath.

Clipped tones and appendages aside, I welcomed an opportunity for my decision to be given a good kicking. It’s still standing, if slightly hunched over with a black eye. Kneecaps intact though.

“A penalty for not participating in politics is to be governed by your inferiors.” 

That punch thrown by Plato, delivered through those given power of attorney on Earth – Twitter users.

It’s doubtful Plato had a pre-determined Assembly structure designed to safeguard the Green/Orange configuration in mind when he uttered that assertion. Were he around now, he might be tempted to add: “unless you live in Northern Ireland, where an out-dated parliamentary configuration ensures inferior governance for all”.  For we are not dealing with a regular democracy, if such a system ever existed in the first place.

But you already knew that. And that is precisely why it is imperative that my fellow citizens and I in this septic statelet must ensure peace is protected at all costs! By casting our vote! Peace must hold! Or we’ll bring it down! That would be the same peace brokered twenty years ago when the IRA graciously laid down their arms following  periods of intransigence and indifference from politicians North, South and Westminster. The same peace under mythical threat if the precious ‘centre’ is pulled out from under it.

“Ok-so how did the people effect the ushering in of peace? Surely influence on the IRA & 2 governments = politics. Democracy means voting.”

I wouldn’t like to underestimate the commitment and sacrifices made by politicians, nor can I indulge in the mawkish glorification of them in recent years. No-one is better at congratulating Sinn Fein than Sinn Fein. It conveniently obscures the people’s demands for ‘no more’, which triggered the threat of political expediency that eventually backed all shades into a corner with no option but to negotiate a way out. Ordinary people’s movements don’t make into official history books, nor into revisonist views of it.

“They brought us here well esp John Hume in 1998. Early problems aside-Trimble dancing re Drumcree the 2017”

“They” being the nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionist parties, respectively. The current pact both are pushing the electorate to support as a ‘radical’ alternative to the deteriorating marriage of Sinn Fein and DUP. The latter workable only because one side’s constituency was not under threat by vote-hunters from the other; and ultimately unworkable because the Party First Mentality resulted in treating the livelihood of the broad electorate with wilful contempt.

The whatboutery of the SF/DUP breakdown is for other hair-splitters to rant about. In some ways, it has everything and nothing to do with my opting out. Blind a fresh Troubles-free young generation with a dam-burst of bitterness about the past, then force them to referee their petulant elders. Arrogantly lean on an increasingly diverse collection of greying heads to lead by example. Force them to compromise their personal  and moral convictions to prop up those incapable of doing the same. Ideals inconsistent with two church-deferring anti-choice parties with a lethargic attitude to integrated education. The balance of responsibilities has tipped further back onto the lap of an electorate expected to do most of the heavy lifting.

Others have attracted consternation for canvassing on “single issues” with some commentators deeming it “selfish”. As if issues of poverty, education, welfare reform, equality, the environment, health, reproductive rights and so on bear no relationship to each other, they are dismissed by the compulsion to protect the ragbag of Orange and Green ‘cultural’ sensitivities. Hasn’t that been the problem? A faulty formula meant for a short-term period of political transition, which, 20 years on, is an instrument for the abuse and suffocation of integration.  The pressure to balance the needs of all (with no consensus on what that is) with personal integrity is unrealistic. It would not be unlike asking pro-choice activists to vote Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to prevent them from huffing with each other. An ostensibly mellower Assembly might appear reachable from here, but it won’t usher any radical challenge to the status quo. The structure is set-up to safeguard it.

If you believe the ballot box is as sacred as it always was, your irritation with those leaving it to the pall-bearing few to carry is understandable.

“Nobody counts “didn’t vote” or “spoiled vote”. The notion that non/spoiled votes are effective protest is wrong.”

But I don’t claim my not-arsedness as a protest move, not in the respectable definition of the term. All things considered and chin-stroked over, I couldn’t vote for any of the candidates on offer in my area. Moreover, the ballot box is not the sacred, exclusive means of engaging in political action it once was. As an apparatus of democracy it is at best constrained, and at worst illusionary. Pissed on. Neither is it the only method to register dissent or participate in politics. You probably noticed that, too.

So, rightly or wrongly, I’m bowing out of the ballot box on this occasion. Not as an act of protest, or civil ‘disobedience’, but as a right. Politics is a broad term. Day-to-day community life is where it’s at for me. The ordinary people in Norn Iron have always been ahead of state politics, anyway. When it mattered most.

march

A legitimate protest, hi

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