The Nobility of Participation…
It’s European elections on Thursday and, for the first time in my adult life, I feel like not voting.
I used to think of it as an obligation and an honour. An expression of gratitude for the very right to vote and a symbol of support for democracy in general.
All very noble, right?
But What if it Doesn’t Feel So Noble…?
In this moment, though, as I reflect on the literature coming through my front door, I don’t feel so noble. I feel more than ever as if we’ve lost our way.
Sure, it’s ‘only’ a European election and, having an insider-knowledge of how the EU works, I know that it ain’t about the MEPs.
Hubby says I should vote because it’s basically “a referendum on Brexit”.
But it isn’t though, is it.
When the Point is Less Than Clear…
In a referendum there would be a tradition of upholding the result.
In these elections it seems like one more thing for our political leaders to ignore, just as they’ve ignored petitions and demonstrations, ignored research and advice on how the numbers stack up, who wins and who loses. And, I’m guessing here, ignoring the inner voice of their own wisdom.
I’ve never thought of myself as apathetic, or defeatist — and I don’t feel defeated, I don’t even feel bothered.
I’m mildly curious about my feelings and I’m mildly amused by (what looks like) the pointlessness of voting in a game that seems as relevant as a fastest eater contest of garden snails I might have set up when the children were small: entertaining perhaps, but with no clear direction or purpose.
I know I’m not alone in feeling the disillusionment of current politics. And yet, I don’t feel that I have to do anything about my disillusionment.
Change is the very nature of things and, just as my mood will shift, so politics will shift.
We Can Still Create Clarity…
What I come back to, for my own reflection, is my certainty that our politicians have everything they need to make better decisions, and yet they don’t — or should I say it’s my impression that they don’t — how could I really know what goes on in someone else’s head?
I know for sure they have access to great analysis, and I know for sure they have the ability to listen and to have a new idea in any moment.
…Unless We Get in Our Own Way
I also know, because it’s demonstrated in their behaviour, that there is a cloud of self-absorption that keeps them from acting on new ideas, from acting on ‘common sense’, from acting on what seems blindingly obvious.
I feel rather like I’m watching someone digging a hole in sand, wanting to get out but asking for a bigger spade so they can dig deeper. Watching someone offer a helping hand to pull them out of the hole, only for the digger to reply,
I’ve started so I’ll finish!
Thanks so much, I feel a bit of a fool for continuing to dig when I was clearly in a hole. Oh well!
I guess that’s the nature of life.
We only see the helping hand when we see it.
And we’re embarrassed about admitting that past decisions, made with the best of intentions at the time, are much less likely to serve us than a decision made on what’s fresh and new and relevant right now.
Separating Feelings and Actions…
When I shared how I was feeling with friends they mostly tried to convince me to vote. Some even got angry that I was the ‘apathetic middle’.
That isn’t how I see myself though.
Come Thursday I have no idea who will get my X in the box, if anyone.
Perhaps I’ll be influenced by whoever is outside the polling station. Perhaps I’ll vote for the party I’ve always voted for (don’t see that happening!), or perhaps I’ll be influenced by hubby’s more detailed analysis. Failing everything, it will be a nice trip out for the dog — a chance to make new friends and collect even more admirers.
I feel the way I feel, and that might cause me to reflect on the bigger picture, why we’re where we are, and whether there’s any contribution I want to make in the wider world of politics, or, indeed, anything else.
I can decide whether or not to vote, and how to vote, despite my slight (and no doubt transient) apathy. I can experience my mild disillusionment and still believe in the importance of participation; still make the best choice I can with the information I have.
I can see the game for what it is and choose to play by the rules because it seems to be in the best interests of all players — I don’t have to pander to my current state of mind.
And, if I really want to, I can back out, I can decide to withdraw from the process, back out of the game altogether. Right now, though, that doesn’t look like the best choice for any of us.
About the author
Cathy Presland is an expert in personal and professional leadership and an advanced transformative coach. She has more than two decades of experience in government and international organisations and her focus as a coach is to support individuals and organisations to improve their leadership and effectiveness, in a way that removes and reduces the need for tactics and techniques.