The other side

Here at the office, we’ve been cracking our heads thinking of ways to defeat apathy among voters and boost the turn-out numbers for 2007. We’ve been at it for some time now and, while there are some good ideas on the table, there are no great ones. And then someone stood up and said, “why bother?”

You could hear a pin drop in the room. Then he said it again. “Why bother? No one sees the effect of their vote, so why do we keep trying to sell them a concept we can’t even make them see? And any way, these people don’t care about voting, they care more about their cars and their trips to the mall and their acne.” We all laughed and drowned out this heresy in a fit of hysterical giggling.

But the question and the mini-rant intrigued me since I have asked it myself often enough. When it’s dark and I’m sure no one is around to hear the heretical rhetorical question, I also ask myself ‘why bother.’ And whenever I do, I feel like I’ve crossed over to some sort of other side where lives the anti-thesis of COMELEC.

So, when that question was finally verbalized in my office, I decided that I wasn’t the only one with the heretical thought. Now, I could have taken a page from Rome and tried to burn the heresy out of my people, but a good stake is so hard to come by these days, and the stench lasts for days and days. Easier, I thought, to just confront the demon and understand the nature of the question “Why bother?”

Like a true son of the information age, I dove into the internet for some help in my quest to comprehend the other side, and came up with this article, The Other Campaign.

Reading it made me realize the absurdity of the doubts I had begun entertaining about our efforts to encourage people to vote. The apathy, the disinterest, that we have been bitching about is no excuse not to do it; the apathy and the disinterest is, in fact, the very reason to do what we’re doing.The apathy and distrust of the voter doesn’t really harm the electoral system itself. After all, elections will be held regardless of how low the turn-out is, or how empty the polling places are; in fact, barring a total boycott of elections, even the most depressingly low turnout at the polls will be good enough to install Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, Governors, Mayors, and a whole bunch of Council Members.

So poll turn-out isn’t the true reason for a get-out-the-vote campaign. What truly matters is the apathy and the disinterest that, if not broken, will screw up our future something fierce.W e need to encourage people – the youth especially – to vote because if we don’t then we will be party to allowing an entire generation of Filipinos to continue thinking that the world revolves around them, their cars, and their sybaritic lives. To encourage them to vote is to deliver a kick in the ass to shock the them out of their self-absorption.

Our get-the-vote-out campaign has to hammer it into the skulls of the lazy and indifferent that even they are part of a bigger whole, and that even they should be responsible for the society they live in. Our campaign needs to drive home the truth that we all need to concerned enough about issues like poverty, corruption, and criminality to do something about it, no matter how intangible each individual’s effect on the problem may be. Our efforts have to focus on getting people to care about something other than themselves.

We should avoid propagating trite messages designed to make people feel all warm and fuzzy about voting. The EID campaign must be grounded in the actual events of the times – as harsh and visceral as necessary – and not dwell only on motherhood and peach mango pie. We need to expose voters to issues that matter; we need to teach them how to break the conditioning they have been receiving from both sides of the political divide; we need to remind people that, while the elections in 2007 are a prime opportunity to hold politicians to account, the polls shouldn’t be overly simplified to signify only a legitimate overthrowing of a disliked president, or the defeat of people branded as ‘obstructionists’ and ‘destabilizers.’ We need to get voters to think and think for themselves.

And most importantly, in order to do all of this, we must keep in mind that the message is sometimes only as believable as the messenger. We must give the public a credible guarantee that these polls will be clean and transparent; that though it may not be perfect, those who are out to rig it or manipulate it will be caught and punished. When that guarantee is in place, people will come to vote – even the lazy idiots.


8 Responses

  1. The problem is not just making the people vote. It’s making them vote wisely. We need an educated electorate. There is apathy because the current electorate does not understand the importance of their vote, their rights and their responsibility. The only way for voters to learn to think and think for themselves is to educate them and show them that the COMELEC can live up to what is written on their seal: Vox populi, vox dei.

    I am seventeen and do not yet have the privilege of choosing my leaders. The least I can do is make sure that those who have the privilege choose the right ones.

  2. Thank you, abbi. I hope that you register to vote in 2010. The country needs more people like you.

    And I certainly hope we don’t disappoint you in May.

  3. Hiya James! Funny I got to see your blog today. I was just trying to update myself on the state of the PH electoral system today. You see, former Senator Loren Legarda was a guest yesterday at our weekly luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of Makati in Manila Peninsula Hotel. To say the least, she had very interesting comments on the issue. She also expressed that she has a lot of faith in an automated voting system. So I talked to her privately and advised her of my opinion against 100% blind trust to high-tech equipment. Given my background in information security (worked with Israelis for six years worldwide, as a senior technical consultant), the true nature of my company’s business, and my personal study of election systems over the years, I told her I always have some reservations. A prime example is that HBO documentary I watched in California recently, that raises lots of questions about the latest presidential elections of the worlds finest example of democracy in action: USA. She says she hasn’t so I told her my staff would just drop off a copy in her Forbes Park home. The real deal is to design a system that can be trusted by everybody, not have a technology solution just for technology’s sake. Anyway, I’m rambling too much. Talk to you later!

  4. Absolutely right you are Drexx. But to be very frank, the problem is that we always end up with designs that are built not on the basis of logic but on the need to address distrust. We add layers and layers of protection and counter-protection that, in the end, we have a system so cumbersome and complex, it defeats the purpose of automation.

    It’s like forcing a square peg in a round hole: you pound the damned thin hard enough, you’re sure to get it to fit, but it’s gonna be a lousy job.

    And since you’re obviously so (bloody) rich now that you can give free stuff to even richer politicians, maybe you can throw a poor buddy a free copy of that HBO docu at my Intramuros office. Hahaha.

    Thanks man. It’s a blast hearing from you again.

  5. Dear James, catching your train of thought limited to one dimension is not something I thought I’d live long enough to see 🙂 It must be the most ungodly hour we’re at.

    Trust will always be an issue. It’s not something taken for granted, no matter how promising something is. The paradigm of trust has parallels in the whole concept of good versus evil and its accompanying history. But I digress…

    In the information security industry, achieving a high level of trust is one of the primary goals of any enterprise-class IT system. This applies to any organization, in any industry (one would think that it’s obvious that financial, intelligence, & weapons industries are the ones with the heaviest emphasis on trusted systems, but this requirement has spread widely even to the manufacturing, healthcare & business process outsourcing industries as well).

    The “need to address distrust” to combat fraudsters is just one factor in designing a trusted system. I gotta say that it’s the most catchy idea though. The other factors are, but not limited to, is the trust that: information that is supposed to be secret shall remain Confidential (like voter IDs and their individual votes!); that Integrity (e.g. of the real vote results) shall remain intact no matter what; that the data (e.g. vote results) shall be complete & readily Available (e.g. for reporting, auditing, analysis, and other lawful purposes); the system has the ability to survive natural & man-made disasters; and other scenarios. [I could go on for more, but I have to limit myself considering the size of your blog.]

    Anyway, you also mentioned layers of protection & counter-protection that results in a system that is unusable. I say that your opinion is jaded. There are classic management solutions that will answer the requirements for trusted systems, that one day I’d be happy to chat with you. The answers can be surprisingly simple (like the sound of one hand clapping). Yes, relatively simple even for the seemingly hopeless electoral system my beloved country has. All these over coffee, at least for the pleasure of hanging out with you again like the good old days 🙂

  6. no problem, drexx. So you can explain that crack about a one-d train of thought. 🙂 Especially since we seem to be thinking alike on this.

    Let me assure you that these considerations you mentioned were all part of the project implementation in 2004 (when I was part of the implementation team).

    And the layers I mentioned referred to processes outside the automation loop. And It’s precisely those layers that I want simplified – with the classic management systems I am sure you will lecture me on, or with other strategies – and eliminated.

    Whoa. I’m glad to be having these jousts with you again, Drexx the Bavarian.

  7. “Drexx The Bavarian” ! Touche! 😀

  8. This post, however off-topic it may be, is about Internet freedom. \”Network Neutrality\” — the First Amendment of the Internet — ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.

    But Internet providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to gut Net Neutrality. If Congress doesn\’t take action now to implement meaningful Net Neutrality provisions, the future of the Internet is at risk.

    In the end game, only large companies will afford domains if the communications monopolies have their way with this. This of course isnt new news, but its coming to a head and blogs like this one will be a ghosttown unless all of us figure it our pretty darn quick. I wont post any links, but advise that if you value the internet, and blogs likw this one, that you search Google for \”Network Neutrality\” and educate yourself on this issue as it effects all of us.

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