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.