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Sep 08

Post Election Democracy

ballot paper 2013Amidst the general political discussion on Twitter last night, which was fast and furious, one thought really stood out to me. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t favourite the tweet so that I can attribute it properly. If you are the person who uttered these words of wisdom, thank you for helping me to regain a sense of perspective post-election.

The general message (significantly paraphrased by me) was this:

Voting on election day is only one aspect of democracy. You don’t have to wait another 3 years to engage your democratic rights. You can contribute every day to help create a positive and progressive community if you choose to. That’s democracy – you get to choose, every day, to be part of making the world around you a better place.

So, what are your plans for the next three years? Will you sit on the sidelines or will you take an active role, continuing to exercise your rights to have a say in the decisions that shape your community? Will you cross your arms and pout because you didn’t get the leader you wanted, or will you do your very best to continue to promote the causes and people that you believe in? Will you mock the opinions of others, or will you lead by positive example, backing up your opinions with your time and energy?

I have really enjoyed the political discussion over the past few weeks. Not so much the actual political campaigning and propaganda (from politicians and media), but the genuine, heartfelt sharing of ideas and opinions from informed, intelligent people who really want to make a positive difference. I see no reason why this discussion needs to end because election day has come and gone.

It was incredibly disappointing to see statistics showing just how many informal votes were cast yesterday. Perhaps this should be our goal in the coming three years – to help others understand that it is worth thinking about what is happening around them and taking an active role. To help people to see that a world exists beyond their front door that could be improved by their participation and involvement.

It’s easy to find memes, jokes and comments all over Twitter and Facebook mocking politicians and the political process. Some of them are very funny, but many simply reflect a disenchanted and disillusioned population who see little in their leaders worth admiring. This feeling was captured for me most effectively by a cartoon suggesting that a voter list their candidate preferences from ‘least to most disappointing’, a sadly accurate representation of the way many voters were feeling.

I think we can hold our politicians to a higher standard than we have seen recently, if we ourselves aim to take a higher path. I love this quote shared by The Optimism Revolution on Facebook: ‘Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate’. We’re all down on our politicians for running a negative campaign, but we seem to be just as quick to mock, demean and belittle our political leaders as they are to mock, demean and belittle each other.

So, I ask you again, what do you plan to do now? Will you be part of an ongoing discussion to help shape the priorities of your community? Will you speak up for those things you believe are important? Will you encourage your children to respectfully listen to the opinions of others and speak up confidently about the issues that matter to them by modeling this behaviour yourself?

I’m pondering these questions myself and thinking about how I can be become more engaged in the issues that matter to me within my own local community. I’d love you to leave a comment if you have practical suggestions for ways that people can make a difference, both within their community and as part of the political process.

Whether you’re celebrating or mourning the outcome of our federal election, I hope that you are able to look forward to the opportunities the coming weeks, months and years will bring for you, personally, to bring about positive change.

I leave you with a thought provoking ‘open letter from the guy who did that sweary website’. It’s worth reading and thinking about.

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