The Big Read: I'm voting for the Vulcan

02 August 2016 - 10:37 By Tom Eaton

Democracy brings many frustrations, but few compare to the opinion piece in which someone searches their soul, for money, and wonders who they will vote for. That was a messy sentence, but nobody said democracy was tidy. Especially not opinionistas. That's because we don't really say anything, at least not when it comes to elections.Oh, we'll talk about the thing on this hand versus the thing on the other hand, but, much like a Chomp, we will always leave you unsatisfied. That's because you don't want to know about how we're wrestling demons (unless we are literally wrestling demons, which would be fantastic to read about). You want to know who we're voting for.That's really the only reason to read anyone's personal opinions on elections: the big reveal. But we're never going to tell you, partly because it would make our employers look like shills for a particular party, but mainly because we're frightened of having eggs thrown at us and revealing how desperately unco-ordinated we are as we try to dodge said eggs.So. If you're looking for carefully constructed insights about the complexity of voting in a crucial election, finished off with a dramatic announcement that I've hitched my political wagon to the Ubuntu Party (because they offer free electricity without explaining where it comes from, and I'm a sucker for people who hint that they've overcome the laws of physics), stop reading now.If, however, you're up for some vintage democratic handwringing, I'm your guy.The thing is, I don't know who I'm voting for. I mean, I know his name and that he looks like a Vulcan from Star Trek, but that's it.I hope he is a good organiser and the sort of bloke who gets things done but, more importantly, I hope he is actually a Vulcan because it would make him incredibly effective at council meetings: cool, calm and rational, but, if things get shouty, able to render people unconscious by gripping the back of their necks.Of course, most politicians have the ability to render people unconscious, but they usually do it by repeating platitudes for 20 years. Still, it works. I know. Because last week, I suddenly realised that I was unconscious.You know that moment in the meeting where someone in an ill-fitting suit has just said that the only way to maximise the impacting of the impactfulness on the paradigm is to allow influencers to think both inside and outside the box? And you find yourself nodding, writing "impact=influence=box!", and then a strange feeling comes over you, as if a distant alarm-clock is ringing through a dream, and you sort of jolt awake and think, "But what does any of that mean?" and the more you listen, the more every single word sounds like gibberish.That happened last week, when I heard the umpteenth pundit explaining that the local government elections were very important. Yes, I thought. They really are. So important. Essential. And ... but ... why?Local elections, as we all know, are for electing people who run the places we live in, as opposed to national elections, which are for electing people who run from prosecutors. Which makes local elections, at least in practical terms, very important.And yet I was struck by a rather alarming fact: I had been ready to vote, already sure of which candidate I was going to vote for, without knowing a single thing about him other than his name and that he had a Vulcanesque air about him.I didn't know if he could read a budget or understand legal documents or appoint the right people with the right skills to get things done. I didn't even know how he got to be my local candidate. Was there a long history of tending to grass-roots, or was his daddy loaded?It's become fashionable to criticise ANC voters for their blind faith in the party, but I realised that I had been guilty of exactly the same thing. The dominant local party had put up a picture of some dude and I was ready to give him my vote without knowing whether he could actually do the job.After some frantic Googling, the internet told me ... almost nothing. (Go ahead. Try it yourself. See how much you can find out about the person you're about to entrust with pretty much everything in your neighbourhood. For extra fun, try to find out who is running against them or if they're better qualified. I'll tell you what you'll find: crickets.)But it has reminded me, very late in the day, that not all elections are about ideologies and national figures. Big ideas are important, but so are accurate electricity bills. Nation building must happen, but so must nation repair and nation maintenance. And that's down to informed voters.My elected officials need to do better, but that starts with me.

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