- Date published:
7:30 am, July 31st, 2017 - 14 comments
Categories: community democracy, democratic participation, election 2017, Left, poverty - Tags: guest post, Mary St George, missing million
This is a Guest Post from Mary St George, a distance education teacher, who tweets about work, gardens, church, the environment and politics.
As I approached the age of eighteen, my uncle gave me a rare piece of advice. It was about voting. He advised me never to vote for the same party twice, unless I felt there was no other ethical choice. If you choose your vote with that thought in mind, he told me, you will do your homework each time. If policy changes for the worse, you will know. If policy you believed in doesn’t actually work, you will see that. These things will make it easy to look for a better party each election season, and to vote for that better party, if there is one. On the other hand, party loyalty is blind, and brings in governments which do not serve the people. This is advice I have grown to appreciate more and more, in contrast to the other advice he gave me that visit. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right?
So what do you do, if you are quite passionate about political issues, but you don’t become loyal to a party? In my case, I have become loyal to ideals, and one of these is the ideal of participatory democracy: of having a say, and helping others to become part of the conversation. I have begun wondering about the “missing million,” how they would vote if they chose to, and what would encourage them to do so. I have become passionate about putting policy before personality, and angry when mainstream media report on style at the expense of substance.
At the moment, I believe the biggest issue facing us all is care of the environment. No viable planet means no viable parties, even if they are cosy with big business. Sorry Nats. This affects your grandkids, too, and your policy in this area is exceptionally weak. The second biggest issue is poverty. I’ve been poor, and I can do empathy. I care about the demoralising hardship the poor are going through. I am human, and I can do selfishness. Some of the homeless people I meet are scary. So my good self and my bad self both want to fix this poverty and homelessness shite. I’d like to comfort the afflicted, but also to stop the homeless from hanging around my bus stop, afflicting me in my comfort zone. That places me unequivocally on the left for this year’s election. The left may not want me, of course, but I am there.
However, there is a style before substance narrative about the left. The 4-party right wing coalition says that a 3-party left wing coalition can’t work. Too many parties. These are the people who gave us numeracy standards, whanau.
Can the left pull together? You can’t go to a broad “left” meeting to see for yourself, but I am curious to find out. As someone who acts on curiosity, I have started a Twitter chat called #LeftWithEnough. On Monday evenings, we have a rambling conversation about issues and policies affecting the left. On Tuesdays, we follow a question and answer format to explore these issues further. The impression I have gained is that most New Zealanders who lean left share a strong alignment of values, no matter which party is most likely to get their vote.
The conversation is energising and encouraging. We are connecting with others who support similar policies, and we are finding parties we want to vote for. But where are the missing million? The rumours of cyberspace tell me they do not tweet. #LeftWithEnough may help to prove or disprove that theory. My belief in participatory democracy suggests that if we don’t find them at #LeftWithEnough, then we (the ordinary voters) should try something else.
What can you do to encourage a non-voter to have their say in 2017?
#LeftWithEnough Mondays and Tuesdays from 8.30pm on twitter.
Moderator note: let’s welcome our Guest Poster and be on our best behaviour.