September 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
Two weeks are left until the German federal elections. I’m a first-time voter and what can I say, I’m unreasonably excited about it. Today, I stumbled upon an article in a German newspaper that claims non-voting is a luxury in a working democracy. I shared it on my facebook, followed by a long rant about the importance of voting, posted the same rant as a comment on the newspaper’s facebook page and sent it to them as a letter to the editor. Anas and I had a discussion about democracy the other day, and I used some of our arguments in my rant. Of course, Anas asked me to translate it, which I did. And now I’m sharing it with you, dear readers.
Yes, it’s not about capitalism versus communism anymore, it’s only about the question whether social market economy should be a bit more social-orientated or a bit more market-orientated. Yes, many of the big issues of the past decades have been dealt with so that parties don’t ask about the “whether” any longer but about the “how”. The political waves that we face have become shallower, more subtle. More than ever the voter, if he wants to look like an informed citizen, has to pay attention to detail. It’s not enough to study the slogans on the billboards. You have to read between the lines, and that’s exhausting. Too exhausting for those who don’t have the time or don’t feel like it.
But: This is not a problem of the individual, it’s a structural problem that has its roots in the current situation of the Federal Republic of Germany. We’re sitting comfortably in a country that, during the past 20 years, has established a stable democracy. But a stable democracy has two weaknesses: It is gridlocked and it makes us lazy. We don’t need discussions about non-voters and we don’t need TV commercials that pitch voting to us.
I was born in 1992, after the reunification, in the year the Maastricht Treaty was signed. I have never experienced a divided Germany, only what is left from it today. I have never experienced a Europe with borders. We, the around-the-reunification-children, take this luxury for granted because that’s all we know. We were born into a system where we can move around freely. That’s great, that’s a privilege, and I don’t want to give it up. But many of us don’t understand that you can also turn over a gridlocked system, without violence and without blood. The key word is participation. Change in a stable country comes from the citizens within in the frame of their political participation.
What we need is a dynamic democracy that gets away from the representative bureaucracy our democracy it has become in the past few decades. It’s about time for the people, the demos, to reshape democracy. In a democracy where there is an unsurmountable barrier between those who elect and those who are elected, voting is too abstract. Many voters don’t make the effort to reflect and scrutinize the parties’ programmes. Why should they? It doesn’t matter who’s in power, our political system works anyway. But – couldn’t it be different? Better? Closer to the people? More dynamic?
It could. But for this to come true we have to vote. Our vote always counts, and it’s only partly true that the fewer people vote, the more the individual vote counts. I share my vote with millions of citizens. If more people who share my opinions and ideals vote for the same party, our votes count more. In the institutionalised democracy that we’re living in today we don’t vote as individuals, we vote as part of a group with common values and ideas. But this institutionalised democracy has to change, it has to move, because deadlock, in the long run, is bad. In order for democracy to move forward, we have to vote – even without commercials that tell us to do so.