Maybe we should start with a background here. I have two passports – one from the country I grew up in and the other from the country I live in. Controversially, this allows me to vote in both countries. In this article I will explain why I execute that right and why you should vote too.
The idea for this article was prompted by a conversation with a group of friends and family members about the upcoming presidential elections in Poland, political situation in the UK and presidential campaign in the US. But I’m not going to flood you with my political opinions, I promise!
To the point. Here are the reasons why I vote in both Poland and the UK.
Because I can
Let’s start with the obvious. If I can express my opinion, the chances are I might just do so. Since I am allowed to vote in both the UK and Poland, I will. If I were allowed to vote in Italy or the US, friend, you’d see me at a polling station. You would of course first spot me at a cafe with a newspaper getting educated on what it is I am voting on, but that’s beside this reason.
You might be surprised, especially if you are my age or younger, to know that the ability to vote is in fact a privilege. Being able to cast a vote means that you are likely living in a country which enjoys a degree of freedom, prosperity and some level of respect for the concept of human rights. None of these are granted, so the vote we cast is in reality our window to say that we want these freedoms to remain available to us.
Because it is my right
The unfortunate thing with voting is that it’s a use it or lose it scenario. If you have not voted in a particular election, there is no catch up, you’ll just have to live with other people’s choices. And honestly I think that in particular women have suffered enough to win this right and I am not about to forfeit it. While women in Poland were able to vote since 1918, UK took another 10 years to allow for universal suffrage. There was a lot of anger and some bloodshed involved, not to mention politics impacted by the First World War which went some way in enabling women to break out of the social constraints imposed by patriarchal viewpoint. The following Second World War caused some serious complications to execution of this right in one of the two countries, but on that just a tad later.
You see…if you have a right to vote you might just as well use it. If you chose not to, then you are also choosing to not have a say while your friends argue about the policy and where the country is going.
It took me well into my 20’s to understand why this right is important, despite my mother in particular making a serious effort to drum it into my head. I also now understand why she made such a big effort to push my brother and me to take at least the minimum interest in political landscape. You see, my mother grew up in Poland occupied by the Soviets, following Stalin’s move against the Western Allies at the end of WWII and a takeover of large chunk of the Eastern Europe. While in the western culture that period talks about the cold war, ZSRR or just Poland being communist, the country was in fact occupied – it did not elect to be communist. This occupation resulted 53 years of straw government and limited rights, a threat of civil war in 1989 and Poland finally having an actual presidential election in 1990. I was 4 at the time and remember being taken to the polling station by my parents so that I can see it, partly because history was being made right there and partly because it was the first time they were able to truly cast their vote in a democratic election. Their voting right was not something they could take for granted and I shouldn’t either.
Because it is my obligation
While I am just one person of many it is my obligation as a citizen, and a human who wants the world to not fall apart, to keep up with what’s happening in the world. Realistically I am unlikely to change the world by myself. However, grouped with other like-minded individuals I might actually be able to have a positive influence. And this is what voting really is – it’s standing up for what you want to happen next.
As a person who wants a safer, happier and less hungry world, it is my obligation to support people with the same agenda. And seemingly controversially, my world does not start or end with just a single country – in fact territorial boundaries are irrelevant. What is relevant is saying what I want to happen wherever possible.
In my circumstance of being able to vote in my country of birth and my country of residence this attitude is often misunderstood at first. The simple thinking would dictate that if you no longer live somewhere you have no business in participating in that place’s politics. Except that’s a very flat perspective which fails to take into account that countries are all part of a big network of politics, trade agreements and often share the same issues. To explain it with an example, it’s like having the same debate over two separate dinner parties – you wouldn’t hold out from stating your opinion to one group of friends just because you already told the others about it.
Because I have an opinion
We all have an opinion. And we have an opinion on just about everything there is under the sun, including the shape of our country(ies) and how the government representatives behave. I make an effort to stay informed on what it is that particular political parties and candidates stand for, what the issue I am voting on is about and how potential outcomes impact the future.
The secondary consideration is that while in normal circumstances it is a rarity to go up to a person and tell them they are doing a great or a terrible job, in case of politicians voting is the mechanism to do that with an immediate impact. It is also the mechanism to convey your values, your attitude to the future and your opinion on what path you want the whole country to take. While a Twitter rant might be the ‘fun’ way to convey all this, it goes nowhere to actually push politicians in or out of the office.
So if you want your opinion heard, be prepared to cast a ballot.
I hope this article goes some way in convincing you to take part in elections. While the next general election in the UK where I live is not formally due until 2024, Polish presidential election is due at the end of this month and yes, I am going to vote.