Because of publishing deadlines, you may be reading this column before, on election day, or afterwards, so I will keep that in some part of my mind as I write.
What is crowding right up to the front of the queue waiting outside another part of my mind, that part that figures out priorities, is what I have been hearing as I talk to people about this election. Or, to put it more correctly, what I am not hearing.
After a lot of years in this business of paying attention to politics in order to comment on it, I can’t remember such a total lack of enthusiasm. Zero. Not a bit.
Why is that, I wondered? I thought I’d ask that part of my mind that tries to solve the mysteries of modern life. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find I’m calling them pretty often these days. I’m constantly running into situations that I simply find impossible to solve using other parts of my mind. So I rely on them frequently. If my mind-telephone had speed dial, they’d be on it. I was not surprised to hear over a static-filled line the familiar message that I so often get when I call there.
“All our mind-workers are busy now trying to answer an unexpectedly high volume of your questions. Your call is important to us. Please hold the line to maintain your call priority. Have a nice day.”
This was followed by recorded music - a rap version of the ‘Ode to Newfoundland’.
“God guard thee uh-huh! Uh-huh! God guard thee uh-huh! Uh-huh! God guard thee Newfoundland uh-huh! Uh-huh!”
I hung up the mind-phone. I decided to examine the evidence I had observed first-hand and then just wing it. Make up my own mind. Research is over-rated anyway. The part of my mind that purports to solve the mysteries of modern life would probably just feed me data from their latest poll. They would undoubtedly claim it was accurate within five per cent 19 times out of 20. I wanted more precision than that.
So, I thought back to what I had heard people saying, both in person, in my part of Bonavista Bay, and add to that to what I had read, seen or heard in the media.
Suddenly, the part of my mind that sometimes generates a flash of insight started uttering a sound that was supposed to make me pay attention. The noise was more emphatic than the chirping of a microwave but less alarming than a smoke detector.
The message was: The population of Newfoundland and Labrador, despite all the technologies devoted to keeping us informed about each other, is as divided as it has ever been. That’s because when we are informed what people in another region or group think is important, it frequently has nothing to do with what is of interest to us. This can cause us to tune out or even become resentful.
The Avalon suburbs resent St. John’s and the Townies scorn the Burbies. They both are unaware of what makes Baymen tick. People in Labrador think the Island regards them as a warehouse empty of personnel but stogged right full with natural resources for the taking. Islanders, when they even think of Labrador, are inclined to roll their eyes when the people from the Big Land come to mind. Newfoundlanders sometimes grumble that Labradorians are inclined to come on excessively romantic and eco-sensitive when they reflect on where they live.
You won’t often hear me say this, but I feel kind of sorry for the poor politicians. How are they supposed to make policy when a percentage of the population applauds a given plank in their election platform while another crowd is either vehemently opposed or thinks the plank is irrelevant, wasteful even.
It is from this intersection of conflicting interests that the lack of enthusiasm for the election arises. That and the oft repeated claim “Why should I vote? They’re all the same anyway. They don’t care.”
That is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people don’t vote, it will lead the politicians to conclude that the people don’t care. If the people don’t care, why should the politicians? A vicious circle.
So, depending when you are reading this, please go out and vote tomorrow, vote today, or, I hope you voted last week.
It’s important. People around the world are demonstrating against tyrannical governments, hoping to acquire the right to vote. Many of them are being killed seeking this precious right that we sometimes take for granted.