When I couldn’t vote, it meant so much more to me. I’m a bit sad about that.
With the election in NZ looming, social media’s been exploding with political facts and opinions across the entire spectrum. At first, I saw it as an opportunity to read up on things I’m not familiar with and match political goals with the faces and names getting thrown around. I wanted to see how people from different demographics were processing this information. That was true, things were good and I was learning a lot, but sadly only up to a point.
See, I’m not too happy when I feel I’ve been lied to. This applies to politicians first and foremost. Unfortunately, it’s the more ancillary things that are starting to annoy me this time around. Things like:
• the conductors of polls being narrow with their participants, then doctoring the results
• media outlets showing unprofessional bias, thus fueling discord between consumers of said media over its authenticity
• the way people are attaching personal stories (of themselves or others) to seemingly unrelated political agendas
…and a few other points I’m probably not well-informed enough to start shit over. What I’m trying to say is that all this cognitive dissonance is really starting to fry my noodle. Seriously, it’s crispy now. And the MSG I’ve been left with is one of despondency. Honestly. If this situation was compared to a fortune cookie, I’d be eating the paper inside without reading it and hoping that the wood pulp would at least contribute to my nutritional needs later on, knowing it won’t. Basically, I’m annoyed and probably hungry.
Before I felt pressure to have a political standpoint and before I was able to do my own research, I was excited about exercising my right to pick a leader. I sat in front of the news with my parents and observed their reactions to anything political. I felt it was important to note how my parents are so different as people and so similar in their views, so I asked them about what they thought – what they wanted in a leader and what they thought about the talking heads involved in debate. I started getting to know these leaders like heroes and villains; I was too young to acknowledge that these people have day-to-day lives. I was too busy joking about making caricature-style trading cards to see them as people. I found it all very engaging and couldn’t wait to play this adult game.
Then, I turned that magical age – eighteen. I started getting orange letters and forms sent to me and was excited once again at this opportunity to demonstrate my political leanings in the form of ticks in boxes. I felt lucky that I had the internet within my grasp and even luckier that my parents aren’t dicks about the boxes I like to tick.
And during this round of research I had a partial awakening: these political figures are people too. On one hand, it was reassuring to feel like they’ve got more things in common with the public than I thought. On the other hand, I was frightened. If they’re people too, then they’ve got very powerful emotions based on human experience. Mix that with the power they have and my palms start to sweat. These are no longer the people I used to joke about and idealise from a distance. What they do affects me in ways I can no longer deny.
Then, that fateful day came around and I sauntered along to my nearest polling station. I was proud that I knew the main points of each party and I made sure my choice reflected that. I don’t wanna go on about it, so I won’t (although I’d like to shout out to McGillicuddy Serious for entertaining my family as I was growing up. They were notably absent from the list). Yay, democracy! Done and dusted, right?
This is my third NZ election and I feel hardly anything has changed, apart from the levels of cynicism and ennui I’ve been noticing lately. I’d say it’s been like this the whole time, but I’ve only just twigged on to it. What’s terrible is that I’m part of that sea of discomfort. I find myself getting fired up about something and how it’s treated by those who have power / want my vote, then I end up crumpling in a heap of despair, woe and feelings of insignificance. Cyclical. Troublesome. Depressing. ADJECTIVES. This ‘adult game’ has me feeling like a pawn and… yeah, it blows pretty hard.
That said, I’m pretty sure who’s getting a nod from me next month so my research hasn’t been in vain. But it was hard to get excited about it, that’s all. I miss how idealistic I used to be when it came to these things. Now I’m the one who says things like, “Who cares what wing you’re on when all the engines have failed / the bird is flightless?”
I’m damned if that’s not kinda sad.