13 9 / 2014
I voted on the day advance voting opened, partly in the hope that I could remove myself from chaos in the run-up to E-Day. NOPE. Here are some voting myths that have made me angry today:
“You don’t deserve to vote”
I found out today that a close family member was angry—actually upset—that I had voted because they didn’t think “people like [me]” deserved to. Their reasons were that I’m not actually from here (having left NZ before my first birthday only to return five years ago) and that I’m going to leave the country soon (not true). The person who said this is pretty progressive and a declared lefty, so it was extra hurtful.
I am sick of “foreigners” being used as a convenient political punching bag. We are not here to steal your homes and jobs; we are not here to take advantage of your education system; we are not here to overthrow the government. We are here to live and that does not warrant a continuing and microaggressive interrogation to “expose” us as phony New Zealanders.
By my relative’s logic, anyone who isn’t going to be in New Zealand for the next three years shouldn’t vote either. Should we also exclude all New Zealanders who are overseas? Do people who are going to be away for 35 months get to vote, but not those who are gone for 37 months? Does leaving NZ permanently—but remaining a citizen—mean you should exempt yourself from our politics? Or is this a double-barrelled clause: only those of us who are a bit foreign and might not stay forever shouldn’t vote?
But this really isn’t about where I grew up or where I might end up. It’s about the fact that my relative has constructed a mental image of an acceptable New Zealander and voter—and I don’t match it.
“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain for the next three years”
Guess what? Your right to free speech (with reasonable limitation) is not conditional upon having voted! That’s right, RockEnrol: the “right to rant” doesn’t depend on whether you vote. Politics permeates our lives in such a total manner that suggesting one vote every three years is the sum of one’s political buy-in is ludicrous. Everyone is entitled to express an opinion about our politics. Some people do this in polling booths and on the streets; for others mere existence is political enough. There are many levels of democratic participation and you can choose the one you’re most comfortable with—unless your choice ends in imprisonment (this law stinks), you don’t forfeit the right to vote.
“You should only vote after looking at every party’s policies”
Fuck that. Vote based on whatever matters to you. Be a single-issue voter if you want. This is your vote to use as you please. Vote for Colin Craig’s ill-fitting suit; vote for the party that uses your favourite colour; vote with your eyes closed. It doesn’t matter. We have an echo chamber media environment that marginalises actual policy analysis, leaving the task to blogs and social media commentators. Every talking head mentions policies while delivering “post-game analysis” that boils down to which politician can outshout the other. People talk about the ~spirit of participatory democracy~ without realising that our lives are run roughshod over by politicians who don’t feel beholden to us. You don’t have to respect a system that doesn’t respect you.
(Also: parties’ policies are not necessarily true or a promise.)
In conclusion: do what you want
If you’re eligible to vote, you are the only person who decides whether/how you should vote. That vote is yours to use as you please. People who think it’s appropriate to conflate this right with any sort of identity-policing should be put on mute until 20 September.
28 8 / 2014
And if Michael Brown was not angelic, I was practically demonic. I had my first drink when I was 11. I once brawled in the cafeteria after getting hit in the head with a steel trash can. In my junior year I failed five out of seven classes. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been arrested for assaulting a teacher and been kicked out of school (twice.) And yet no one who knew me thought I had the least bit of thug in me. That is because I also read a lot of books, loved my Commodore 64, and ghostwrote love notes for my friends. In other words, I was a human being. A large number of American teenagers live exactly like Michael Brown. Very few of them are shot in the head and left to bake on the pavement.
The “angelic” standard was not one created by the reporter. It was created by a society that cannot face itself, and thus must employ a dubious “morality” to hide its sins. It is reinforced by people who have embraced the notion of “twice as good” while avoiding the circumstances which gave that notion birth. Consider how easily living in a community “with rough patches” becomes part of a list of ostensible sins. Consider how easily “black-on-black crime” becomes not a marker of a shameful legacy of segregation but a moral failing."
10 7 / 2014
"I’ve really tried to understand the Israelis. I used to work on a farm in Israel. I speak Hebrew. I watch their news. All the time they talk about fear. How they have to run to their bunkers to hide from the rockets. How their children can’t sleep because of the sirens. This is not a good way for them to live. We Palestinians don’t talk about fear, we talk about death. Our rockets scare them; their rockets kill us. We have no bomb shelters, we have no sirens, we have nowhere we can take our children and keep them safe. They are scared. We are dying."
24 6 / 2014
I was in Melbourne over the weekend and split a few bottles of wine with someone I worked with last summer. We got to talking about refugee and asylum seeker issues and movements like Not In My Name and We Are Better Than That.
I get that they are well-intentioned; I understand that they’re all about busting myths about refugees and promoting general goodwill towards refugees and asylum seekers. I absolutely agree that you should tell your government when it does something you don’t agree with.
What doesn’t jive is how these movements separate activists from their countries’ shitty immigration policies. Take responsibility for what your government does. Saying you had nothing to do with a policy decision doesn’t mean you’re absolved of all guilt. Don’t selectively celebrate things that your government does; part of conscientious citizenship is participation and distancing yourself from decisions like the Malaysia Solution weakens public discourse.