Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Not-Vote ~ Global Implication

Why have Western politicians with a vested interest in Middle Eastern soil gone out of their way to ignore the significant number of voters who did not vote in Iraq's most recent "elections"? And why, when these not-voters are mentioned, are they invariably mentioned along side reference to religious preference?

Attempts to frame politics and in particular boycotting voters in Iraq in religious terms, fall flat in one major respect. The protest "not-voter" is a global trend.

That religion has played a part at all points more to restriction of movement and speech, a problem for many years in Iraq that does not seem to have abated during this most recent war and subsequent occupation. Noting in particular the curfews and closed borders touted as "security measures" during Iraq's January 2005 election . In such situations it is not unusual for religion to become a protective "umbrella" shielding the movements of people and thought beneath it.

However, mainstream Western commentary burdens itself by repeating political myth ~ that apparently Middle Eastern politics rests atop a seething pot of religious friction. That somehow religion mixed with politics is a Middle Eastern trait, or "problem", to be solved by some newly tailored 21st century style "democracy".

While it would be foolish to ignore any role that religion does play in politics, it is important to remember that these roles occur as frequently in Western politics (despite it's claims to atheism) as they do in Eastern politics. While religion often chooses to protect it's existence by declaring it's purpose "a-political" or not-political, places of worship have served in various centuries and locations as gathering points and sanctuaries during many a repressive regime. It is no coincidence that during oppressive regimes certain religions are often "constrained" by laws and even at times "out-lawed". There are instances throughout history where religion has threatened other power-brokers through freedom of thought and alternative power structures. It is no coincidence that Western governments compete with god in Western democracies, placing state and church in separate spheres. What greater power structure of the mind is there then a god, what greater threat to a dubious leaders ego then a god's omnipotence and the omnipotence that a god distills in it's believers. Whether or not anyone admits it, or likes it, religion has been tangled up globally with politics since the inception of both, not because religion meddles with politics or is peculiar to a particular region but because religion and politics are activities of people and people have a habit of merging their activities.

It suits Western occupying entities to infer religious political involvement in Middle Eastern countries somehow differs from the Western norm, is peculiar to the Middle East and even a "Middle Eastern problem". Such claims prop up Western power structures that currently occupy Iraq and other Middle Eastern lands (notably albeit silently, Afghanistan) while ignoring the history of religious influence in Western politics. Parliament in Australia to this very day recites the lords prayer before sitting. It is telling that in Western countries women cannot become popes and rarely become prime ministers.

The myth that religion in politics is somehow an intrusive Middle Eastern phenomena is perpetuated by both Western rhetoric and by Eastern rhetoric itself. Perhaps some people find strength in believing their own countries problems somehow unique, their own failings somehow special. In reality people the world over repeat the same old patterns. Religion in politics is not unique to any region. Sure, we do all have our peculiarities but there is far much more that we have in common then we do not.

Basically, not-voting in Iraq has little more religious significance then not-voting anywhere else in the world. Although there are religious dynamics involved, these dynamics are not unique to Middle Eastern politics and "conveniently" lead away from the significance of not-voting itself.

So, the not-voters. I cannot think of a single apathetic not-voter. Every not-voter I know, Eastern or Western, not-votes with an impressive strength of conviction. Not-voters are essentially disbelievers. All not-voters I have encountered are independent thinkers who have come to the conclusion themselves, irrespective of peers, that the electoral system is a fraudulent prank. That somehow voting legitimises the nasty joke that democracy plays upon us all when things go wrong."You voted for it, now shut-up and put-up" is democracies sellout gag, which the not-voter rejects.

So why have Western politicians with an interest in Middle Eastern soil gone to such pains to ignore the not-vote, or to discredit the not-vote by framing it as Clerical fanaticism? Because. If the not-vote in Iraq is acknowledged then by association not-voting the world over would be acknowledged. And if not-voting the world over were so acknowledged, it would point a rather large arrow at the crumbling foundations of democracy. For most democracies are not endorsed by the majority of their voting aged populations. Even in Australia where voting is perversely compulsory, there are everyday ordinary people who silently register their independence by not-voting.

To admit the not-vote in Iraq has legitimate protest status means to admit that democracy, globally, is in dire need of an overhaul. Basically, democracy is busted and needs fixing real bad ~ globally.

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