Don't take voting so lightly

A FRIEND pointed out there was a disturbing trend among the generation in their 30s and late 20s: they are disinclined to vote. I didn't think much of this until I had dinner with one such thirty-something friend. "I just don't see what's the point," she said with a sigh.

After spending almost two hours with another friend who tried to persuade her that perhaps a democratic system could work, she still wasn't convinced. "How do I know that the piece of paper that I vote on reaches the place they count and all that?" she asked. My other friend and I spent a further hour trying to convince her of the integrity of the system, as both of us have been counters for the ruling coalition and the opposition. It was to no avail. The thirty-something just rolled her eyeballs and looked bored and stubborn.

So disturbed by this evidence of apathy, the following morning I posted on social media: "If you abstain from voting in the next elections you really don't have a right to complain afterwards." The first comment was "What has the right to vote got to do with the freedom of speech?"

Interestingly enough, the answer to that is "everything". The right to vote is part of the democratic process. Freedom of speech is part of the democratic process. These principles, of course, are practised differently from country to country, but they belong to the same cradle called democracy. Which non-democratic country has unfettered freedom of speech?

Both rights are considered not just democratic rights, but also human rights. In fact, I was told that some states in Australia fined citizens who don't vote during elections. Maybe that should be implemented here.

What bothers me is that this generation in particular does not seem to be interested. As I have discussed before, many Malaysians just love to complain without taking any positive measure towards change. I had thought they might want to take all their complaints and unhappiness to the ballot box, but apparently that is a little too difficult as well nowadays.

This thirty-something friend at one point during dinner said with a shrug, "It's not like it's going to make a difference. I have to do everything myself, no one helps me with anything and I have to fend for myself like everyone else." This sentiment was also echoed in one of the comments in my social media posting.

Wait a second, Malaysia has one of the best healthcare systems in the region. We have access to education (no matter what we may believe it to be) and we generally live in peace. I wasn't told that the government was supposed to actively guide, encourage, supervise and validate its citizens on a daily basis.

So I pointed out to the thirty-something friend that when I was in university, we learnt that if we wanted change, then we needed to go out and be that change. The response was another eye roll and a shrug.

I'm not too sure what is happening because, from my understanding, it is this generation of adults in the United States who abstained from voting in the last US presidential election and who are unhappy now. It is also my understanding that in the UK it is this generation who abstained from voting during the Brexit referendum and are unhappy about that now as well.

I'm not sure what can be done, but perhaps a little more education on our system and its integrity could be done by those seeking electoral posts in the coming election. At least, if they want to capture this demographic.

The good news is that my lecturer friends tell me that those in their early 20s now are more enthusiastic about our system and the country we live in. Hopefully, the thirty-somethings will choose not to abstain. After all, some people die for the right to vote.

Daniel has a deep passion for health and fitness. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com