It’s 8 a.m. on a mid-week morning and you’re lying in bed. You think about the terrible traffic that you’re normally wading through at this time of the day and as you do, you’re filled with a delicious, slightly decadent feeling — reminding you of the times when you skipped school.
Leaning across the bed, you pick up a copy of the Jakarta Globe (or any other paper) and scan the headlines. Then again, maybe you’re not a newspaper-reader. If so, you’ll either switch on the television and start channel surfing or turn to your smartphone and check your Twitter account or Facebook page.
Sigh. It’s all about the local elections: who’s been out to vote and where. You really can’t be bothered: politics and politicians, what difference could your vote make anyway? Jakarta’s so awful — what with the overcrowding and lousy air quality — no one could ever sort it out, could they?
Instead you start thinking about “your” day and what you’d like to do: should you take the family to the mall: maybe Citos, La Piaza or to Plaza Indonesia? Thursday has been declared a public holiday after all, so that people can get out and vote.
Then again, you go the mall pretty much every weekend. Maybe you should try something else, something more educational like the National Museum: something that the kids could write about for school.
You yawn suddenly, after which the idea of going out at all seems absurd: why put in all that effort when the kids would definitely prefer to stay at home with their computer games?
So, this morning as Jakarta’s future hangs in the balance, many hundreds of thousands of voters will just be hanging out, lazing around at home or even dashing off to work despite the holiday. This is the “kaum golput,” short for “golongan putih” — the people that don’t want to commit politically either way, that just float along.
Of course, many would argue that their vote is inconsequential: “Who cares if I don’t turn-up?” Perhaps they’re right. It’s a dose of so-called realism that lets one off the hook.
Perhaps it’s best not to exercise your rights under the Constitution to participate in elections. After all, aren’t all politicians just corrupt and manipulative? Isn’t refusing to vote a form of protest?
Call it what you want, but cynicism and laziness aren’t qualities that you can build a society on. All countries need active participation from their citizenry. By opting out — either physically or mentally or both — you’re essentially allowing the unscrupulous and insincere to monopolize and manipulate power.
As the ancient Greek philosopher Plato said: “The price of apathy toward public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
Then again, maybe you think the choice presented to the voters in Jakarta is unimpressive: that you neither trust nor believe either of the candidates.
While I sympathize with those who feel this way, it’s still critical for ordinary Indonesians to get out and vote. They need to participate and get involved in the process. Indeed with the growing might and influence of social media, wired individuals can have an outsized influenced.
Like it or not, formal party politics still has a role to play in our lives. We can’t avoid it or opt out of it because our leaders have a direct impact on us. This is something that most Indonesians who have lived through the Reformasi know only too well. If you don’t take a direct hand in the country’s future by voting, you have no right to complain about its present.
So, instead of lying there in bed, get up, get your KTP and go out and vote. While this tukang cerita would say you should vote with your conscience, it doesn’t really matter who you vote for as long as you do so with conviction.
Cue Nike: Just do it!
Karim Raslan is a columnist who divides his time between Indonesia and Malaysia.