12 August 2015

When you have to vote…

This is the forty first in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

No, we are not talking about the General Election or any such exercise where representatives are elected.  ‘Voting’ essentially refers to marking preference, picking one out of many choices.  It’s not all about ballot boxes, election monitors, candidates and counting centers.  The members of a family can vote for one of several vacation choices, for example.  A group of friends can vote on which film to watch.  

It’s a serious matter if you are a rebel.  You get to vote at every turn almost.  Every decision involves a vote unless some individual has been tasked to do something on his or her own. When a group makes a decision, each member has to take his or her role in the decision-making process very seriously.  Now it is not the case that there will be 10 (or more) suggestion when a group of 10 try to agree upon the best course of action at a particular moment.  Usually there would be two or three because circumstances would eliminate a whole bunch of options.  What’s a rebel supposed to do?

Not everyone is vocal.  Some talk. Some talk a lot.  Some are quiet.  Some speak only if he or she feels contribution is possible.  But everyone, the talkative as well as the silent, thinks.  

Let’s assume there’s someone who is very quiet.  He is a member of a rebel group.  The group is discussing something important.  Important decisions have to be made.  People voice their opinions.  Suggestions are made.  Some suggest, others criticize.  They move to other options.  Our man has been very quiet.  Suddenly someone says ‘what do you think we should do?’  Suppose he says ‘well, we must decide on the best course of action’.  

That’s a contribution?  That’s ‘voting’?  No, that’s the easy way out.  That’s being lazy.  Rebels can’t be tag-along creatures, which by the way is not the same as being a follower.  A rebel cannot say ‘i pass’ to the responsibility of active engagement.  Voting, for a rebel, is more than putting up a hand for one of several suggestions. Voting is expressing opinion.  It could be in the form of suggesting something or pointing out flaws of someone else’s suggestion.  It could be in the form of recommending amendments to a plan someone else has proposed.  It cannot be silence.  

Silence typically implies a mind that has resolved to stop thinking, assessing and formulating plans.    True, there are those who are good at receiving orders.  Once you are in agreement with an objective, some would just follow orders.  But this does not mean that a rebel who has chosen to follow should shut his or her mind to everything except the receiving of instruction and execution of the same.  The problem with that kind of ‘choice’ is that if there comes a moment when there’s no one to give instruction and you have to thinking stuff out all by yourself, you just get stuck because the thinking faculties have gathered too much rust.

Now that’s not the reason you should ‘vote’ with mind, thought, idea and voice of course, but it is certainly something to think about.  Rebels are by definition operating against severe odds.  They typically have to make do with what they have.  So everything they have has to be made to count.  Every arm and leg, every braincell.  

Voting is serious business but this does not mean it is hard business.  It is about being attentive.  It is about keeping oneself informed about what’s going on within the group, outside the group and in general all over the world.  Every piece of knowledge can have its uses.  The more you observe, the more you reflect on what you've observed the better equipped you are to analyze a particular problem and come up with a solution.  All that is voting because all of it requires you to make a choice.  You have to choose to observe, you have to choose to observe critically, you have to decide whether or not to reflect, whether or not to analyze and whether or not to weigh the merits of multiple courses of action.  

It’s not easy, this thing called ‘voting’.  But who said rebellion was easy, right?

Other articles in this series