Voters in Barbados will choose a government on Thursday, February 21 but I don’t intent to vote. I said so months ago and my friends behaved as if I was committing treason.
To vote or not to vote is a right I have to exercise, but when I made my declaration, my friend instantly shifted their heated debate about the performance and potential of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) – to the value of an ‘X’. Six or seven of them against one, me! Unity was achieved as they tried to sell me the importance of vote.
They eloquently painted the road to enfranchisement taken by working class Barbadians; verbally re-enacting the 1940s struggle with as much drama as if they were present. They were delighted that I matched them with equal passion on the historical issues as well as the significance of having the right to vote. But they were disappointed that I was (and I am) resolute about my position not to vote.
I was accused of selling out those Barbadians of yesteryear who fought to gain that right to vote for themselves and future generations; I was chided for wasting the money tax payers spent on my 20 plus years of education; some of their ‘friendly’ criticisms are too harsh for public ears.
I am unmoved. What difference will my voting make? That is the question, I’ve asked myself countless times and I’ve searched my soul for an honest opinion. I’ve examined the parties and see no philosophical divide; no major difference in programmes; no vigour, all status quo.
My friends point to philosophical differences that I believe are so microscopic my naked eye is blind to them. I see two groups, of mostly men, who were shaped and influenced by the same economic and social circumstances, naturally giving them similar philosophical underpinnings. In fact, one political party was plucked from the other; the Democratic Labour Party, a breakaway faction from the Barbados Labour Party.
Their social programmes are similar with small variations on approaches but aims and intent are common. For example, one party is hailed as the architect of universal free education while the other note that the road to universal free education was paved by their approach to building schools to facilitate that development. Today, they both support free education up to university level, or did until recently, and neither has removed the social programmes implemented by the other. In fact, they have competed to see who can make programmes more socially appealing. For example, the summer school programme; one side charged a nominal fee for attendance, the other one removed the fees and added free lunches. Up the ante! So close are they in outlook that at times, they’ve wrangled over who had a promise in their campaign manifesto first.
But outside of their similarities, I wonder how much they can do to improve my country’s fortune within the framework of a globalised world. Globalisation and its supporting institutions dictate so many of our national actions that decision makers often speak about the lack of policy space. Where is the team with the courage and ability to formulate and carry out creative policies that will help us to manoeuvre within that tiny space?
If my decision revolves around voting merely to honour my foreparents’ efforts in a scenario of indiscernible choices, I will not vote. If for me, the exercise is like pulling a name out of a hat to decide where to place my X, then my action is a mockery to those who fought for my enfranchisement and the taxpayers who foot my school bill.
- Barbados voters go to the polls February 21 (caribbean360.com)
- Barbados opposition boycotts Parliament and calls for election date (caribbean360.com)
- Voters urged to return DLP to power in next Barbados general election (caribbean360.com)