Not the Politicians, but Us

Don't blame the politicians for keeping people away from voting. It's us; we have convinced ourselves indifference is cool and voting lame.

Avoiding taking responsibility, a tendency to cast the blame on others and the consistent refraining from coming to personal conclusions are among the outstanding characteristics of the Israeli public. This generalization applies not only to the politicians but also, and mainly, to the voters. Therefore, in recent days innumerable explanations have been offered for the indifference that has spread in the public and the fear that many will not bother to go out and vote, while the painful truth is spoken all too infrequently: The main problem is not the politicians but rather the public; in other words, we are the problem. And this problem is far more difficult to correct.

The main justification for not voting is despair with the leadership and the political system that has made itself intolerable. It is worth saying a number of very unpopular things about the political system. For example, contrary to the negative image of the Knesset that we are so fond of nurturing, it is in fact not a very bad parliament at all in which most of the members work very hard (and it would be desirable that they legislate a bit less). The second thing is that perhaps our political system is less successful that those of most Western countries, but it could still be a whole lot worse. It can be said with great certainty that if there is mass abstention in these elections, it will be a lot worse.

And perhaps most important of all: Our politicians are the image of the landscape of their voters. They are engaged in maneuvering and manipulations just like the public they represent. This is the way we are. It is not by chance that when a politician who has values and a vision, and who lives in an apartment worth $120,000, he is deemed to be not ready to serve as prime minister. And when will he be ready? Perhaps when he realizes that it is necessary to be cynical, when he knows how to dress well, when he shaves off that mustache already and starts smoking cigars. It would appear that the argument that there is no point in voting because "they're all corrupt" does not apply to Labor Party chairman MK Amir Peretz, until proven otherwise. But this is not helping him, because what many of the voters really think is that "everyone is corrupt, and whoever isn't corrupt is a patsy."

A Ma'agar Mochot public opinion poll found that two-thirds of secular young people are not planning to vote. It also found that 20 percent of them get most of their information about the political system from the satirical television show, "A Wonderful Country." A possible conclusion is that before one dismisses the political system, it is worth knowing something about it, because the truth is that moderator Eyal Kitsis is not the prime minister, Shelly Yachimovich is not a man in drag, and despite the news flashes, "A Wonderful Country" is not a news broadcast.

But many of us do not bother to keep up to date on the political news, because it brings negative energy and destroys the Chi and wipes out the high, and politics is like really a downer, man. Not to mention that a person has to go with the flow of his feelings and not to the polling station if that isn't where he's at. And a person also has to live the present, and voting is so very, but so very, very, about the future.

And there is also the argument that our vote doesn't make any difference in any case, which only reflects the utter failure of civics education. The simple truth is that whoever votes, influences; and also whoever doesn't vote, influences. Whoever doesn't vote in fact divides up his vote, most of it to Kadima and the right and a little of it to the left and the Arab parties. It is important to know: 10 percent of the vote of the non-voters goes to Yisrael Beiteinu, 10 percent goes to the National Union and 10 percent goes to Shas.

There is also the fussy and self-indulgent non-voter, who doesn't have anyone to vote for. Like the customer who goes into a branch of the Tiv Ta'am chain of delicatessens and complains that there is nothing to buy, like a guest who goes to a large cocktail party and asks where everyone is. Elections are a consumer event. Parties offer us representatives, a platform and an identity, and we buy what will serve us best. But we choose from what there is, because it is impossible to buy a political party from the duty-free store.

The worst of all the non-voters are those who do not vote in order to show that they are indifferent and that they don't care. When we were young, we were convinced that indifference is cool and that egotistic and egocentric are very "in." Many of us have not grown up to this day. These people will not vote simply because it doesn't serve any immediate interest of theirs and because it is important to show that they are not concerned about the collective. It's not as if they are being paid to do so.