Does intelligent ignorance beat apathy?

Years ago, shortly after I became a card-carrying American, I was working in the Alaskan oil industry. After management training one day, some colleagues were congratulating me on having joined the ranks of US citizenry and securing voting rights in the upcoming presidential election. I said I figured I was amongst like-minded souls and that it would be pretty obvious whom I’d vote for. They nodded knowingly, thinking that I had fully grasped the geopolitical world in which I was living. But when I came out in favour of Clinton, my declaration was greeted by stunned silence. I was living in Alaska, a republican state; working on the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, a republican hobbyhorse; hunting in the woods alongside many republican arms bearers; and yet it never dawned on me that voting for Clinton would be seen as extraordinary.

I have no great interest in politics. Few politicians in my experience have anything of consequence to say; fewer still can withstand the pressures of power.  I have no party allegiance; no political history in the family to live up to; no aspirations to join the political fracas. What I have though, is a set of values and principles. And it is these values and principles that make me speak out when I might be better off saying nothing.

politician

A friend recently expressed a liking for David Cameron. I immediately railed at how the fallout from the welfare cuts in Britain is a nightmare waiting to happen; how the ever-widening divide between the haves and the have-nots in some parts of London and elsewhere is simply a prelude to social segregation. Another friend expressed their dislike for Ferenc Gyurcsány. I got back on my soapbox defending that infamous 2006 speech of his, which if listened to in its entirety, actually makes sense; now he has learned from past experience and is ready to step forward again.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not fully versed on the whys and wherefores of either UK or Hungarian politics. But I listen, and I read. And however limited my intelligence or however unfettered my ignorance, I engage. Just months away from an election that will shape this country’s future, I’m saddened that so many others choose not to.

First published in the Budapest Times 4 October 2013

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