Why do we vote the way we do?

Guest writer

"Papa", my ten year-old son asked me the other day, "who is our Prime Minister?"

We had been talking about the recent election, and how Mr Harper had been Prime Minister for as long as my son could remember. I explained that Mr Trudeau was recently elected, but hadn't yet been sworn into office.

In the midst of this conversation, my son asked me who I voted for, and why. Did I vote for Mr Trudeau, he wanted to know.

The simple answer was no, I did not. I could not. I was not allowed to vote for him, even if I had wanted to. You see, in Canada, we don't get to vote for our Prime Minister. Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset by that. It's just a simple fact of the way our system works. We vote for our local representative to Parliament, and the party that has the most seats gets to choose the Prime Minister. Ok. He understood that.

But my son wanted to know how I voted, not the person, but the method of how I chose.

That became a bit complicated to explain.

As far as I can tell, there are basically two ways to vote. The first is with ideology. Many people vote for the party that promises to do things that are important to them, such as lower taxes or spend more on childcare. The second is to vote for people. Some vote not for platform ideas that are often promised and rarely kept, but for people that they know and trust to do the best job they can. I vote in the latter way; after all, it doesn't matter what someone says, if I don't trust them. My son understood that, too.

Then he asked a question that surprised me. "Why did you vote when Baha'u'llah says that 'The prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective'? Doesn't that mean that our government is lamentably defective, too?"

"Well, it does," I said, "but we have to ask ourselves why that would be. A great statesman once said that 'democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.' You see, the problem is not democracy itself, but rather what we talk about. Every form of government today, and every corporation, and all the human institutions out there have one, singular, major problem: they look after their own interests."

"What's wrong with that", he asked.

"It's basically selfish. It says that we are more important than anyone else, and you know that's just not true. A truly good and just government would look after not only its own citizens, but the well-being of all people on earth.For example, many people think that we can only pass laws that benefit people in Canada, but we know that many children suffer under terrible conditions to provide something as simple as cocoa beans to big companies. We have the opportunity to pass a law banning all products that abuse children, or other workers. If we did so, though, it would mean that we can't have dollar chocolate bars. It would be a hardship for all those store owners here who make their living on cheap chocolate. But you know what? I would still do it. I choose not to buy cheap chocolate, and hope that others do the same, because my savings is at the expense of someone else's life. And that's just not fair."

He thought about that for a good long while. Then he said, "So when will we start passing laws that benefit others?"

"We already do, to a small extent. But I'll tell you, when we do pass these kinds of laws all the time, it will mean that we have reached a new stage of maturity as a human race."

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Mead SimonMead Simon is a member of the Baha'i international community and can often be found writing his blog at onebahai.blogspot.com . 

You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, 

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