21 August 2010

Poll Position

In China there are elections, but all the candidates are from the same party.

In Afghanistan, voters face physical intimidation and bribery before they even get to the polls, and corruption and electoral fraud once their votes are cast.

In Fiji the military leader cancels and postpones elections according to his own will.

In Australia last weekend, voters were asked to attend a polling station of their choice, at the time of their choice, select the candidate of their choice, and cast their ballot for the federal election.

Unfortunately, the mere privilege of having free elections appears lost on many voters as they are forced to give up half an hour of their Saturday to perform this duty once every 3 years or so. The contempt which is shown towards our electoral process only serves to highlight a self-centredness we rarely acknowledge.

"Let's get this shit over with", one wife said to her husband as they walked in through the school gates. Disgruntled constituents arrived to see moderately lengthy queues, scrunched up their faces and turned on their heels, muttering about how there’s no way they’re waiting that long, they’ve got better things to do.

"And who do you think is paying for all this?", sulked another woman, observing the polling attendants, cardboard queue markers and ballot papers set out inside the hall. Heaven help us if there were no kind AEC staff to answer our ignorant questions, and no orderly queues so instead voters were forced to jostle for position to even get a ballot paper at all, knocking down pensioners and obliterating 18 year old voting virgins in the quest for the nearest booth.

I admit, the candidates on offer may not delight you with inspiration or vision, they may not even seem to stand for what you believe in. We all have a whinge about candidates’ ineptitude at least once during every campaign, give us ten minutes in the PM’s shoes and we’d have this country fixed quicker than you can say “vote 1, me!”

But, at least at the end of the day your vote will be counted and your voice, however small, will carry the same weight as everyone else's. The vote counters and scrutineers will do their job long into the night (and sometimes for days afterward). Still, if this is too much democracy to handle, just go ahead and cast a donkey vote, and stick it to all of them. What better way to get your money's worth.

5 June 2010

Happy Snaps

I'm going on an overseas holiday. I lose count of how many times I have explained my itinerary, which day I'm leaving and when I'll be back.

"Sounds great, make sure you take lots of photos!", they all say.

Why should I? Are they really going to want to look at them when I get back?

Holiday snaps pose a timeless dilemma, one that has haunted travellers, be they backpackers, gap-yearers or newly retired empty nesters, for generations. It's actually quite a challenge to enjoy the moment if you are continually yelling, "take one of me in front of the statue!" You know you’re in trouble when you find yourself assessing the scenery not in terms of how magnificent it is, or how it makes you feel, but rather which angle or camera setting will give the best shot when it's printed in 6 x 4 matte.

There's nothing like walking for hours to the top of a mountain, only to take a few photos and walk back down again. Something to show the folks back home. To prove that you really were there. You can already hear the sweet oohs and aahs of your workmates marvelling at your glossy pictures in the lunch room (that’s if they ever make it off the memory card and into cold hard prints).

Perhaps we underestimate the ability of our mind and emotions to help us remember the amazing sites and fabulous experiences we encountered on our journey. Or maybe the thought of having show and tell with our friends is stronger than the desire to soak in the moment and really appreciate the experiences we travel so far to enjoy.

After all that, do my friends really care what my hotel looked like, or how big that cave was? Should we bother with the slightly awkward slide show where everyone politely feigns interest all the way to the end, when all they want is to hear some crazy story and be done with it?

Surely the satisfaction lies with the actual accomplishment of having that adventure, expanding your knowledge of the big wide world, and living to tell the tale, whether there are photos to prove it or not. I think my friends would be happy with that.

And perhaps one photo of me on top of a mountain.

23 April 2010

I feel sorry for the busses driving around on their route with no-one in them. Unwanted & lonely, they must feel. Are they resentful of cars? Like a walkman is of an i-pod... People still like music, they just don't like how you give it to them. People still like going places, they just don't like using the RSL-carpeted seats and safety bars to get them there.

Me, I quite like going on a bus. You don't have to think about traffic, directions, where to park when you get there. You are completely free to eavesdrop other peoples' conversations or cocoon yourself within your musical earplugs. If only the bus went precisely where I wanted to go and when. Aye, there's the rub.

And the empty bus.