I have a confession to make: I’ve never voted in an election.
I now realise I’ve left myself wide open to criticism from all and sundry: ‘Then you don’t have a right to criticise anything. People died so that you can have a vote. It’s an insult to their memory not to use it!’
My standard answer to this is: (a) I have a right to criticise anything I choose precisely because I am objective and unbiased, and (b) while I salute those people who died for my right to vote, I believe that they died for my right of choice. I gratefully exercise my right to decline.
So why did I write a political conspiracy thriller?
Well, just because I don’t vote, it doesn’t mean I don’t care. The truth is: I’m fascinated by the machinations of politics, as I stand here on the side-lines helplessly watching what looks like a series of ultra-slow-mo car-crashes. And it’s my conjecture that we are all watching helplessly, because I don’t really believe that, in modern times, voting actually changes much. This is simply because people are too affected by media manipulation – both news and cultural. These days, politics is less about ‘your choice’ and more about ‘how your choice can be influenced’. I once said to a rather robustly politicised friend: ‘You’ve voted for what you wanted for the last 30 years; I haven’t voted at all. That’s quite a good sample for analysis: Has the world become the one that you wanted to live in? Or is it gradually getting worse?’ I still haven’t had an answer.
But here’s the thing: there seems to be something wrong.
We only ever seem to get two meaningful choices. It doesn’t matter where you go UK, USA, Australia, France… it’s ‘Left’ or ‘Right’… 50:50… one or ‘t’other… heads or tails… smiley person kissing baby; or smiley person drinking a cheeky beer. To me, it feels like a set-up. It seems as though they are two approved choices and only two choices; any others are side-shows to the main event. Now make your decision: baby-kisser or beer-quaffer? And all through this, the media rules over us with a watchful eye, finger on hot-button marked, ‘Immigration’ or ‘NHS’ or ‘Ruskies’… anything but facts.
However, occasionally someone unexpectedly slips through to upset the apple-cart. In America, it was Bernie Sanders. He started going great guns… but suddenly and inexplicably dropped out of the race. In Britain it’s that Corbyn bloke… doesn’t wear a tie y’know… doesn’t want war with Russia…wants to start taxing the rich what they owe… oh dear, oh dear me… I imagine in a control room somewhere, there’s a bald-headed man in a black suit stroking a white cat, as he watches video monitors showing Corbyn kissing a baby drinking beer. Just check Rupert Murdoch for cat hairs… only saying…
Which brings me to my book, My Fellow Americans.
All fiction books start with the question: ‘What if?’ My particular ‘what if’ was: what if – against all odds – a good, well-meaning politician inexplicably scrapes through to the top; side-steps the vote rigging; wrong foots the competition and gets into the presidency? Then while he’s there, decides to really drain the swamp? What if he discovers the crimes of his predecessors – particularly if they are on the opposite side politically – why doesn’t he uncover them? That would be a knee in the groin to the opposition for years to come… so why doesn’t he? Interesting thought: whatever a president discovers about his opposition predecessor (and there must be a lot of incriminating things) he never gives their secrets away. Is this why they’re under constant guard and still called ‘Mr President’ even when they’re retired: to remind them to keep schtum?
This started me asking lots of related questions: if a popular president like Bill Clinton gets impeached for ‘having an affair not befitting his office’, why has Donald Trump hung on so long? He’s hardly the paragon of virtue. Who does all the impeaching anyway? Surely they’re the ones with the real power?
And down the rabbit hole I hopped with my imagination.
So when it comes to voting, I draw your attention to a quote of a native american character from my book – as customised from a Facebook meme I once saw:
Why concern yourself about ‘Right Wing’ or ‘Left Wing’?
when it’s still the same bird stealing your food.
Which is exactly why I haven’t yet voted in an election.
Martin Ison is Author of:
Available on Amazon from July 4th 2018