I have decided to write this post for all the people who are, will, and may ask me about my voting preference. Few have already asked me who I am going to vote for, others may ask me after the elections as to who I voted for. Thus, this is the post I will direct them towards so I do not have to explain each individual my decision over and over again.
First and foremost, I’d like to state quite clearly that like Socrates, I have my issues with democracy. I believe that democracy is one of the most (if not the most) dangerous forms of government a country may take. However, this post is not about democracy per say, but about the reason why I choose to refrain from voting.
My lack of expertise
The act of distinguishing between potential candidates require quite a lot of expertise that I do not have.
One needs to be quite clear on what the best path for the progression of a nation is. For eg, what is the best possible answer to the water and electricity issue in Pakistan, is it a dam, or should the Indus Water treaty be addressed. Should Pakistan close off foreign imports to promote child industries (like China once did), or should it continue on its current trajectory.
These are just two basic questions that I want to highlight as an example. There obviously are other issues such as debt, terrorism, defence, etc which I do not know the answer of.
I do not know the best way one can promote economic growth. The path for economic growth for example requires a lot of research and experience for one to be certain as to what the best solution is, and as it turns out, I am not that person, thus I do not feel I am a suitable candidate to judge between different policies put forward by different candidates with regards to economic growth and to say which one is better.
I would like to remind everyone that these matters require a lot more research than just two or three month marathons. For one even to be fully aware of all the issues that Pakistan is facing along with the nuances is a task that should not be taken lightly, let alone know for certain what the best path forward is.
And considering my unawareness and knowledge of the issues Pakistan is facing, and what the best solution is. I would prefer not to choose a party or an individual based on guesswork or based on my first impression of an idea or a solution.
I am a User Interface (UI) designer, and as a UI designer, I can easily sell people why a button should be placed on the right instead of the left in a hypothetical scenario — even if I know that placing the button on the left is the best way forward. The lack of knowledge of the person infront of me can easily help me convince them of what I want them to be convinced of.
Knowledge about an insignificant vocation as mine cannot be gained overnight, it is something that a person learns over the years through research and experience. One can only imagine how demanding the knowledge of running a government and various policies is. It is not something that one can easily acquaint himself with.
Similar to how everyone in the nation cannot become doctors overnight and propose the medication for a patient, people cannot as a whole be acquainted to distinguish between good political decisions and bad ones.
One cannot sanctify anyone
This is specifically for conservatives, those who argue that one should choose based on the truthfulness or the call of the person (liberals can skip this section).
A man praised another man in front of the Prophet. The Prophet (ﷺ) said thrice, “Wailaka (Woe on you) ! You have cut the neck of your brother!” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “If it is indispensable for anyone of you to praise a person, then he should say, “I think that such-and-such person (is so-and-so), and Allah is the one who will take his accounts (as he knows his reality) and none can sanctify anybody before Allah (and that only if he knows well about that person.)”.
I started this portion with a hadith of the Prophet PBUH so that we can understand that one can never claim how virtuous or pious a person is. There is another hadith that talks about how a martyr, a preacher, and a person who gave a lot of charity will be thrown into hell. They did a lot of apparently good deeds but their motives were not so good. And as pointed above, only Allah truly knows about a person.
Yet here we are, praising people just because they use the word of Islam to call for support. Who is to say whether these people are truthful or not. We rarely have anyone standing in the elections who is talking about legalising prostitution or legalising drugs, most of them claim to be Muslims, and yet here we keep distinguishing between them based on piety and virtue — obviously against the teachings of our Prophet PBUH.
We should know that even at the time of the Prophet PBUH, there were people who used to live in close proximity to the Prophet PBUH and even under the banner of Islam plotted against Islam. While even then there were people of other faiths such as jews, christians, who stood by the Prophet PBUH as support, like the the King of Abyssinia (according to some sources).
Now that I have established how one cannot necessarily judge between individuals. Let me move on to tell you that even if we were somehow able to make a judgement based on piety and goodness, that still would not be sufficient.
Politics is a vocation
I, like Weber, would like to argue that Politics, like medicine, engineering, airline pilots, captaincy of a ship, is a vocation. The art of running a government or a whole nation for the matter requires a certain amount of skill and expertise.
So even if we were to say that yes, this person is not as corrupt as the other person, or this person does not tell as much lies, that still is not sufficient.
If I go for an angioplasty, I do not necessarily look for a surgeon who is good in character, whether he takes bribes or not, or how corrupt he is, or whether or not he consumes alcohol. My first instinct is to look for someone who has expertise. Sure, a righteous and truthful person should be preferred, but is that all?
Is it sane to give a righteous person the right to steer an airplane 10 km high just based on his righteousness? Most of us would argue that it is essential to let a person experienced as a pilot to steer the plane. Yet, here we are, giving the wheel of our country to people based on their inferred sanctity.
Niceties are good, but they should be preceded by one’s expertise. This is not restricted to politics, rather all different spheres of life. And if we are to say that righteousness and virtue is what matters, and that expertise can come in later, then please let us be intellectually consistent and apply the same logic when choosing our driver, or a place to eat, or a cook, a doctor, so on and so forth.
Okay, we get it, but how does not voting help
Now that I have established that a government should be chosen based on its merit, and how I am not in a position to be quantify those merits, let me tell you in simple words why my act of not voting helps.
A democracy as stated earlier is quite dangerous, as it gives power to the ignorant (me being an example). People are skilled in various different things, one is skilled in medicine, while the other is skilled in economics. Only the ones who are skilled in medicine for example should be allowed to choose what medicine to give to a patient in a certain instance. Similarly, the one who is skilled in economics, should be the one who quantifies the legitimacy of certain economics propositions.
If I for one do not vote, then the vote of the people who are informed about politics — and by that I mean those who have dedicated their lives studying politics, who know about the various different issues that our country is facing, and those who are aware of the various different solutions proposed by various candidates and their practicality and legitimacy, will get a much higher say in selecting a candidate.
I’ll illustrate that by a simple example. There are 100 people in an hospital. 10 of them are doctors while the other 90 are patients.
(Pardon my use of these simplistic examples).
Now lets say that a hospital, like our country, is a democracy, and it is time to decide what medicine to give a person. The administration takes a vote, each individual decides an option. Thus the weight of a doctor’s vote is around .01. However, now lets say that 50 patients decide to opt out of this vote, each doctor’s vote now has a weight of .02. That is twice an increase in the weight of an informed vote.
That is all I am promoting, an informed vote.
One has to realise that politics, just like any other vocation requires a lot of (I’d argue a lot more) skill and expertise, and choosing a candidate perhaps no less.
If one remains in the illusion that understanding the affairs of the country and distinguishing the best possible solution in numerous amounts of cases, cases we might not even be aware of, is a task fit for just about everyone, then all I can say is that it is wishful thinking.
In a democracy, people will be persuaded by emotion, by an exorbitant display of virtue, by religion, by a counter hegemonic narrative, or just about anything. For those voters who know nothing about running a government, running a government is the last thing they want to know about. Even the ones who think they are involved or are researching a bit, are just skimming the surface.
If we started taking the task of making decisions for our country even slightly as importantly as any other vocation in our life, we would soon realise that the decisions one makes about anything should reflect his expertise about the matter, and if one does not have that expertise, one should leave that decision to the ones who have dedicated their lives studying the topic.
Disclaimer: For those who think they are capable of responsibly making this decision, then by all means go ahead. I for one unequivocally find myself incapable of making this decision based on my current expertise on the matter, which is why I leave this decision to the capable ones out there.