Among the many ways in which we encourage each other to go out and vote is the well known slogan that exhorts us to “Stand up and be counted”.
However, thanks to the creative spirit and the eloquence of Farley Flex, we now have a more forceful and targeted exhortation which draws to our attention the painful consequences that come our way whenever we make the mistake of not voting.
In his powerful message which is published below this Editorial, the highly motivated and artistically gifted member of our Black community urges all persons of African- Canadian heritage to “Be at the Table…Not on the Menu!”.
While that exhortation is indeed valid for all voters, no one can deny its special relevance to the predicament of our African and Caribbean sisters and brothers. We are reportedly more inclined than other immigrant communities to stay out of the political process, including the voting process.
Mindful of that inclination to voter apathy that is also reflected in the small number of African/Black/Caribbean candidates for political office, Flex emphasizes the importance of our responsibility to advance our own interests.
His motivational recipe for our community’s political nutrition includes the following dishes:
.“…take a proactive step… Let the candidates know where you stand on the issues…
Have the COURAGE to do something… Let the candidates know where you stand on the issues…
Forget party politics. If you are a Black, it is about anti-Black racism, systemic racism, education, gun violence, sustainable (core) funding, poverty, housing, mental health, community beneﬁts and programs that ignite a sense of hope. How else can we hold political leaders accountable if we don’t get out and vote?”
For those of us who do not have any particular likes or dislikes among the political parties, he has a valuable recommendation: “My choice: [I vote for the] party with the greatest commitment to issues that disproportionately aﬀect Black people.”
Returning to the principle that the logic of Flex’s thinking is in fact valid for all communities and for all voters who want to have their concerns heard and to have their needs met, here is some more food for thought.
The very foundation of human beings’ eventual decision to live in a society is simple. We do not want the chaos of “dog-eat-dog” and “survival of the fittest” in the caves, forests and wilderness of the seven continents that make up the world. We are better off if we pool our resources to share as equitably as possible in the production and consumption of the goods and services we need to survive.
On that basis, we need to share in the costs and the work involved in producing those goods and services, in order to share in the benefits of that societal production.
We earn the right to share in the benefits, precisely because we share in the productive process.
It all boils down to participation in the societal processes. It is the major principle in the social contract.
If we do not participate in the electoral process, if we do not exercise our responsibility to vote, then we automatically lose our right to have our voice heard politically. Others will decide for us. Others will choose the leaders who will make the political decisions that determine what we get, what we do not get, and how much we get, in the sharing of the society’s “production” of goods and services.
It is not enough for us to stand up and be counted.
In our own interest, we have to stand up and do the counting.