Thursday, December 3, 2020

[Annotation] The People Have Spoken

By on June 15, 2017

(Rafelli González/CB)

The people ruled and it doesn’t matter how many of them.

The word “democracy” has its origins in the Greek word demokratia, meaning “popular government,” from “demos” = “common people” and “kratos” = “rule, strength.”

The people rule. And they rule by voting. The voting can be for persons or on topics, and essentially it is indicated when there are competing options about which to decide.

In the case of Puerto Rico, there was a chance for everybody, from each and any political color, to choose from several competing options on the “papeleta” and actively express their opinion.

Over 500,000 people, of the more than 2.2 million inscribed to vote, made the effort to vote and express which option for the island’s future they favor. While in itself, that is a high number, it is at the same time only roughly one-fifth of all voters.

A low turnout has no direct connection to legitimacy, however, if people were free to attend. Just because someone chooses not to vote, doesn’t mean that a person who actually executed the vote, should not be counted. And to assume that everybody who didn’t vote was against statehood or the current government, is about as alternative a fact as it gets. But in times with a president like the one in the United States, it appears one may just say about anything.

With basically every political party claiming the victory in the referendum, or the destruction of the others, that points more clearly to what the actual problem is: people are tired of politicians and their games. But that doesn’t have much to do with the result of the referendum being a reality.

Coming back to Puerto Rico’s referendum this past Sunday, June 11, 2017, everybody had the chance to register on time as a voter, to participate in the referendum and thus express their opinion and make sure their vote counted. By abstaining, you can’t express anything.

In my humble opinion, by not voting, you don’t boycott anything but passively agree to whatever is the voting majority’s favorite choice. Pretty much like a gym membership: you keep on paying the membership while the only duty of the gym owner is to basically just keep the doors open. If you don’t go, you can’t ask for your money back and have lost the right to complain about your “pipa.”

If anybody wanted to show what the “opinion of the people” is, they should have done so by voting for one of the options on the form.

As sort of a disclaimer: I’m as German as a German oak tree, I do live voluntarily in Puerto Rico and still have two small children here, who may or may not live here once they are adults. But if they do, I hope for them that the island will be in better condition than it now is. Which party wins what, or whether statehood or not, all of that to me is secondary. But I do know that to have a brighter future in Puerto Rico and bring a certain prosperity (back) to this island, it wouldn’t harm us to adopt some of the German traits that rebuilt a country completely in ruins after the Second World War. We all, collectively, need to be more serious, take responsibility and follow rules, where they exist. If the elected officials started with that—and stop playing political games—it wouldn’t be the worst example they could provide.

“Democracy implies that the man [& woman] must take the responsibility for choosing his [or her] rulers and representatives, and for the maintenance of his [or her] own ‘rights’ against the possible and probable encroachments of the government, which he [or she] has sanctioned to act for him [or her] in public matters.”

—Ezra Pound, “ABC of Economics,” 1933

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