Vote16 – Is Our Society Ready?

Before I comment upon the nature of the Vote16 amendment, I want to shed light upon other aspects which ought to be taken in to consideration and which, it seems, are being blatantly disregarded by the lot.

 

Since we live in a democratic country, or so it is referred to, the nature of such political governance requires the participation of the populus, and, a chief way through which this is achieved is – by voting. It is the majority which rule in a democratic country and thus, it could be stated, that it is the most popular thought, mentality, opinion, call it what you will, which governs. However, that which is ‘trendy’ isn’t always good and if it were, not always practiced – which brings me to question: is it that democracy disregards what is good and merely places itself at the whims and desires of the majority? Indeed, at its basis democracy is ‘power to the people’ and whether the peoples opinion is good or not, matters very little – it is nonetheless accepted and practiced.

 

Yet the triumphant opinions, are usually, as history shows, more vicious than virtuous – take Socrates, or, as one might refer to him, the ‘Father of Ethics’, as an example: he was condemned to death ‘democratically’ back in 399 BC, accused of ‘corrupting the minds of the youth’ (by making them question, mind you) as the Athenians put it.  Could such an act be justified simply because it was what the ‘majority’ wanted? – What if the majority are no better than a herd of blind sheep – brainwashed minds incapable of thinking critically? What then? What I’m really saying is: Voting ought to be taken more seriously. It should be a task directed specifically towards the informed and educated, not just anyone (by informed, I do not necessarily mean those with a bachelor degree, for a layman could be, if not more, enlightened). How are we to expect our country and ourselves as human beings to develop and flourish, if what is being taken in to consideration are the requests of those who disregard the need of the nation, who couldn’t care less about ethics – those who do not practice the life of a citizen dutifully – by participating actively and keeping themselves informed.

 

As a society we are entirely motivated, programmed rather, to act selfishly

 

This might sound rather radical and ‘dictatorial’, for whom am I to state who and what is educated or good – however, the situation we find ourselves in, both politically and socially, I believe, is drastic. This being said, by no means am I proclaiming that we practice a platonic system of governance for that withholds its disadvantages and is rather unrealistic considering its regimented nature. Rather, I’m tending more towards that of Aristotle, which is more flexible. The latter is a philosophy which places particular importance on the virtues, education and ‘the ultimate good’ – a life purpose.

 

Indeed, most unfortunately, I would claim, many go about their daily lives meaninglessly, without having acknowledged their purpose in life. Surely, in this day and age, there exist other entities which are directed specifically at resolving such dilemmas (take, psychologists as an example), however, apart from this problem, one is faced with another – society’s obsession with wealth, luxury and ‘looks’. As a society we are entirely motivated, programmed rather, to act selfishly – 21st century society is a society which embraces wrongdoings – where wrongdoings appear good and easy to get away with – where the ultimate good, instead of ‘self-actualisation’, has become ‘actualising’ ones’ bank account. Reality being what it is, my question becomes – can virtuous behaviour be practiced ‘willfully’ in a capitalistic economy, where money and opportunism reign and where human desire is directed specifically towards luxury and wealth?

 

For an Aristotelian way of life, and by this I mean a society which places great emphasis on ethics and education, to work, we ought to alter our lifestyle for it all boils down to what we prize: money and luxury versus human development and justice – if the latter, a purely capitalistic lifestyle will prove futile, and the present is testimony. And yet, maybe it is not capitalism as such which is the problem (it is the closet to freedom we can get, and Malta is not entirely capitalistic). Maybe it is us – our character, desires and ultimately, our behaviour (selfishness lies at the core of the human condition). If one was educated and rational enough he would not entirely give into his craving for money, he would reckon that there exist far more important things than luxury and outward appearances (such as the protection of our environment and the flourishing of character) and that selfishness provides pleasure only temporarily. The mantra of utilitarianism, which flourished exceptionally during the industrial revolution, although the times have changed – remains the same. This time, it is not factory workers which are being mistreated but our psyche – our perception of reality – our nature as human beings. Work, Work and more Work; we work so much our minimal leisure time is spent either resting and preparing for the following day, or engaging in superficial activities such as, surfing the virtual world. Rarely do we dedicate time to human creativity, bonding time, self-introspection and self-improvement. Indeed, such activities, albeit their importance, risk being disregarded in a society such as ours. Human creativity is being stunted as a result of the lifestyle we continuously engage in. We’ve become allergic to alone time failing to comprehend that it is then that human beings mostly flourish. Dickens’ Great Expectations might have been written decades ago, yet the situation Pip found himself in before reckoning the fickleness of materialism, wealth and appearances resembles ours very much. It is about time we recognise that self-love, knowledge, moral behaviour, and the protection of our environment ought to be valued more highly than bank notes and cell phones.

 

I have stated earlier that certain citizens disregard their roles – by saying that, by no means was I placing the blame entirely on them. Contending that they are to blame, so are the politicians, for they too, it seems, are disregarding their roles as leaders, as representatives of a nation – as role models. In order to turn the tide we must come together collectively, as a whole, not ‘will’ change only partially or, worse than that, temporarily. The ship we’re sailing in was built by our very hands and it is going to take us and us alone to direct it onto the correct path.

 

All the above points and many more, shed light upon the grave nature that our society (as many others) is immersed in. Which brings me to the point this article was primarily directed at – if not even adults are capable of voting accordingly, of fulfilling their roles as citizens, of taking in to consideration what is good or bad, can 16 year olds’? Such a question ought not to be foolishly regarded as easy, for it is not. I believe discussions, more so with regards to the nature of politics, should commence at a young age – as this will impel individuals to consider the good of the country and the importance of politics and ethics early in life – however, bestowing adolescents the right to vote, seems to me rather extreme and, more specifically, wrong. Let me explain why.

 

If the core is rotten – polishing the outside is not the solution.

 

A sixteen year old, both psychologically and emotionally speaking, is still developing, and, as a result, risks succumbing to influences more easily. A lack of autonomy may give way to indoctrination, both by society and, reviewing Malta’s factional nature, more so by the family. Politics in Malta is majoritively partisan – not to mention its viscous and dishonest nature. As with football supporters, one finds families unanimously siding with one political party or the other, most of the time, not because they autonomously chose to, but because that’s how it always was. Indeed, even the older generation is led by the neck. I do not doubt there are adolescents able to think critically, yet unfortunately these are few. If it were up to me, I’d grant all critical minds voting rights – but determining who is capable of thinking critically and who is not is not an easy task and is a slippery slope to take, ‘worse than that’, it goes against the very nature of democracy. Romanticising politics is not the way forward; rather we must begin by educating our youths, exposing them gradually both at school and at home to the real nature of unbiased politics, and move from there. With Malta’s current condition I doubt granting 16 year olds’ voting rights would ameliorate the situation. If the core is rotten – polishing the outside is not the solution. We must start from scratch and re build the foundations on to which our society stands. Indeed, we must Educate the people. By virtue of that alone are we to emerge out of the ‘cave’. That being said, there is not much left for me to say but to quote ‘the wisest man in Athens’ – Socrates,

 

“I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person.”

Mariana Debono

Mariana Debono

"Thinking is my fighting” stated Virginia Woolf in one of her novels and it has stuck with me ever since.
Mariana Debono, a 17 year old University student who’s utterly in awe of literature and philosophy. Writing has always been a passion of mine but lately, more than ever before, I felt a need to give life to my thoughts and publish them… for what difference would it make if we kept everything to ourselves? Longing improvement means working for it, and my way of doing so is through writing, conversing and of course, reading. I want my discourses to help give a clearer vision of reality, something which in this day and age has become almost surreal– it has become a sort of illusion.
We might not know the truth you see… but that doesn’t mean we can never get to it!
Mariana Debono

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