I nodded in agreement and felt a tear come to my eye as I heard the mother, who supports the family singlehandedly, say she had sent them all to college, educated them, done her best by them, only to send them away.
And then I heard the son talk about emigrating. His friends are gone, he said. He and one remaining friend had lost their jobs in factories (both had business degrees) and leaving was the only option they had. I nodded away at the wheel of my car, getting strange looks from drivers in oncoming cars.
Then, McCormack asked him how he would vote if he was still here for the election.
And I stopped nodding. I didn’t have a recording device on me at the time, but the conversation went something like this:
“Sure why would I vote? Which one of them will give me a job, that’s all I want. Sure it’s a joke, the whole thing’s a joke. What’s voting going to do for me?”
I nearly crashed the car.
If you are one of those people with what Max Weber referred to as the Protestant work ethic, if you believe that only your hard work and God’s grace will influence the path of your life, this might be a way of justifying not voting. If you believe that your life is predetermined and that only graft will get you where you want to be, then don’t vote. Fair enough.
If you believe that the world does not owe you anything and that you and only you can change your life, then, sure, what’s the point in voting? Just go and get your job. It’s a fairly Tory way of looking at the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s invalid. I don’t agree with it, but it’s logical. But if you did believe all that, then you’d believe it was your own fault (or God’s will) that you didn’t have a job.
But, if you believe, as this guy clearly did, that the world owes you a job, and that it is someone else’s fault – politicians – that you don’t have one, then surely you have even more of a responsibility to vote? Surely you want to see politicians in power who will prioritise you and your job, rather than leaving your prospects in the control of voters with different priorities to you?
The lack of logic in the guy’s complaint was mind-blowing.
The world doesn’t owe you a job, but in a democratic country you are guaranteed certain human rights – dignity is one of them and the ability to live is another. So you can argue that maybe the world doesn’t owe you a job, but maybe Ireland does, as a citizen of the country.
But in a democratic country there are rights and obligations. There are certain parts of the democratic contract that mean that to get something, you give something.
You have a basic responsibility to do your homework on your local candidates and their policies, if you feel that it’s their fault you don’t have a job.
If you feel that our current circumstances are somehow predetermined and nothing will change them, sure, don’t bother voting.
That way, things are predetermined – by idiots who refuse to get up and do something about it, and allow the consensus to continue out of a pointless, angry, apathy that serves nobody and nothing.
It’s one thing not voting because you don’t see alternative policies being put forward, or because you don’t have a candidate in your constituency who you feel represents you. But your job as a citizen of a democratic country is to make sure your representatives know you feel that way and not just lie back and take it as if nothing makes a difference.
Want a job? Put in the work – and that doesn’t mean getting a degree.
Edit: I’m not for a minute suggesting the guy wasn’t a hard worker or hadn’t done his best to get a job. But the cause of unemployment in this country is political and economic, and if every person who can’t get a job doesn’t bother voting, then the consensus remains; which is why we have a system here that benefits middle aged high earners. Young people aren’t represented because young people don’t see a connection between their lives and their vote. And that has to change.