There is a serious infirmity in Costa Rica that has already affected over 30 percent of the population and threatens to alter our lives to the very core. It is an insidious problem that grows each year affecting more and more of our citizens. It isn’t dengue or malaria or even cancer. This plague is abstentionism — the act of not voting — and if its growth goes unchecked we could lose the democracy we are so proud of. As more and more of our fellow citizens choose to not even participate in elections, the choice of who will run our government and thus our lives will be left to fewer and fewer people.
Many feel disenfranchised by the current system where it seems the world is run by entitled public employees, major political parties, the ruling elite or the media. While I do not consider that this is a real conspiracy of evil against good, it does seem that the powers that be are, if not actively fomenting this citizen apathy are surely taking advantage of it. What we need to be reminded of is that this democracy and freedom we so enjoy is in no way guaranteed and we can just as easily lose control of our own destiny just by not taking care to participate in it. Remember, you pay taxes. To not participate in the debate on how or take part in electing the who, you are giving that money to others to do as they please, not as you wish.
“Those who do not participate in democracy are in danger of losing it” goes the wise saying. This is true. Many today claim that their vote will not make a difference, they don’t know what the candidates stand for — they’re all the same — and they are sick of the system. These same people complain about how the government is run, how the infrastructure is weak, that our foreign and domestic policies are erroneous and deficient.
Yet, they refuse to learn about the issues and do not engage in the debate, they do not even know who represents them in government let alone tell those representatives how they feel.
The apathy is growing so strong that the non-voters may become the majority in the next elections. May this never be! Democracy comes with responsible citizenry. We must take the time and effort to speak out on the issues and decide and defend the issues important to us. The saying “To remain silent is to permit” has never been more true. Your vote does mean something. For one thing, it gives you the right to criticize which equates to the responsibility to inform yourself and participate. Participatory democracy is the only kind of democracy that works and as Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
Come on out and participate. Vote and take responsibility for the democratic government of your future and your children’s future. Failing to do so, you will surely lose it!
*Mr. Ghormley operates a real estate firm in Jacó.