10 March 2007

Participating in the democratic process

It’s election time again in Finland. Last time around, four years ago when I was living in Ireland I didn't vote. What happened then was that some serious idiots were elected including a boxer, a singer and a radio presenter; none of them should have been anywhere near the decision making and although my vote would not have stopped them to get in, I felt that I wasn’t quite in a position to complain.

I checked out the information what should I do in order “to get my voice heard” and was positively surprised to find that there was a place to vote in Birmingham. Well, the website said Birmingham but it actually was in Solihul. That’s an hour or so in a local bus which isn’t too bad but I was surprised that they didn’t organise it in the second city but rather in its surrounding suburb. It turned out when I got to Solihul that it actually isn’t near the centre at all and that the only way for me to get there is to take a taxi. I hadn’t planned using too much money in this but I was already out of town and woke up early just to get there so I thought that I am not going to turn away now. So I took a cab to Knowle, a small place somewhere outside of immediate Solihul. It was a posh looking place. Solihul is where the rich people move from Birmingham but this was even more affluent; that most often translates into the lack of means of transport for poor students like myself.

So there I was cruising with a cab that I didn’t particularly feel I could afford and thought that I am going to need another ride to get back from there. At that point I was thinking that what in the world made them to put my voting place in such a messed up far away place. It appeared when I jumped out of the cab, asking him to wait for a ten minutes, that Knowle is home to some small Finnish community which, if I understood it correctly, makes coffee and drinks that then together every second Saturday. Woman in a traditional dress greeted me not being quite sure in which language, but as soon as I gave my passport and started speaking Finnish they asked me questions and even invited me for a coffee, which I would have had if there wasn’t a cab waiting for me. I was invited to join their community of coffee drinking every second Saturday which I kindly refused with a smile and a comment “let’s see about that”.

But it was their small community who had organised the opportunity to vote at the first place so I didn’t feel it would have been appropriate to start complaining to these elderly ladies in traditional Finnish clothes inviting me for a coffee – I may be a cynic but I am not a monster.

When leaving the yard decorated with small Finnish flags tied up into trees and walls the cab driver asked me am I going to start hanging out with these people. Although I already knew that I won’t, I then realised what a ridiculous idea it would be. Not because they wouldn’t be good people or anything like that. It is just one of those inexplicable things that are unquestionable for no apparent reason.

But the main thing of the day wasn’t that my quest for my democratic right of voting set me back a total amount of £18 (approximately 28 Euro!), but that I used my right as an adult citizen and voted. Now I voted for a person that is not very likely to get into parliament but it’s all the same. Of course I wish she will but at least no one can tell me that I don’t have a right to complain if things don’t go the way I wished they did – I have probably more right than anyone this time.

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