Voting. One of the most commonly discussed topics in democratic countries.
It is one of the key ways that people can use to influence government decision making, policies, and the fate of their country.
Sadly, in recent years there has been so much talk about how our votes no longer matter, specifically the argument that, "one vote does not matter".
It has created a sense of apathy towards voting, causing quite a number of Malaysians to say that they no longer want to vote.
As arguments flare up on #undirosak and we head towards the much-awaited 14th General Election, here's why we think every vote matters and you, too, can make a difference:
It's no longer just ONE VOTE if everyone thinks the same way
You think your one vote doesn't matter.
"So what if I don't vote? I'm not going to make a difference by turning up on polling day, standing under the hot sun, and casting my vote for parties that I don't quite believe in."
Even I've spent days and months wondering who do I vote for in the next general election, disappointed with the options laid out.
Now, imagine hundreds and thousands of other Malaysians who may feel the same way. There is a very low likelihood that you are the only person who dislikes the political parties and candidates that are running for elections.
But if all these people who share your sentiments do not vote...
... then it is no longer just one person who chooses to stand on the sidelines.
Your voice, no matter how small you think it is, deserves to be heard as well.
All of us know that it takes a lot more than just having midnight mamak conversations to transform our country, change laws, and make it a better place for us to live in.
That is why we need to start by voting for the people that we think will most likely make the best decisions for Malaysians and we go from there.
"But, what do I do when there are only two parties and I don't really fancy either?"
You vote anyway, for the party you least dislike.
Okay, as depressing as that may sound, it's still crucial that you exercise your right to vote.
By not voting, you're letting everyone else decide the fate of your home and how it is run.
You are taking the power away from yourself.
If making that decision seems impossible, especially when presented with choices you don't think is worth your vote, go back to the basics.
Read up on both parties' policies, the promises they've made, kept, and broken over the years, and see if they walk the talk.
Also, remember to remain objective and seek reliable information when reading articles on current issues. Always check the source and read diversely before making a conclusion on an issue.
Try to find the answers to some of these questions to help you make a decision:
1. How is the political climate and overall stability in areas or states the parties govern?
2. Do they focus on long-term or short-term solutions for problems faced by Malaysians?
3. What do the statistics say? Look at key issues in different areas of the country and see what the party has actually done to fix it. If they haven't gotten a chance to do so but have presented their ideas, think whether their solutions are practical and doable.
4. How are their politicians like? Do they speak with respect and care for the nation and its people? The characteristics, mannerisms, and lifestyles of a party's key leaders are most often a reflection of what the party believes in and stands for. You do not want a leader who preaches, say, moderation, but leads a lifestyle that shows the opposite. Walk the talk, remember.
Of course, the answers to these questions may not be up to your standards or beliefs, but they will certainly give you a better idea and perspective on which party you want to vote for in the elections.
When you don't vote, you waste one of the most basic yet powerful tools to exercise your democratic rights
People have fought really hard and even died in other parts of the world so that we can vote today.
If you're thinking, "I can't relate to that, my forefathers didn't die for it," then know that they didn't have to because these courageous people did it for us decades ago. We're pretty lucky we came into nationhood long after the suffragette movement started.
They normalised the idea of voting across the world by highlighting its importance in a society. If not for them, voting would not have become a universal, basic right for most citizens of democratic nations.
Their lives, efforts, and deaths have to count for something and must not be taken for granted.
It is not only a great disrespect towards the sacrifices of these people, but it also takes away your right to complain about the state of your country when you refuse to vote
We've all been there. Something falls apart or doesn't function the way it's supposed to and we react in the most normal way possible by complaining about it.
But, what does complaining have to do with voting?
One of the many perks of living in a democratic country is that you have the constitutional right as a voter to speak up and use your voice to bring attention to issues that need to be addressed.
It could be anything, from the safety of your neighbourhood, our education system, religious freedom, to more common everyday issues.
Sure, some of us have the advantage and luxury of not having to worry about issues like these, but it does affect other people. Specifically, the ones that are mired in poverty, or are part of minority and marginalised communities in Malaysia.
So, if you're still feeling indifferent about voting, think about Malaysians who are less fortunate
They may not always have the access and time to fight for their rights, given the fact that their daily concerns would mostly be on whether or not they can put food on the table.
"Will my family be able to eat? Can I pay the rent this month? Where will we live if I can't?"When those are the kind of things you need to think about daily, politics is hardly something you bother with.
This is why we need to speak up.
For the privileged ones, not voting or actively participating in politics may not influence your life greatly. But for others, it could very easily mean getting access to running water or spending the next five years walking up to a river that's hours away for water supply.
Voting may not always be about you, your needs or problems. Sometimes, it has more to do with stepping up to help others. It's the least we can do.
Award-winning American television producer, screenwriter, and author Shonda Rhimes once said, "Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change."
I don't think I've ever heard truer words spoken.
Constantly speaking about an idyllic, progressive Malaysia will not just magically transform the country into one. We need to work really hard towards the changes that we wish to materialise.
If we want an enlightened and intelligent society, it starts with us.
So, get up and vote. Make your voice heard.
The Malaysians who stand with you today could be the leaders of this country someday.
Think about that, while you eat your nasi lemak with your buddies.
Yes, it might be really, really difficult...
But remember, like a lot of things in life, change comes in stages, in all its imperfect glory.
Every time you participate, show up, speak up, and vote, we are one step closer to a better Malaysia.