“Voters are all the same”

In a few months, in October 22, Argentinians will vote for representatives and senators. When we face an election, of any nature, and specially when it is important for our life (and the lives of others, like in this case), it is common to consider the different options and assess what implies to choose one choice and reject the others. However, as a parallel step, one cannot stop learning and change, if necessary, his/her way of considering options, and this is based directly on experience. In the first step you assess the options (job offers, a technical decision, our career, whether it is time to have kids or not, the candidates); in the second step you assess yourself (as a professional, as a fathers/mother, as a citizen). Without this second part, which is personal, there is no growth.

These days, talking with friends and colleagues, I witnessed those behavioral patterns that you find once and again: the recurrent phrase “politicians are all the same”, which I have heard since I was a child. These kind of ideas generally come when you have been disappointed. This happened in Argentina, for example, when the ex-president Fernando de la Rúa had to quit ahead of time because of the huge social and economical crisis in 2001. Argentinians angrily shouted “get out of here!”. Since one’s hope in his candidate has gone now, the conclusion is that actually no option was worth choosing, politicians are all the same. But there is another possibility, very simple but apparently almost impossible to even consider: maybe I was wrong, maybe I didn’t realize of something, or probably, who knows, due to my ignorance I chose the wrong option. It’s a very natural way, it’s the second step I mentioned before: you have the possibility to learn from your experience, because you know what you have paid attention to before choosing what you chose, so you have a unique opportunity to adjust and correct your way of thinking and considering things.

A well-known ex-president, Raúl Alfonsín, said that Argentinians are quiet inconstant: one day we completely embrace something, and the day after we are supporting the opposite. Before the crisis in 2001, I very well remember how people close to me had different proposals that seemed quiet reasonable at that time. Two of them were: “we have to control importations since our industries are closing” and “we have to bet on the real economy” (in opposition to the purely “financial economy”, which in that time appeared to be the only way of getting over the crisis, like receiving help from the IMF). The current government, however, which was supported by the majority of Argentinians, does not seem to agree on these two ideas now.

By experience, when you think that things evidently different are the same, your are simply confused. However, admitting that you are confused and you don’t understand, that you have doubts, it is not very common among people. What is common is trying to justify the decisions made before at all costs, thus from there you reach the idea “politicians are all the same”, as if we depended exclusively on politicians. And among candidates we could have the most competent politicians, that took the decision to compromise theirselves for the common good, but then it’s citizens’ turn to distinguish and choose, something that is not easy at all. If they always choose using the same criteria, getting always the same results, then voters have part of the responsibility as well. Therefore, when I hear this opinions once and again, a though comes to my mind that could be more accurate to describe reality: “voters are all the same”, always complaining about their politicians, the ones they have chosen, never taking their role as citizens when voting: questioning theirselves as voters, the way in they choose, the criteria employed, changing when necessary. It is allowed to make a thousand mistakes, but you cannot stop growing and learning about yourself.

Chesterton said that “merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid”. We need to doubt more, not being so confident of our ideas. You don’t have to make an unnecessary effort to feel yourself confident about something when actually you are not. Doubt is necessary to reach certainty, but it is not the final object. And maybe we could also say that if we have shut our month on something that seemed solid but now tastes bad, maybe it would be good to open it again and not only consider the options again, but also the criteria we are employing.