There is an idiomatic phrase in the Polish language: “to wake up with a hand in the potty”, which means “to find out too late that you made a mistake, when you no longer can change it”.
In Poland we also say: “The Poles wise after damage”, which means “we can properly evaluate our deeds only after the incident has actually happened, from the proper perspective, we cannot predict in advance the negative effects of our behaviour”. Here (in the latter case) it is just better, because we, at least, draw conclusions, however unfortunately “what happened cannot be undone”.
And when do we have to deal with such situations in democracies? Unfortunately, very often in the case of elections or referendums. We do not participate in elections, and then, after some time, we ‘have a chip in the shoulder’, facing the outcome of voting. And who is to blame? From our perspective, only we ourselves and other inactive citizens like us! No one else! Because those who voted wanted to have it that way.
Perhaps the party we wanted to vote for, lost somehow in the eyes of the voters (but we still trust in it and we still consider it the best), perhaps it conducted its election campaign in a clumsy way, perhaps its opponents have used social engineering, perhaps … But there is no excuse for us why we abstained from voting. Since many other people acted in a similar way – that’s why we , thepassive ones, could make the difference that would lead to a different election’s results. And then we really “wake up with a hand in the potty!”
That we renounce the gains of democracy, we abandon it! Why? Often because we believe that “one vote doesn’t mean anything”. One – it is indeed not enough. However, this one and many other individual – that’s a lot. In them is the power which is capable ofaltering the outcome of the election.
The first reason is passivity, the second one – the lack of information. We vote in a wrong way because we do not know who to vote for, because we have not read precisely the party programs, or because we have not learned the lessons of history.
What are the effects? Brexit in Britain and a huge number of discontented people, including many who “did not know what to vote for.” We see how important even an elementary education is! A similar/ analogous situation happened in Poland after the victory of PiS (“Prawo i Sprawiedliwość”, which literarily means “Law and Justice”), when the Poles elected a party that hadalready beenin power 10 years before. As you can see, not necessarily “The Poles are wise after the damage” (damage experienced 10 years ago). And perhapswise, but unfortunately with too short memory … Maybe as a result ofthe lack of established democratic traditions (due to the partitions – Poland was wiped off the world’s map for over 120 years!), perhaps due to years of the communist rule … But still, many Poles and Brits do have their “hands in the potty.”
The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union.