02 February 2011

Increasing my political involvement

A bit more than a week ago, the ChristenUnie party had their 'friend day', a day when members of the party and people interested in the party could come together to hear what the party was doing and get a glimpse of what was going on in Parliament. As it was being held at the Parliamentary buildings, which is only a 10-minute bike ride from house, it seemed like a perfect chance for me not only to become more acquainted with the party but also with politics here in the Netherlands.

I have to admit that my political involvement in the past has generally been limited to voting - and then only sometimes. I'm a citizen of a land (Canada) that can call an election on short notice. When you happen not to be residing in that country, both figuring out who to vote for and organising a vote by proxy aren't all that easy to do within 50 days (And the year I was in Ukraine, I was so out of touch with things that the election was almost past before I even found out that there would be one!). Such a level of involvement is not exactly ideal - but how does one change that?

Being a citizen of the Netherlands (and actually living in the country :)) has opened up opportunities for more political involvement. Seeing Matthijs's example of attending political conferences and just generally being knowledgeable of the political issues has also been an encouragement to do something. Living in a country that has a representative system also makes involvement much more attractive. Whereas voting in Canada meant a complicated process of deciding to 'waste one's vote' on a party that represented me well or voting for the party most likely to beat the party that I really didn't agree with; such a choice doesn't exactly motivate one to get involved except perhaps in a fight to change the system.

The Netherlands has a representative system - and it means that a little party like the ChristenUnie is able to have a say in how things work. This is due to their being the extra votes needed to pass something - and reasonable requests can be made by the ChristenUnie in exchange for their votes. What makes it most interesting for me is that it is a party that has Christian values (especially family values), is fairly socialist, and is big on the environment. In my experience in North America, it felt unusual to find Christian groups aware of the environment let alone motivated about doing things about it! [Thankfully, this is changing.]

And so to find a party that is a combination of various things that I find important makes me interested in getting involved. And the 'friend day' helped, too. Not only did I learn more about the party and how it works, I got to see the 'tweede kamer' [second house], learn more about European Parliament, and I saw that those involved seemed like ordinary individuals like me. The only thing I could still wish for was for a focus on more involvement of non-white males - there were a number of females involved in leadership but the number of minorities present was definitely disappointing.

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