Elections are like dating – there is an illusion of choice, you repent if you’re part of it and repent if you’re not, and somehow the old fat rich uncles end up at the top of the pyramid. At a time when the local council elections in parts of the country dominate prime air time on popular television channels, parents who have children approaching adulthood are in a fix about how to address the issue, which has become akin to the elephant in the room. Here is a guide to how to talk to your children about elections:

1) Voting is a national responsibility. It is important that you make your children realize that if they are dutiful citizens, they must fulfill this responsibility as many times as possible on the election day. Elections are a rare phenomenon in Pakistan. They should not let go of the opportunity. They should know that the more votes they poll in an election, the better citizens they will be. By the time they are your age, there might be an electronic voting system in Pakistan. You should help them be prepared to be able to vote multiple times by tricking that new system imposed by the west.

2) Do not focus solely on the voting practice. Your children must understand the entire democratic process. In order to participate in democracy, they must be aware of the importance of firing guns in the air, fighting with rival groups, and getting away with all kinds of illegal practices if your candidate gets elected. The process is especially incomplete if they do not know how to insult their opponents on Facebook and Twitter, and leave inappropriate comments on their blogs or newspaper articles.

3) Don’t limit their understanding of the democratic process to one single ideology or political position. They should not just follow your political beliefs, but be able to choose their own. Teach the about all the various options that are available to them in Pakistan, so that they are aware of how wide-ranging the political spectrum is – from extreme right, to moderate right, to slightly right of center.

4) While it is important to educate your children about the pros and cons of democracy, it is also very important that you introduce them to other systems of governance that provide them other options to make their voices heard. Nothing gets heard like a bomb explosion. But for a small percentage of parents who are not comfortable with telling their children that simple but unfortunate fact, just publishing anarchist literature about how the government is a tool of the west and should be toppled can also bring good results.

5) Democracy is all about consensus. And there is no better way to build a consensus than by force. Your children should know that they must tell their wives, sisters and daughters whether to vote and who to vote for. Occasionally they should also know how to sternly persuade other people in their locality to go to the polling station and exercise their democratic right in favor of the candidate they like. Research has shown that people are more likely to vote for a candidate if he or his close aides accompany them to the polling booth with a gun.

6) Do not let them ask questions. Firstly, the questions they ask might be inappropriate for a conversation between parents and children, and you might end up in an embarrassing situation. Secondly, it is against the spirit of democracy to ask too many questions. If you will encourage them to ask questions, they will grow up under the illusion that it is a good thing to ask questions. This belief may land them in trouble when they grow up. It is better to safe than sorry.

7) Do reassure them by telling them that you will always be there for them – unlike the leaders they vote for. But do not love them too much. That will create in them a sense of entitlement that makes them unfit for democracy. It takes generations to learn to live in a democracy. It is only in a dictatorship that one learns to behave themselves in less than a month.

The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.

harris@nyu.edu

@cyborgasms