Matt Heath: Why the US election was a waste of time and should be treated like a leg of lamb


That US election was a massive waste of time. Not the voting and counting – that had to be done. It was the watching of the counting that was pointless — the hours in front of our TVs and phones. We could have done something productive with our lives. Instead of staring at numbers not change for days, I could have walked my dog Colin multiple times. I could have fixed the garage door. I could have learned to play “Baker Street” on the saxophone.

Wednesday night, I had a leg of lamb in the oven and the election on the laptop. The meat was lightly smeared with Dijon mustard, lime, rosemary, garlic, rock salt and olive oil. It was cooking away at 160C for two hours and 15 minutes. As the house filled with delicious smells, CNN’s John King turned from his magic election wall to announce: “This could happen, but it might not, we don’t know. We will see when the results come in. They count it. Then we can tell you.”

Too right mate. Just tell me when the count is done. Stop opening the oven door and looking. We should treat the next election like a 2.5kg leg of lamb in an oven. There is no point in checking your hunk of meat every 15 seconds, and there is no point in staring at an American election from start to finish. Wait ’til it’s done. The lamb will get cooked, and the votes will get counted – you just have to wait. Meanwhile, you can do something meaningful with your life. I should have picked up that athlete’s foot cream and trimmed the hedge.

Fox News, CNN and all the others are businesses. They need to hook you in and keep you watching. That’s how they make money. A half-hour report of the final results is all we need, but a five-day drip-feed of half-cooked information gets more eyes on ads. I could have gone to the servo and got the gas for the BBQ, I could have mowed the lawns, I could have learned to fly a helicopter. Instead, I watched like a zombie as various dudes caressed massive touch screens.

Following the painfully slow count was not only a waste of time, but it was also stressful.It did terrible things to the mental health of New Zealand’s social media pundits. “This is torture,” said one, “I can’t watch,” said another. Good news. You didn’t have to. It’s not even your country.

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. – Epictetus

Imagine if we spent all our energy on things we can control and none on things we can’t. If we put all our efforts into our work, family, exercise, socialising and making our country a better place. If we focus only on what we can control, we get a lot done. Spending time on things we have no power over like the US election makes us frustrated and unhappy. Once the Americans had voted, no one in New Zealand could change the result. It just needed to be counted. When they had the numbers, the new president was declared. Why did we watch the rest of it?I could have gotten the flat spare tyre in the back of the car fixed. I could have hung out with my kids instead of Fox and Friends. I could have gone on a hot date instead of spending the night in with Wolf Blitzer.

On the plus side, the lamb was delicious. Perfectly cooked. It was great on the night and even better in sandwiches the next day. In the end, for my family and I, that was the result that really counted.

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