Once again, it’s the season where I’m absolutely inundated with requests — no, demands — that I vote. I’m told it’s my civic duty. I’m told in haughty, self-righteous, proud acrimony that if I don’t vote, I have no right to complain, as if my freedom of speech is revoked should choose to not select a career politician who I despise less than the other guy to “represent” me — when none of these people I’m told to select from actually represent me.
So, am I going to vote next week? Actually, yes. But, with caveats, and I’m more than happy to explain why.
First, a little parable:
Three wolves and six goats are discussing what to have for dinner. One courageous goat makes an impassioned case: “We should put it to a vote!” The other goats fear for his life, but surprisingly, the wolves acquiesce.
But when everyone is preparing to vote, the wolves take three of the goats aside. “Vote with us to make the other three goats dinner,” they threaten. “Otherwise, vote or no vote, we’ll eat you.”
The other three goats are shocked by the outcome of the election: a majority, including their comrades, has voted for them to be killed and eaten. They protest in outrage and terror, but the goat who first suggested the vote rebukes them: “Be thankful you live in a democracy! At least we got to have a say in this!”
Voting is a right. People fought and some literally died for he right to be able to vote in fair elections for such things as fair taxes, appropriate laws that are meant to help society function, and people who would represent them in a government by, of, and for the people.
But on most scales, that’s not what we have. We have a government where the higher up you go, the less you, as a person, are being represented so much as being governed in the interests of corporations. The congresspeople, the president, the massive support system that runs the federal government, are paid for by corporate profit — sanctified by the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend as much money as they wish to make sure the politicians vote in their interests. In fact, the only politicians at all that get to that high of a level, that get their name on the ballot, are politicians that, regardless of the R or the D next to their name, will support corporate interests over those of the people.
These people do not represent me. I don’t not wish to associate a vote, by right and purchased by many people braver than I who gave their lives to give me the privilege and not the obligation to do so, to any of these people. A vote for a less vile, less corporate-owned, less dishonest, politician is not an exercise in freedom and liberty and civic duty — it is an insult and a mockery of freedom and liberty.
My right to vote quite certainly includes my right to choose to not vote, if that represents my opinion that the people who are my forced choices do not represent me. If I despise both options I have to vote for, I will complain about either one of them regardless of whichever one wins, and I should not have to be compelled to associate myself with either repugnancey in order to be granted the boon of being able to complain about them.
Especially when what I complain about is not just the puppets that I’m forced to choose between, but the entire corrupted and perverted system that puts only bought-and-paid-for corporate tools as my choices for representation.
Indeed, there are people who don’t vote, not because they are exercising their right not to, but because they’re too uninformed, detached, and unconcerned about the process, the system, civil rights and duties. You know what? They too have a right to complain! All people have an inalienable right to speak their mind (granted, so long as it does not directly incite harm to others), regardless of whether they participate in the farce.
I may pity and scowl at them in my own elitist, condescending way for not being involved and interested and engaged in the process, the events, the system that essentially controls their lives. But they still have a right to complain.
The parable above is often used to illustrate what’s called the tyranny of democracy. The idea that the minority must concede to will of the majority for no better reason than because they’re the majority. We all know this is on many levels wrong and unethical. It was seen during segregation, where the racist views of the majority violated the rights of a minority. We can see it today in such things as California’s Prop 8 in which the rights of a minority were eliminated by a majority vote.
If you ever found yourself in a vastly outnumbered minority, and the majority voted that you had to give up something as necessary to your life as water and air, would you comply? When it comes down to it, does anyone really believe it makes sense to accept the authority of a group simply on the grounds that they outnumber everyone else? We accept majority rule because we do not believe it will threaten us – and those it does threaten are already silenced before anyone can hear their misgivings.
–From THE PARTY’S OVER: BEYOND POLITICS, BEYOND DEMOCRACY
I agree with the position. Majority rule; minority suffers. That’s all well and good so long as you’re part of the majority. But everyone belongs in someone else’s minority group. What happens when the majority on a given position, or condition, votes to remove a right of yours? How fair is democracy to you then?
As an anarchist, I believe ultimately in the removal of all coerced obeisance to the will of another group, whether that group has the force of greater numbers, or a monopoly on violence (the state). But, like Marx who understood that capitalism was a necessary step on the road to socialism, then communism, I understand we’re likely not going to have mass anarchism (nor communism) within my lifetime. The state is here, and it’s not going anywhere, any time soon. And the structure of representative government, as corrupt and flawed and manipulated as it is, should at least somewhat be made to work for the people and not for corporations, whenever possible….
So, I’m going to vote next Tuesday, despite the fact it will be a violation of my integrity. (I don’t believe in the very system itself, I shouldn’t support it with my participation.) But, living completely on the grid, within the culture, subject to the will of the hegemonic cultural logic, and millions of other people have no choice — so I’ll go ahead and cast votes where, and only where, I have a choice in which I think one option is ethically acceptable, and not because it’s the alternative to a worse option. If neither option represents my beliefs, it’s not getting my approval simply because of some non-existent obligation to have to choose one.
What gets my goat, is how so many of the people who wallow in self-righteousness and decree that you’re unAmerican and not worthy of the right to free speech if you don’t vote, are people whose entire civic consciousness, entire political activity, entire involvement in the world around them, begin and end with that 30 minute exercise once every couple of years — maybe only every four years. And of course, that just the way those in power like it. Convince people that they’re actually capable of changing things, get rid of bad and install good, improve the system, by making them think that all they need to do is vote for person A or nearly identical person B, whose differences are those that make people bicker while ignoring the fact the rot goes down to the roots. Make people think that voting equals change, and just shuffle the same agents of corruption and dominance through the offices while the very system itself that underlies the main problems gets blissfully ignored.
So, if you’re one of those who sticks your nose into the air with superiority because you go out of your way to vote for a new boss, same as the old boss, save your breath on me. I’m going to participate in the farce. But you better anticipate some write-in names on my part.