Monday, November 28, 2011

The Cult of Voting.

If recent experience is anything to go by, this post should be the final nail in the coffin of my ever having a social life again. In trying to understand the motivations behind voting, I have been abused by people, insulted, accused of being deluded, and shouted down in person and on the internet.

If I was a guest on 'The O'Reilly Factor' on Fox, I would expect this kind of treatment, but to my surprise it generally came from the left direction, not the right. It is reminiscent of pro-Unionists being extremely quick to venomously brand anyone who would dare ask "Why join a union?" as a "Scab".

So what's the deal here? What's going on that is so offensive and morally reprehensible to the good people of the community?

I asked the question: "Why do people vote, when it seems to me to be a see-saw between 2 parties, neither of which offer real or lasting change?" 

If you feel your blood pressure rising at this point, maybe you should hit 'Control W' now, and save yourself the drama.

It seems like a game, where people pin their hopes on the other side, after being disappointed and in some cases literally damaged by the behaviour of who they elected the last time. And when the new Government comes to power, they are affected negatively in different ways (if they're lucky).

Most people I know cheered when Obama came to power under a banner of change. But all that changed is the figurehead. America is broke, beholden to big business interests and banks, still at war in the Middle East, still no decent healthcare, education is still not up to standard, the same old problems.

New Zealand just had their election, and having lived there for a spell, I have grown quite fond of some of its inhabitants. So after reading Facebook posts and Tweets concerning friends voting behaviours, and witnessing their heartbreak when it was revealed the party they had pinned their hopes on (Labour) lost; and that the current (National) Government would remain in power, I wondered why they had bet that way at all?. (Click here for an interesting rundown of the NZ election).

Now I am sad on their behalf, because by all accounts (at least those from people that I trust), the Prime Minister John Key is as you would expect, a Grade-A liar. His victory speech promised more jobs, better wages, and less debt, which are the three things he has managed to do the complete opposite of in his first term as Prime Minister.

And so it occurred to me, as it has so many times before, that the system is broken. Because I distinctly remember whenever Labour was in power in the past, these same people would wring their hands and complain at how they ran the country as well. That's how Labour eventually lost voters to the current Government.

The current system offers you two major parties, and a bunch of others that don't have enough support to get in by themselves, but who often receive votes from people who want to stick it to the majors, or who are attracted to policies they offer (such as the Green Party in New Zealand and Australia).

As a quick aside- the Green Party in Australia has many policies I find admirable, but have climbed into bed with one of the major parties in a bid for more seats/power. They're meant to be the alternative to the majors, and I find it horrifying that they would ever consider breaching their morals in a quest for votes. Also, I work as an armed guard here in Australia quite a lot of the time, and as part of this I carry a semi-automatic handgun as part of my duties. The Greens have a policy that most people don't know about, where they seek to relieve me of this weapon, and only allow police to carry firearms on duty. Admirable idea, but the police were the ones who I needed to satisfy in order to become licensed to carry in the first place, so what's the difference? Also, when I am shot dead by an armed criminal who isn't at the mercy of Green Party legislation, what then? Am I meant to ask him if he would care to hug a tree with me instead? Just an example of a totally un-thought out policy that is guaranteed to result in the loss of lives of some good people who are trying to make an honest living, by a party many people consider to hold their best interests at heart.

You can vote for a minor party who won't get in, or you can vote for one of the majors, both of whom have a long and rich history of messing things up to bring us to the point we are at now. Again, what's the point of this? How will change unfold?

There is a very tasty quote doing the rounds, attributed to Einstein: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Is that not voting? Really...think about it.
And so the invective commences. The belittling attitudes, which I find so fascinating. Voters hold fast to certain unshakeable ideals (a lot like religious zealots), that are based on faith and belief, but fly in the face of evidence.

Let's look at a couple of those:

1. "The wheels of government grind slow, so by relieving yourself of voter responsibility what you achieve is to give more power to the powerful. Your tiny act of voting against the ruling class actually does count, your tiny act of not voting is a vote for the status quo. You could always vote Green - they got 10% and now count for something. In 3 years they might be the opposition. Slowly slowly."

Yes, extremely slowly. This way of thinking is what has entrenched the current system so deeply. Actually believing that the powers that be would ever allow themselves to be unseated by the filthy masses doesn't give our evil overlords the credit they have worked so hard for. And I'm not talking about the politicians themselves, because they are obviously the puppets. I'm talking about the (often foreign) vested interests who hide behind lobby groups, who will do anything they can to retain a Government (the Party is irrelevant, as long as they can be bought or swayed) that will cater to their desires, and in doing so allow them to amass even more of the accumulated wealth of the country, while the people who actually reside in that country face economic disaster and personal hardship.

This isn't a conspiracy theory. Even the press which is owned by Murdoch/News Limited publicly declares on a semi-regular basis the corruption inherent in Governments lying down with big business. Not to mention nations like Australia and New Zealand's obligations to countries like the USA and Britain, which send residents of the Pacific off to fight for countries on the other side of the world (and in the case of Iraq, without an honest reason to do so).

So "slowly slowly" is utterly useless in effecting change, it merely reinforces the illusion of control by voting, and to quote the author of the 'slowly slowly' approach: " a vote for the status quo." It doesn't matter who you vote for, you still get the Government.

2. "One has to pick a certain vision and leadership if they actually want to have a stake in what's going on around them. Otherwise you may as well sit back on your sofa and watch the world turn to shit. There are parts of the world where a free and fair election is an unheard of and very sacred privilege."

Is that so? Has the world not turned to shit already? Does voting actually offer you a stake in what's going on around you? How does it change who is pulling the strings behind the scenes? How does it disconnect their voice from your destiny, and return your country to you?

My favourite part of this argument is the 'Voting is a sacred privilege' part. Here's why:

Say I engage you in a game. I offer you two choices, neither of which benefit you. No matter the outcome of the game, nothing will have changed, only the illusion of change occurs. Why would you play it? And yet people do this. It's called gambling at the casino, borrowing money from a loan shark, or voting in your election. But people hold this 'sacred right' to them as if it was, well...sacred!

You have many rights in the Western World, rights that others in China for example do not have. But just because you are allowed to do something (especially when that something is participate in a staged and elaborate smokescreen to represent the illusion of control), doesn't mean it's sacred.

In Australia, there are laws that result in imprisonment if your letter box does not strictly conform to Government standards. I'm not kidding. In other parts of the world, people are free to use whatever they like as a letter box. Does that mean they have both a sacred right, and a societal obligation to ensure they exercise that right, when choosing a letterbox?

And by voting, you don't even get to choose your letterbox. You might get a different colour, but in the end it's given to you by exactly the same trans-global companies that gave you the last one.

Now for my favourite:

3. "People are on the streets in parts of the Middle East, often being shot and beaten because they want the opportunity to vote for their leader. As I said above, it is sacred. Every party in the end will have to lobby to business interests because that is an important part of how economies and politics work. No, you don't have to paint your letterbox, but that doesn't mean you can question why others would want to."

Actually, people in the Egypt are being beaten and shot because they are enraged by the fact that they voted for change, and instead swapped one corrupt power-hungry Government for another. Sound familiar? And suddenly, according to person #3, I am not allowed to question "why others would want to."

Not allowed? Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in stating that people in The Middle East are being unjustly treated because they are raising their voices and asking why their votes mean nothing, then informing me that I am not allowed to raise my voice and ask why my votes mean nothing?

So we have a situation, where voters believe so strongly that their votes mean something, that they take a smug "We're better than you", condescending approach to anyone who deviates from their mindset. And in my experience, people who act this way are closed off to other possibilities, thus the know-it-all attitude. People who are open actively seek debate or questions, because by answering those challenges to their point of view, they reinforce it with facts gleaned from closer examination.

Because you have the right to vote (Read: Take part in a meaningless charade that changes nothing), you only add to the situation by not voting. In essence, you become the bad guy. The scapegoat. It's YOUR fault the party we wanted didn't get in! When in reality, whether a person votes or doesn't, is irrelevant to the corporations that truly run your country for their own profit.

How many times have you heard people say things like "I've been Labour all my life but see Green as having the most progressive health policies with all of Labour's humanist approach to business and welfare. Now we have to make sure that the asset sales don't go ahead. Making money for an elite few while the rest of us suffer the consequences of rising energy costs, no thank you!"?

Sure, you could get your progressive health policies and humanist approach to business and welfare (if they keep their election promises), but you still get ASSET SALES? You'll need that welfare and those health policies, because if you have to pay for State owned assets you sold off to a corporation, so they can sell your own water back to you, you will be a great deal poorer than you are today. Here in Australia, we have to buy our own water. It falls from the sky. It belongs to all of us, it is a natural resource. But we still have to buy it back from someone else, because the Government (both major parties) allow it. They send us off to an illegal war in the Middle East, and make us buy our own natural resources. We pay for both. We shouldn't have paid for either.

4. You've got " right to  complain if you don't vote. Pathetic apathetic morons."

Doesn't this sum up the mindset beautifully? If you don't take part in the rigged game of illusory benefit, then you are apathetic (what about conscientious objectors?), pathetic (there's your moral high ground, right there!) morons (Some more negative judgement, without at all trying to understand why some people would choose not to vote). But the sinister undercurrent to this view is the sudden removal of rights from non-voters by voters, or at least the declared intent.

"Because we vote, then we are the right, and we in the right hereby remove your right to complain." That's really something. It's as if you no longer retain citizenship, because you don't want to take part in a corrupt waste of time. And it is this viewpoint, this morally superior, closed off to any other option, resistant to questioning attitude, that is reflected in the way Governments treat their constituents. These people seem to be brainwashed. Led to believe that it is non voters that are at fault for the way their country is run, when it is voters who perpetuate the current model, and in turn reap the (lack of) rewards from it.

I know a few of you are sitting there saying "It's easy to tear down ideas, but have you got anything constructive to say?", and to you I say "Thank you for asking!

I don't advocate voting, it's ineffective. I don't advocate not voting either. That's ineffective as well. Playing the game/not playing the game is not the issue, we need to change the game itself.

The only way this can happen, is if enough people out there in the community realise they're pouring votes down the drain, and come together to form a new political party. This party should stand on one issue alone- to change the system of voting and governance, so that it represents the best issues of the people, and not corporations. Distribute the riches of the country between those that live there, just like Gaddafi did in Libya. This will mean Europe and the USA will no longer be allies, as they are run by corporations and banks, and see any nation that conducts its affairs to the benefit of its people as a threat to the stability of their own political setup. (Just like the USA did to Gaddafi in Libya).

Here is a downloadable .PDF of Gaddafi's 'Green Book'. If you have an interest in either how a society could be run for the people, or want to know the truth as to why Libya was really invaded, you owe it to yourself to read it.
It's a matter of public record that every time a new ruler came to power in Latin America, vowing to return the power to the people, and kick the oil/tobacco companies out, the CIA either destabilised the Government, or assassinated the President. The corporatocracy kills anything in its path, by any illegal means necessary, and we would fare no better.

But if you want a way out, that's it. The game has been unfolding for centuries, and rich families have thought well-ahead to secure their means of accumulating unspeakable wealth at the expense of everyone beneath them.

But even though we've been backed into a corner, and now it's too late to wrest the power back from the 1%, there is absolutely no need to act like a smug, arrogant know-it-all over the game of voting. It's your attitude that got us here, that pushed us so far back from change that now it's no longer available to us. It is your resistance to new information, to other perspectives, that cemented the roof over us. It is your hypocritical arguments that have indeed counted as a vote for the Status Quo- because you refused to participate intelligently in any discourse that would seek to change it.

So how about climbing down off your high horses, coming out from behind your illogical arguments, and join your fellow humans in trying to work out a game plan for survival? This Cult of Voting needs to be shattered- you enslave lesser minds to your rhetoric, and that to me, should be a crime.

This is knifey, from 'the internet'.

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.”

― David Foster Wallace, Up, Simbal!: 7 Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate

Vs (From Wikipedia):

Compulsory voting can be seen as infringing a basic freedom of the citizen. Some consider the fining of recalcitrant voters to be more oppressive still.

Some believe that voting is not a civic duty, but rather a civil right. While citizens may exercise their civil rights (free speech, marriage, etc.) they are not compelled to. Furthermore, compulsory voting may infringe other rights. For example, most Jehovah's Witnesses believe that they should not participate in political events. Forcing them to vote explicitly denies them their freedom of religious practice. In some countries with compulsory voting, Jehovah's Witnesses and others may be excused on these grounds. If however they are forced to go to the polling place, they can still use a blank or invalid vote.

Some do not support the idea of compulsory voting, particularly if they have no interest in politics or no knowledge of the candidates. Others may be well-informed, but have no preference for any particular candidate, and have no wish to give support to the incumbent political system. Such people may vote at random simply to fulfill legal requirements: the so called donkey-vote may account for 1-2% of votes in these systems, which may affect the electoral process. Similarly, citizens may vote with a complete absence of knowledge of any of the candidates, or deliberately skew their ballot to slow the polling process or disrupt the election.

Another group opposed to compulsory voting are principled nonvoters. They believe that the political process is inherently corrupt and violent, and prefer to minimize their personal involvement with it. If one adheres to Murray Rothbard's view of the state as a "gang of thieves writ large" then compulsory voting is a form of conscription into the largest mob with the biggest guns.

Supporters of voluntary voting assert that low voter participation in a voluntary election is not necessarily an expression of voter dissatisfaction or general political apathy. It may be simply an expression of the citizenry's political will, indicating satisfaction with the political establishment in an electorate.[citation needed] Former Australian opposition leader, Mark Latham, urged Australians to hand in blank votes for the 2010 election. He stated the government should not force citizens to vote or threaten them with a fine.[3]

1 comment:

Ghismonda said...


Re: point number 4. One for those voters who would deny non-voters the right to complain about the government - “If you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done”. George Carlin

I’m sure you recognise that it’s incredibly challenging for people to give up the illusion of control. Some people know (on some deep level) that they are playing a game they can’t win, and they shoot you (the messenger) when you draw their attention to it. Others aren’t awake (yet) and will wrestle with you for trying to wake them from their lovely dream.

I was brainwashed into the Cult of Voting, as you call it. I clung firmly to my belief that voting makes a difference because I wanted to believe that voting makes a difference. I felt like my life was orchestrated and manipulated, directed and maneuvered by people whom I knew, on a deep level, I had no influence over. I wanted however, to believe I had some kind of power.

I suspect that the problem you face when questioning the motivation of voters is not just that people believe the illusion of control, but also that people want to believe the illusion of control. People are willingly enslaved. This explains not only the strength of the illusion, but the might with which people will defend it. That has been my experience, in any case.

I left the Cult of Voting when I awoke to see that I have always had power over the one thing that others desperately want to control - my mind. Until I could see that, I fought everyone who would challenge me to drop my beliefs. You would once have been my enemy.

Thanks for the great post. I sincerely hope you still have a social life.