I have never cared more about the general election than this time round.
To date, I have only actually voted once. Up until the last general election, I stayed at home, not feeling compelled to join in, but nothing deeper than that. Last elections I did cast a vote, a kind of “anything but those last bastards” kind of vote. I was surprised at the sense of betrayal I immediately felt – self-betrayal at first, like I had just participated in something unsavoury. Then as time progressed, a betrayal of the people and places and beings that suffer directly at the hands of the system I had validated. Staying at home feels too passive to me, so I’m exploring the option of deliberately spoiling my ballot.
“People fought and died so you can vote.” “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” These common comments are part of our conditioning, to heap ridicule and suppression on the disobedient. They serve to create the illusion that not only is the current system the only one that is right, it is the only one there ever can be. So the only question for such people can be how to participate inside the matrix – and so the only question is ‘who do I vote for?’
I saw a McDonalds billboard advert the other week when I went to London: a huge image of a Big Mac, entitled “The gherkin debate”. Mainstream culture does not wish to discuss animal welfare, habitat destruction or obesity. No, we shall focus on the gherkin instead.
In a similar way, the whole political debate is about the surface and never about the roots, about policies and parties rather than about regimes. Self-serving institutions would never allow their existence to be morally challenged – that would make no sense (such challengers would be labelled terrorists). Those in control are just fine with the way things are – accept this or you do not belong. So the debate sticks to the surface, between people who usually seem nice and usually are nice; they as individuals are not the problem.
WW2 soldiers most likely fought against the idea of oppression (unless they were forced by their country to fight and had no choice). I doubt anyone fought for a system (an enduring system, not a particular leader or government) that sells over £12bn in arms to known repressive states. Or one that knowingly accelerates towards known emissions limits. Or one that, by design, enriches its top 5% at the expense of the 95%. This is something to act against daily, regardless of whether a brainwashing voting ritual is entered into every 4 years. Why would I vote for that? Non-participation in something filthy is the most important first step, surely.
Fracking, TTIP, tax evasion, expenses, climate change denial… have you ever looked up for a moment from whatever unsustainable device you’re holding, grabbed a handful of your hair and shouted “Hang on a minute, what the FUCK is going on?” The official debate excludes the most critical conversations – the roots are left outside the realm of discussion, in the same way an organisation excludes “external costs” like pollution and social consequences from its accounting practices. In this way, all are free to believe the system actually works. This orthodoxy is morally outrageous – and increasingly, as the truth becomes more difficult to obscure, so is the act of legitimising the orthodoxy.
The Greens might express a similar outrage, but they are powerless to change it if they choose to act through a system that is deeply conflicted against making fundamental changes. But it’s great that they are giving it a go; each to their own, right? At least they’re trying to get past the gherkin layer.
You can’t vote for change anyway, as the change lies outside the borders of where voting operates. Change lies in the wilderness, on the margins, beyond the current viewpoint. As in stories like Parzival, Jesus, Theseus or Dorothy in Oz, to have any chance of finding the truth, every person must disengage from orthodoxy and the immediate issues of livelihood, acknowledge ignorance, surround oneself with possibility, and return to the community with a more whole vision.
Return to the community. The whole issue of voting-democracy is itself merely scratching the surface. A spoiled ballot is merely symbolic, not any real action. Real action lies away from national orthodoxy. Until recently, the only viable way for humans, and still for every other organism, to live was through subsistence (the way of Enough rather than Growth), and through resilient communities (as being subsistent and alone usually means death), and through the absence of superstructures, apart from the governing laws of nature.
Rather than a grounding, ancient, nature-based ethos, I instead have shopping and business and competitive self-advancement. And while my head is kept looking down, the system I am pressured to vote for and legitimise promotes the National Interest through business deals and arms deals under an insane growth agenda.
Baby steps can only be taken towards a sustainable, subsistence, community-led way of living – or whatever other system real democracy chooses, that does not eat the future. But the first step, surely, is to actively withdraw participation in a system that does.