The more distance I put between myself and Facebook, the better I feel about my decision to cancel my account. However, there are still some things that I miss about it. As I said in my last post, I miss the simplicity of clicking the “share” button and instantly showing hundreds of my friends what I just read. I sometimes have a bit of a problem explaining myself clearly as well, so the fact that I was able to throw out one or two lines (often fire starting lines) while presenting an article was very convenient. Now, if I want to share my thoughts on an article, I have to form complete sentences and make people want to keep reading.
After my last post I received a few emails from friends who felt like I was talking about them. They were probably right, but I realized that I didn’t explain myself very clearly; especially on the whole voting issue. I apologize for this, but I tend to get very defensive when confronted about this view of mine. Most people are Democrats or Republicans (or at least they think they are). If they were to walk into a crowded bar and blurt out their opinions on whatever CNN says is the hottest political topic, more often than not they would find a good amount of people who agree with them. I find that almost everywhere I go, the vast majority of people disagree with me and my tactic of non-cooperation. I will talk to people about how we don’t really have an option, that both sides are pretty much the same, that neither Democrat nor Republican fully represent us. The person I’m talking with will usually agree that the only real change we will see will come from us, the people. They agree that putting aside our differences and working together for a better world is much more productive than choosing a side and sticking to it. Then, I’ll bring up not voting…and 99 times out of 100 the new friend I made looks at me like I’ve got two heads. I do have two heads, but that has nothing to do with my life views (or maybe it has a lot to do with my views, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog). At this point, it is comparable to arguing with an evangelical about the existence of a goD. No matter what argument is given, they will come back with the same four or five cliches.
Since, at times my emotions block the way to my vocabulary, this is when the argument becomes just that- an argument, with both of us sticking to our sides. To vote or not to vote quickly becomes the same thing as to vote Democrat or Republican. Me vs Them, right vs wrong.
Today I will rely on Gary Chartier to help me out. Chartier, in this article (and the accompanying video) He tries to convince his reader to not vote. He focuses on the same type of people who I focus on- the radicals; the one’s who believe that state power is illegitimate, yet don’t know what to do until this doesn’t exist. My argument last major election (which, as a 29 year old, was the first time in my 11 years of eligibility that I didn’t vote) was that voting for a candidate means, when that person becomes president and inevitably commits some kind of genocide, you have blood on your hands. Chartier thinks this argument is “silly” which is possibly the only place in the article that we disagree. Or should I say, disagreed. Hours after reading his article and posting my first blog, I received an email from a dear friend. A friend who is one of the most radical people I know, who grows her own food and makes her own clothes and teaches children; and who campaigns for Obama. It didn’t make sense to tell her that she has blood on her hands. While reading her email, Chartier’s words rang in my head:
“Voting can be a defensive act; the harmful results of decisions made by politicians can reasonably be treated as unaccepted, unwelcome side-effects of voters’ choices; and politicians have to be seen as responsible for their own actions. The problem with voting isn’t that it’s inherently wrong; no doubt, in principle, voting or even campaigning for office could be a reasonable defensive act.”
I have often felt hopeless in my activism, like nothing I was doing was making a difference and after examining this feeling I can understand how it could lead to something like voting. It makes one feel like one is doing something, like one has a voice. I believe this could be true on very small matters. If you’re meeting with other residents of the apartment complex that you communally own and trying to decide whether to plant a garden or fix the parking lot, a vote can truly make a difference. Especially if that voting is done after a good amount of talking and airing things out. However, this is nothing like voting for one person who’s job it is to represent over 350,000,000 people; the vast, vast majority of which she or he never even gets to meet.
Let’s pretend though that there is someone out there who watches every speech, every debate, and every advertisement and comes to the conclusion that Barrack Obama could honestly represent them. This too is bullshit, because as has been proven time and time again, what a candidate for office says and what actually happens are two totally different things.
I’m all over the place here and I’m totally using this article as a crutch, but let me give one more example of something. Let’s say I, Ryan Hartman, decide politics are the way to go in order to make real change. I run for office on the platform of equality. I talk about using state money to buy up abandoned parking lots and turning them into gardens to feed the poor. I promise to put a moratorium on “progress” and instead fill up empty houses and buildings with houseless people. I give you my word that I will make sure that all the food put out there for us to eat, is just that- actual motherfucking food. How could you not vote for me? I mean, that sounds like Utopia.
What would actually happen in this situation? I would be willing to bet everything that one of three things happen. Most likely, if it seemed at all that I was to win, I would be given lots of money and possessions to change my mind. Maybe I’d stop thinking about finding everyone a place to live if a couple million dollars appeared in my bank account. Maybe I would refuse this money, which leads us to scenario number two- I would be killed; either literally or politically (or maybe even both). Let’s say I manage to avoid corruption and death and I actually make it to office. I am now the most powerful person in the entire universe! Yet, can I actually do anything? Can I sign an executive order to turn all unused parking lots into gardens? Do you think this would actually be allowed to happen? Or, do you think there would be more of a chance of this happening if you grabbed a bunch of friends, some heavy equipment and began dismantling on your own?
I guess what I’m trying to say (in a rambling roundabout way) is that I don’t blame people for voting; all I can do is hope that one day, they too will be as enlightened as me.
I have much more to say on this topic. As I re-find my voice and sort things out, I will continue to post.