Putting the rage in suffrage

“There’s really no point to voting. If it made any difference, it would probably be illegal.”

–H.L. Mencken

One of the most sacrosanct values of modern government is the ability to vote. The last 300 years, particularly in the Anglosphere, are a litany of ever expanding suffrage to more classes of people. The path of extending this privileged from white, land owning, adult males to anyone over the age of 18 is a long but steady one. It’s clear when you look at politicians and political movements of days gone by and see if they were on the “right side of history”, in this regard. Small battles are still being fought over technicalities, but the war over who can and should vote is long over. Any attitude besides universal suffrage has been banished from mainstream thought for decades.

If you ask anyone if you should vote in an upcoming election, the answer will be a resounding yes aside from a few malcontents. Ask the same person if they plan on voting and you will most likely get a polite lie in return. Barely half of the eligible persons in “the great democracy” of the United States show up to cast a ballot. The disconnect between these two attitudes is obvious and apparent. The highest civic duty and privilege of democracy is barely being utilized.

If you press somebody on this, you might get a bit closer to the truth. “It’s too much of a hassle and one vote never makes a difference anyway.” It takes a rare kind of person to do something even when they know their action will have no affect on it. In fact, it sounds like a form of insanity. Most people with OCD know that nothing changes when they perform their tics ad nauseum. In this light, it is somewhat amazing that half of the population still feels compelled to take half a day to vote. They will put off whatever they were doing to pull a lever in a cardboard station to vote for someone they will never see in person, let alone meet.

The last time I voted, it was out of sheer boredom. The polling station was literally outside my front door and the line was an obstacle to get out onto the street. My curiosity got the better of me, and I thought it would be interesting to join the line.

What ensued was the most potent soul-crushing mix of boredom and frustration in recent memory. First off, the line only had 30 or so people in it, so I figured it would pass fairly shortly. There were several polling stations and five or so odd people assisting the process along. It took me over half an hour to reach the front of the line. The only thing that compelled me further to stay in the line than five minutes was my own sense of stubbornness.

Once I had reached the front of the line, it took them an additional five minutes to verify my identity. I couldn’t simply hand them my drivers license or tell them that I lived on this block, they had to look me up by name in some arcane tome of bureaucracy. After some fumbling around, the half-awake poll worker finally realized the correct order of the alphabet and found the right record.

This got me a ballot in a manilla folder and a cheap ballpoint pen. After wandering over to the makeshift privacy stations they had set up, I proceeded to look over the options on the ballot. It instantly brought me back into my childhood, when I took public school standardized tests. I saw a few names I had recognized from TV ads and sign posts, but the majority of options were faceless people filling previously unknown positions. Part of me just wanted to randomly mark names that sounded nice, and the other part of me wanted to rip the elongated piece of paper into shreds.

I left leaving most of the options blank. I think one of the poll workers might have put it in the wrong box when I left. It made me wonder if my ballot would be thrown out on a technicality. It is too bad you don’t get a revote in that case. The entire process is designed to make it as hard as impossible to do anything right.

The essential flaw behind voting in a modern democracy is that is voluntary while other parts of society are compulsory. Even in countries where voter turn-out is mandatory, abstaining is still an option. Abstaining from paying your taxes, dodging a draft, or ignoring a court subpoena are not. As a consequence, these are the parts of government that people actually pay attention to. It doesn’t matter if you feel these things are honorable or not. It does not need propaganda and peer pressure to speak well of it. You either do it or bad things happen to you. The action taken is based in fear of consequences and a sense of powerlessness.

In this, one can see the true operational capacity of democratic governments. The sense of cooperation and appreciation of diversity are nothing more a facade for the uglier and more necessary parts of government. It’s success relies on the combination of these two forces. They both need each other to thrive. In a society deprived of any sense of commonality or nationhood, something else needs to jump in and fill the void. Otherwise, people will never work together. The farther a society falls into this trap, the more propaganda and fear are needed to patch the gaps.

I sure as hell know that I’ll never go out of my way to vote again.


2 responses to “Putting the rage in suffrage

  1. These come to mind:

    – The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth.(The average man never really thinks from end to end of his life. The mental activity of such people is only a mouthing of clichés. What they mistake for thought is simply a repetition of what they have heard. My guess is that well over 80 percent of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought.)*

    * PS I personally believe the percentage to be a bit higher in these times.

    -Liberty means self-reliance, it means resolution, it means enterprise, it means the capacity for doing without.

    The more one dwells on liberty, freedom…the pursuit of happiness, the more it becomes apparent what a farce enshrouds all societies understanding of such things. These are fleeting pursuits due to one apparent fact…all things change. Nothing remains. So then, how can one ever truly gain “freedom” or achieve “happiness” or vote their way to any resemblance of such nonsense. One must constantly be re-adjusting to what they simply believe to be any of these things. For, as long as people exist…the climate of error in reasoning will run high. Its mind boggling how many people truly believe they achieve these kinds of things. Through their actions, through their daily lives. It is as if one lie is built on another, and another. An ecosystem of lies to keep the system alive. The truly disturbing part is, how little most people doubt. Of themselves, of those around them. Doubt is an integral part to sustaining reason, to move with change. Just as change is dynamic, so should doubt be. One cannot perpetually doubt the fact that he may never achieve freedom, just as much as he cannot perpetually doubt the intent otherwise. Its a gentle cycle of belief and doubt. One must be in a perpetual sense of discomfort . Discomfort breeds doubt. Doubt breeds change, insofar as one chooses to believe. This concept is probably one of the most difficult to endure in a long-term sense. People are creatures of ultimate comforts. Voting is a form of comfort to sustain the belief in things that do not exist or are incapable of existing. Or existing on any long-term basis. Perhaps this is why instant gratification has become so replete. Humans understand on some basic level, this discomfort that is “living”, to “be alive”. Therefore, they go the easiest route to fulfill an instant belief in something that could never stand the test of time. Then, it becomes a domino effect and thus the world around us is replete in lies. Democracy is just one more construct ( a large one at that) built on these smaller instant beliefs. It is sustained by the very people at hand. They feed this sense. They sustain the lies. They create the illusions of freedom that do not exist in the first place.

    This could perhaps sum up your voting experience and voting generalized:

    The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.

    • Democracy and voting become tragic when there the voters have any actual effect on the outcome. The Trial of Socrates is a perfect example of this farce. Human desire to believe they understand the world overtakes actual truth. Such hubris demands great tragedy.

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