08 November, 2016

Why I Don't Vote

In the words of counterculture visionary George Carlin. I'd heard people talk about how great George Carlin was before, but I always just took him for a comedian. Turns out he was so much more, and I've had the chance to finally realize that just this year. He was one of the few, the brilliant, who see the illusion for what it is - those of us who step outside of Plato's cave, and can see the coding of the Matrix. I wish I'd known what a national treasure he was while he was still alive. Here he is explaining what a clown parade democracy really is:

All I have to say is, this election can't be over soon enough. Everybody thinks their candidate is the messiah, and their candidate's opponent is the antichrist, while ignoring the critical flaws in the two-party system (and it is a two-party system). And to anyone that says "But Trump!" - the fact that Trump is even in the running is proof that giving people the power to vote isn't going to fix anything. Meanwhile, it's always "meet the new boss; same as the old boss." Nineteen Eighty-Four was thirty-two years ago, and here we still are. I'm just glad we don't have to elect a Pope every four years in this country. I don't think I could handle that much pointless tribalism. We're all in this together; for better and - as is most often the case - for worse.


  1. I certainly understand what you're saying. I hope you trust me enough to know that I see the illusions all the same. I never fell for the Obama hype, nor am I running for the hills at the prospect of a Trump presidency.

    But incremental change is indeed change. The powers that be keep us sedated and pacified in order to maintain their own wealth and power, and most of what we see in the political sphere is a stage show, that's damn near inarguable. But the extent to which we have influence, can affect a whole lot of people.

    It doesn't really change anything for you or me whether Kang or Kodos wins. And, yes, Kang and Kodos are more or less the same exact person. I literally can't tell them apart, even though one is supposed to be male (or, say, Republican) and one is supposed to be female (let's say Democrat).

    But there are a lot of people on the lower rungs of the ladder for whom these incremental changes genuinely do make a huge difference. Kang and Kodos may not actually care about us or these changes, but the fact is -- these changes can and do occur.

    Let me tell you a story about someone who totally isn't me. They were a white kid from a middle class family in a rich suburb. They used to occasionally get drunk or get high, and they were constantly walking back and forth from their best friend's house a couple streets over. The cops, constantly patrolling the neighborhood, would sometimes happen upon this person and their companion. And they were always let go, despite whatever level of intoxication. Because white kids in a rich neighborhood have rich white parents who have rich white friends who might be judges and mayors and who can spend lots of money on a legal battle. So it's just a lot easier for the cop to let these kids go.

    Meanwhile, in any inner-city in the United States, minorities are specifically and unambiguously targeted on the suspicion of being high or drunk. And this is used as an excuse to harass them, and then lock them up.

    Due to very, very recent political developments, 1 in 5 Americans will soon live in a state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use. That's literally tens of millions of people who don't have to worry about being harassed anymore. That's real change, that affects real people. And you can point to other recent changes, like gay civil rights, or the thousands of people dying in our myriad and ill-explained new wars. Things that genuinely affect people in a massive way.

    I've always believed that politics is the refuge for people who don't have anything better to do with their lives. And me, I ran out of better things to do when I ran out of things I wanted to watch on Netflix. So over the past two years I've had a laser focus on politics.

    There is no difference between the two political parties. But there is a difference between individuals within the two political parties. Even if we assume, cynically, that nobody in politics gives a single fuck about anyone else on the face of the planet, the practical fact remains that important changes do happen. The important task is to look at someone's history, and play a numbers game. Who is the most likely to do the most incremental good? There are things that we can impact, that will in turn impact people. The system is hopelessly corrupt, but there are still some aspects we can influence.

    Make no mistake, I'm a nihilist who despises the universe and would probably destroy the world if given the chance, I certainly don't consider it an obligation for one to participate in politics. But it's also not a completely meaningless pursuit.

  2. I agree. But for things like that, I figure the majority is going to decide how things go, one way or another (and whether I like it or not), and I can in no way see myself as being part of any kind of majority. Plus, you actually have to research your candidates, and there's so much shit out there, how can you possibly hope to tell truth from fiction? (And how am I supposed to get invested when none of the candidates are even claiming to represent my interests?). I was shaken by the election results more than I thought I would be, given my usual apathy. But after reading some pro-Trump accounts from some intelligent people, I started wondering how much the doom prophecy is really just a case of sore losing. I mean, we survived George W., didn't we? (Although, I guess if people are afraid of another 9/11, that's a legitimate fear). Also, I can't even take voting seriously until we get rid of the first-past-the-post system, which guarantees a two-party split between two undesirable choices. (The only thing partisan politics accomplishes is blinding each side to their own flaws).

    Anyway, I don't necessarily believe that voting is pointless for everyone. It's just pointless for me. Which is why I try to be supportive of people who do vote, and who do feel that their vote counts (honestly, I haven't met a single person in my life who is also a conscientious non-voter). I mean, ultimately, it's a matter of whether you support democracy or not. A lot of people do, and that's fine. I don't. (I just wish people would be less criticial of my decision NOT to vote than I am of their decision TO vote). Although, the way that people get up in arms when the candidate they like doesn't get elected, doesn't really display much confidence in the democratic system. (I know, electoral college - I wish to god this hadn't been a factor, because now instead of people focusing on the fact that democracy got Trump elected, which was the one silver lining in the cloud of a Trump presidency that I'd been counting on since this whole rollercoaster ride began, they're calling it a technical error and ignoring the real problems with giving the people the choice).

    But I've been thinking about this a lot - as I'm sure you can imagine, and as we all have been. My idea for an ideal system of governance - far superior to democracy's "rule by lowest common denominator" - is rule by reason. But the problem with that is that it's hard to enforce. Dictators rule by force, via a loyal inner circle and statewide propaganda campaigns. Democracies rule by the people - if the government does something the people don't like, the people actually have the numbers to suppress it. (Of course, this doesn't prevent more insidious forms of social and political infection, but we're talking about the broad strokes here).

    Even if we can get past the question of what constitutes logic, and whether it's really objective or not, using it to rule a country can only work if the whole country agrees to be ruled by it. And since my dream of this form of government is to force people to accept things that are fair, yet most people aren't going to like (for example - forcing white slaveowners to treat black people as equals whether they like it or not, or forcing moral conservatives to shut their traps and treat homosexuals as human beings, etc.), it's not going to work unless it can be enforced. And if we use people to enforce it - those people are corruptable, as any intelligent politician or government agent (or anyone with power, really) can willfully choose to subvert the system to his own ends. Luckily, I have a solution in mind - which is enforcement by logical, thinking machines. Think The Day The Earth Stood Still. But, unfortunately, our technology is not quite there yet. Still, I'm eagerly awaiting the invention of our robot overlords.

  3. One last thought. Perhaps all this talk about marijuana legalization and gay rights has made you care about politics - because it affects issues that are important to you. If all candidates were still hardline against these things, maybe there'd be no point to it for you. And maybe the same thing could happen to me someday. But as it stands, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are in support of free speech, true sexual diversity, or a healthy attitude towards our bodies. Now, if the Libertarians could actually swing a presidency, I might feel inclined to start joining the debate. But I spend enough of my time already arguing pointlessly against morons who just don't see reality the way I do. The last thing I want is to encourage argument from the hordes of zealous Democrats and grumpy Republicans for whom these elections are their battlefield of glory.

  4. You're more an altruist than I am, Z. You're dead on that marijuana and gay rights are two of my biggest issues, but I'm dead serious when I say that I got into politics merely because I had nothing better to do. I don't much care about people, but if I'm going to fight, I might as well fight to protect people's lives and rights. My biggest issue is corruption, which is why Trump's win could actually be a good thing, because it might position us to put a competent outsider in the presidency next election. But maybe I'll get into that on my own blog.

    This election was one of the best chances Libertarianism ever had. Unfortunately it was roundly (and doubly) felled, first because the ruling class of elite millionaires refuse to have open debates and allow any third party in who could challenge the ruling class (imagine that, people in power would prevent potential dissent??) and secondly because the Libertarian Party unfortunately chose a candidate who turned out to be a complete goofball.

    But Hillary and Trump are two of the most despised candidates in history, this would have been a legitimate year for a potential third party win if the election wasn't rigged. If Jill and Gary could have gotten their message to people, they would have been very popular. But the debates are held by a private entity who answers to no one except for the ruling class of politicians who use the debates to rig the elections, by downplaying more competent candidates like Bernie, Gary, and Jill.

    It's an unambiguously corrupt monopoly. And that's the kind of thing I'm fighting against.

  5. Ironically, my altruism is primarily motivated by selfishness. Except I guess I have a better grasp of the philosophical implications of my existence than anyone else. It always comes down to the two fundamental rules I've developed for constructing society (http://pleasuresarethese.blogspot.com/2012/07/constructing-society.html). I exist, and so do you. I can only assume that you are just like me. Therefore, if I want to guarantee my own wellbeing, I must do the same for yours, because only then can I expect you to do the same for me. As soon as we start playing the game of "every man for himself", it turns into a shit show. Now, I guess the problem with this idealistic outlook is that most people are dumb, and are gonna screw other people over for their personal gain, not realizing that they've compromised themselves in the process. I unfortunately don't have a solution for people's stupidity, other than selective eugenics (which is morally questionable), and infallible robot overlords (which we don't have the technology for just yet). But I am a transhumanist, so I believe we'll overcome this problem sooner or later.

    Re: corruption - I guess this is where my cynicism comes into play, but I just have to wonder. If there's that much corruption already in the system (and I don't doubt it for a second), how can voting ever change it? Voting is part of the system. I just keep getting reminded of Suzaku and Lelouch in Code Geass (great series, if you haven't watched it yet). Suzaku wants to change the government from the inside, following its rules. Lelouch wants to burn the government to the ground and start anew. One of these two is the inspirational hero of the show, and the other is an unsufferable douchebag. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to deduce which is which.

    Now I'm not actually saying a revolution is the solution - it still comes down to "won't get fooled again". But, to paraphrase George Carlin, the problem is the people. Not just the people at the top or the people at the bottom, but all of the people. We're rowing upstream against human nature here. And so it just comes back to the transhumanist question of, how do we overcome our flaws as human beings? And the answer to that one is still a work in progress (but I don't think that voting in some silly election is going to make a *major* impact).