I’ve argued publicly and in private that each and every American of voting age by Oct. 2001 should be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. And i mean it.Still, i could also make a reasonable argument that what was done in my name was done against my will. I didn’t vote for Bush. I didn’t vote for the vast majority of the asshats in Congress either. Now i have to accept a much more personal responsibility for every drone strike and torture coverup.I did vote for Obama, against my better judgment but within the confines of the American political game it made some sense. So i voted for the escalation in Afghanistan. I voted for more drone strikes in Pakistan. I voted for expanded covert operations and the assassination of American citizens. I voted for the ever expanding Clusterfuck Empire.– Lex at Scholars & Rogues
Since we’re digging down into some deep, harsh truths here, I have one to offer: It’s not all about you. But since we all seem to think so, let’s just start from there. If you’re in a mood for self-flagellation, take a look around where you sit: the resources you consume, the products you buy, and the job you work are far more responsible for contributing to the world’s pain and misery than your quadrennial choice to vote Republican, Democrat, Green, or just stay home and jerk off.
If there’s one thing that seems to unite progressives, teabaggers and Internet anarchists, it’s the conviction that the act of voting itself is some sort of hallowed activity, and that the choice to either joyfully participate or refuse while condemning the whole charade with dudgeon and moral outrage is one of the most vital and meaningful responsibilities that adults face. They all agree that the act is packed full of significance, when it seems to me that this, right here, is where a little skepticism is warranted. No one, at least no intelligent adult, votes for a candidate because they agree with every single thing he or she has done, might do, will do, and here, I agree with the British philosopher John Gray: this desire to imbue politics with the sort of deep, transcendent meaning formerly reserved for myth and religion is quite deranged. If you’re still crestfallen to learn that presidential candidates are not your soulmates, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Politicians are not the fucking avatars of all your hopes and dreams for mankind. Especially at the national level, they’re usually power-hungry sociopaths who might do some collateral good by accident as they singlemindedly pursue personal wealth and self-aggrandizement.
Accepting, then, that a modern nation-state will never have a wise philosopher-king-saint in charge, it’s not a blood-and-thunder-by-God! moral abomination to vote for one candidate because you think that the incremental good that may result is worthwhile in and of itself. But neither is it especially righteous to refrain from voting on principle, as if the less-than-50% audience participation we currently see is all that keeps the system running, as if your personal refusal will be the catalyst that brings the whole colossus crashing down. Participate to whatever extent you want. Just quit stroking yourself with the narcissistic delusion that it matters all that much either way. The little choices you make day in and day out are much more significant.
I’ve been seeing some form of this wailing about how we all have a collective responsibility for what’s being done “in our name” for years now, enough so that, suspicious and jaded as I am, I’m beginning to suspect that this itself is becoming a comfortable pose that bestows a patina of “moral seriousness” on the speaker without demanding any sort of radical action. Okay, fine, you own up to your personal responsibility for all those dead Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis, just to name the most recent victims of Uncle Sam’s Death Juggernaut. What are you going to do about it? Vote for More ‘n’ Better Democrats™? Forward a few more useless email petitions? Churn out a few more angry blog posts?
If you want to feel a little more morally pure, if you truly want to feel like your personal actions place you in the vanguard of a meaningful social movement, feel free to quit paying taxes as a protest against military spending and risk going to jail for it. Or just quit your job altogether and find some way to scrounge up a living in the underground economy, off the books. Radically alter your consumer lifestyle, which has much, much, oh so much more to do with our blood-soaked foreign policy than whether or not you push a button in early November. Go overseas and devote your life to actively helping the victims of our bombs. Or, if you’re really dedicated, you could be like the Jains, and refuse to do anything that contributes in any way to another being’s suffering or death, until you wither away from thirst, starvation or disease. None of that is easy, of course, but you did want more than just rhetorical grandiloquence, correct?