Disengagement Gears

[A couple of folks started talking with me about the subject of my recent post. I feel bad posting my response without including theirs, but I didn't want to post without their direct permission (it's from another forum). That's why I didn't include their real names (except for those privy to that particular forum) so that they could be considered more flatly, from my point of view (it is my blog, after all). The gist is, both of them, while agreeing with certain elements of my argument, disagree, saying that there is still political power and capital found in supporting candidates' campaigns for other political ends, such as the environmental and labor movements. Which, I concede, is true. Political power works in strange ways. But, that doesn't include the actual voting, which my original argument was against. Here and how, however, I am responding to the assertion by [wellslin] that I have a " general attitude of disengagement from the political process".]

it begins...

[wellslin] My disengagement is from the federal executive branch election. While both you and [glynnsea] have made good arguments for there being political aspects to certain parts of the circus surrounding this sort of election, I don't think either of you would actually call the election political, or a political process. It sounds like you both are focused on strategies regarding "power", which, if I understand correctly, are not the same thing as "being" president.

It's sort of a pet peeve of mine that the reaction from a lot of people to my voicing my views is that I am "disengaged, disenchanted, or otherwise just sullen and upset." Not that you said all that, but... well, it's been typical. Nor that I'm not, in some degree. However, I feel as if, as a response, it shuffles my opinion off into a margin of "angry, do-nothing, and therefore, superlative." Maybe if somebody actually appealed to the "disengaged" demographic with something other than useless ideology and boring busy-work, we would be able to re-engage.

I don't want to bitch and moan about how real life isn't exciting or correct enough for me, and that I'm too good for it. That's not true. Actually, I am fully engaged in my own life, which contains various political aspects and various processes; some of them are close to blossoming into fruition, and others are much more long-term, and others no doubt will be abandoned as time and place sees fit. There are some parts of my life with which I'm disappointed, other parts for which I'm quite excited. Not everyone will agree that my life is political, but hey, everyone is fully able to have his/her own opinion on what politics are (I certainly do).

But this is the problem. Everyone knows that a problem with the American Left (whatever) is that when somebody disagrees with the Left, the disagreeing party is "wrong", and unprogressive. So, because I disagree with the Left's strategy of supporting presidential candidates, I must be wrong, unprogressive, and as [wellslin] said, "disengaged from the political process". No, I'm not disengaged from the political process, I'm disengaged from your political process (the particular facet of which includes supporting presidential candidates). I have my own political process, thank you very much, which certainly does NOT include voting for nor supporting any candidate, in any way. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be doing what you're doing or anyone else shouldn't be doing what they are doing, but it means that I have decided that I am doing what I am doing, and this is not an apolitical, unpolitical, or illpolitical decision, but a political one. It is part of the political process of boycott. Whatever political effect it has, that is a separate discussion. But please don't marginalize my choice because you disagree with it (which, interestingly enough, is a primary tactic of those campaigning and supporting political candidates).

Let's not switch "power" for "politics", either. Politics wouldn't be political without the power. If the consolidation and implementation of power is what you are looking for, there are certainly many ways to do so. One way, literally, is to get the power company to supply power to your campaign office. You do this by paying a bill. This electricity enables you to do many things. This is why it is called power. I'm being facetious because these days many people like to argue about what politics "is all about". Politics is all about oil, or its all about ideology, or its all about money, or its all about water, etc. All of these things can be invested with a certain amount of power, and turn the switch on other power else where, and around and around and around. So you want "power". For good ends, obviously, I don't doubt it (not facetious this time). But if you really wanted to get a lot of power, you could just get a lot of money, which would act like a lot of power. Or, you can build a mass movement, and use the power of a lot of angry people. Or you could try and get the largest number of people who hold positions that give them a certain amount of power behind you, like "workers". Or, you could threaten to blow up all the power plants, which would give you a certain amount of power through fear. Whatever you are doing, you are implementing different strategies of getting power.

The differences between these strategies are what is typically called "politics". The difference between capitalism and populism and communism and terrorism is what sort of rules are agreed upon for the consolidation and use of power. They all share some similarities, and all have some differences. So, to say your politics is about power is kind of simple. There is more do it than that, and it is what you think is "ok to do in the pursuit of power". (There is necessarily more to an adequate definition of politics, namely something to do with the "people" in some way, but I'm going to avoid this for now, because it seems that both [wellslin] and [glynnsea] agree that they are after power.)

Clearly, both [wellslin] and [glynnsea] think that supporting presidential candidates, as part of a strategy for consolidating power, is a good idea. I don't. I am all about power, folks. I totally believe it exists, I think some people have too much of it and use it wrongly, and I think a lot of people need more of it and need to use it better. But I don't think that supporting presidential candidates is a good use of power, or that in doing so will result in any positive changes in the way that power is distributed or used. In fact, I worry about the opposite.

This is highly political decision on my part, and I resent any suggestion to the contrary. It is part of a highly-evolved and seriously considered strategy for changing the way power is distributed and used. It isn't synonymous with your strategy, but I don't expect it to be, as it is my own.

I'm not going to go into the details of my own strategies and tactics. (Part of it is super secret!) But part of it involves trying to draw general attention to the illogical and demeaning arguments that support certain elements of the current power structure. These include voting, the support for presidential candidates, and certain "political" factions' arguments that would subjugate and marginalize alternative political orientations to their own, namely, those political orientations that would decry the factions' own actions, including support for political candidates.

In other words, it is clear that by supporting a presidential candidate, you are forced to call my position wrong, apolitical, and disengaged. If my rejection of voting was to be a political opinion, it would draw attention to the bankruptcy of elements of your own political opinion. This is why non-voters never get to sit at debates. And I don't mean undecideds, I mean non-voters.

So, long story short, I don't hold it against you for marginalizing my position by saying that I'm "disengaged", because I think we all now might know what you really mean. But let it be known that I am far from disengaged.


Vote Not To Vote

My computer is broken so my posting is even less often than usual. Right now I am at the local branch of the Multnomah County Library, where I have 25 more minutes to use the internet. However, seeing as now the election race has begun, because now there are actual tangible machinations occurring rather than the boring and recycled rhetoric of campaigns, I thought I should give my usual spiel.

I DO NOT VOTE FOR PRESIDENT. This is a logical, political decision, and I feel that all of the people (being, the large majority of the population) who disagree with me should deeply consider their own choices in light of the logic that I have used to make my choice. In other words, I'm right, you're wrong, and everyone should listen to me.


I disagree with large aspects of Slavoji Zizek's philosophy for deep, critical and academic reasons that are boring to anyone who doesn't read 20th Century Continental philosophy or Leftist psychoanalysis for fun. However, an analogy that he used to describe America's justification of the Iraq War is quite apt, amusing (as much as such a subject could be), and quite applicable to other situations of similar lapses of logic in favor of ideology. It is called, "The Story of the Borrowed Kettle." It is a joke, which I will paraphrase here:

A man goes to see his neighbor, bringing with him his kettle, now broken, which the neighbor has just finished borrowing. When he confronts the neighbor, the neighbor rebuffs him, telling him it is not his fault for three reasons, first, he returned the kettle in one piece, second, it was broken when it was lent to him, and third, he never borrowed the kettle in the first place.

I don't tell jokes very well. But, the point is that the neighbor has been caught in a lie because in his effort to give overwhelming evidence to his point, he has contradicted his other evidence, three times over.

This is the same sort of flawed logic that people use when they make the decision to vote, and when they argue with me that I am wrong not to vote.

My proposition: the statistical effect of my vote, in our election system, is an insult to the ideals of a governance by the people. Furthermore, the parties are corrupt, political corporations that should probably be run out of town on a rail, if not tried for crimes. And lastly, the idea that any particular candidate could ever inspire my confidence in a state like the United States of America is against what I have come to identify as political truths, any sort of human/natural/ecological justice, and my own life in particular.

The counter-arguments come thick and fast. And the "kettle" rears its ugly, broken spout.

First Kettle, as poured by the typical liberal, fan of American democracy:

1. My vote does make a difference.

2. My vote doesn't make a difference, but if everyone else thought as I did, then one vote would make a difference.

3. Votes don't make a difference at all, but I should vote anyway as some sort of "citizen's duty". Kind of like a pledge of allegiance.

How can any of these three be, seeing as they all contradict each other? And furthermore, they all contradict the statistical fact that one vote does not count. One of my favorite citations for this fact is a book called To Vote or Not to Vote, the authors of which I cannot remember right now. It goes into deep analysis of all the bizarre probabilities that could potentially come into play and shows that no, in fact, a person's vote, among a category of choices, does not matter. They, however, maintain the 3rd option listed above, that despite this statistical fact, it is an important national ceremony of some sort.

There are additional kettles. One regards the candidates. I think that there is can be no candidate for president, under whom I would feel comfortable living as subject. But even for those candidates that I think should be president, under the logic that my vote boycott will not eliminate the executive branch and therefore there should be a person who can do the least harm in the office, the choice to vote for a candidate does not in any way cause a candidate that you wish to be elected. It is false choice, a horrible compromise, that is endlessly cooked down until you have to choose between Shitty A and Shitty B.

Here's the Kettle:

1. Of the two, nominated, major party candidates, one will be a good president.

2. Neither of the two major party candidates are great picks. Therefore, one should vote for a third party candidate, in the spirit of democracy.

3. Voting for a third party or otherwise minority-appeal candidate "throws a vote away". Therefore, you should vote for the candidate that you hate least, that might have a chance.

The way this kettle works is that it attempts to tell me that what my logical pick is, is the person who has already been picked. Regardless of what my political opinions are, it tell me the best place to look for my selection is to see what everyone else has already selected. How is this "My Choice, 2008"?

There are other kettles as well, but my internet time is almost up.

I would like to direct anyone who thinks that they are going to vote, who still isn't sold on the second kettle, to peruse this Democracy Now! interview with Alan Nairn and Kelley Beaucar Vlahos. They talk about what you are really voting for: not the candidates, but the advisers. And the advisers are the same people already fucking over politics: the ones responsible for war, environmental degradation, and death. So enjoy voting for Obama, losers. I hope you feel good when you do it, like you have the spirit of hope. Because no matter what you do, they've already won.