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Election Day is around the corner.  How do you feel about your choices? 

We can argue, debate and strategize what to do around elections, like the one this Tuesday (...and we do!).  Vote red, vote blue, hold your nose and vote damage control, vote green or abstain.  We act indignant and outraged as if this election is somehow unique in history for being subject to compromise.  

What might we do to feel, and be, more empowered in the electoral/governance process that drives our states and countries?

What other choices in your life do you, or have you, given up on or put in the hands of others? .

Describe a time you took your power of personal choice back. 

Read more and add to the conversation here ...

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I heard someone interviewed on the radio (wish I could remember the program!) who spoke of the notion that we are all hypocrites, but that some of us (those who are not awake) are hypocrites about being hypocrites, i.e. they denying being one in the first palce.  The suggestion being that at this stage in our evolution, waking up means owning our hypocrisy and figuring out how to live with that knowledge.

I have to agree with that, Ben. I'm certainly a hypocrite. I won't buy a cell phone, e-book reader, iPod, or similar gadgets made with coltan because I'm opposed to the genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but my computer contains coltan and I don't want to give it up.

I don't really think labels and blame are helpful. Switching roles with you for a moment, I'd prefer to focus on constructive and effective strategies.

But I do think the place to start is to stop, meaning that while we're trying to find constructive and effective strategies, we need to recognize which strategies are destructive and/or ineffective, and stop using them. Not much good developing winning strategies if we've already lost the game, as some alarmists are predicting about climate change.

Learning how to live with our hypocrisy seems trivial in comparison to the bigger problem of learning how to stop the destruction so that we and the planet may live.

This is not just a game of words, as your post implies, Ben.  Words are not 'the thing they represent,'... they're just meaningless sounds that we put meaning to. 

If we are all hypocrites WE ARE ALL ASLEEP... incapable of right action.  And if we're all asleep how is it that we can know anything?  Where is the enlightenment or truth here realized to give you authority to forgive yourself? What is your response to this?  (I feel surfacing the pain and crude roughness of trying to understand compassion and love.)

If I am now asleep (which I am) I AM NOT CAPABLE OF OWNING UP TO MY HIPOCRACY (and intellectual knowing is not actually).  So what is it that lets me off the hook for my irresponsible action or inaction... my violence, apathy, cowardice, greed, selfishness?  Words!??!! 

Fuck words, as they are mere abstractions of a coward.

Dyck :  "Where is the enlightenment or truth...?"

Try here:, I would be happy to discuss with you their philosophy!

Re my post above about the notion that we might all be hypocrites and the distinction is between those who recognize this and those who do not (i.e. those who are asleep), I'd like to responding to this comment from Mark:

Learning how to live with our hypocrisy seems trivial in comparison to the bigger problem of learning how to stop the destruction so that we and the planet may live.

And this one from Dyck:

This is not just a game of words, as your post implies, Ben

Yes, I suppose there's something a bit "clever clever" about the framing that those who are asleep are "hypocrites about being hypocrites."  But I don't think this is mere wordplay.  Certainly the person I heard on the radio presenting this notion (I wish I could track him down!) had thought quite deeply about it.  

I feel like a hypocrite every time I drive my car or fly in a plane, or eat industrial chicken in a restaurant or at a friend's house, etc. etc. Even someone like Mark, who goes to far greater lengths than I to avoid participating in the horror show that is our modern global economy acknowledges there are lines he crosses.  We all adopt an array of practices that create boundaries reflecting choices of what is "acceptable" and what is not.  But ultimately, we are far too interconnected to be "pure."

Nor is trying to live completely off the grid an answer. The materials you might use, such as solar panels or even simple metals still are sourced in unsustainable ways.  The amount of land you might require is probably more than your share of the planet's habitable space.   And if your heart is calling you to engage as "part of the solution," how is withdrawing consistent with that?

As for Mark's suggestion that this is a trivial concern compared to taking actions that create change, I think this gets to the core of why internal and external transformation are inextricably intertwined. I need to deal with the cognitive dissonance created by being awake to the impact of my daily choices, or it starts to eat away at me, generating resignation, cynicism and denial.

Not only that, but if I don't own my complicity in all this, I slide so easily into self-righteousness and blame.  And  in my experience, that energy is ultimately dis-empowering.

I think that living off the grid can be an answer for some, Ben. At least for indigenous peoples like the Zapatistas and for others who are more focused on people than on things. Ancient permaculture techniques make it possible to grow astonishing amounts of food on very little land, and I've lived without solar panels or simple metals, using clay pots for cooking on clay stoves as my neighbors did, and eating with my hands, leaves, or wooden utensils.

You write, "And if your heart is calling you to engage as 'part of the solution,' how is withdrawing consistent with that?"

If voting were part of the solution, I'd still be a voter. As for withdrawing, while none of us are pure, you do admit to going to some lengths to eat healthy foods. That's part common sense and part survival instinct. Jitendra spoke of using effective strategies the way that good chess players do. Voting in the USA concedes the ultimate power in policy decisions, like what foods are available and what drugs doctors can prescribe, to the government, which has a record of considering profits before people. I don't think that's an effective strategy.

I've found that taking positive action, like boycotting elections, is empowering, particularly now that I'm working with brilliant people like Linh Dinh, Terri Lee, Joseph Waters, and Jim Eldon, and being supported by the writing of Margaret Kimberley and Paul Craig Roberts, among others. As you can see from Jerry Hill's post below, voting in elections where there are limited choices, a corrupt process, and where votes don't influence policy decisions, is not empowering in the least and only increases resignation, cynicism, and despair.

A few links:

Linh Dinh was one of the presenters on the Election Boycott panel at Left Forum in New York last year. Here's one of his articles (scroll down):

Terri Lee was also on that panel, has an Election Boycott Facebook page (I'm not on Facebook so I don't have the link), and is an extremely effective organizer and activist. We've done some interviews together: and

Joseph Waters runs something called the Proletarian Center and has been very effective in publicizing the Election Boycott Movement.

Jim Eldon is a successful full time organic farmer and has little time for anything else, but I've been able to benefit greatly from his extensive knowledge of politics and sociology, and his astute analyses of situational strategies.

Margaret Kimberley is an editor and columnist at Black Agenda Report

Paul Craig Roberts was an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, an associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for Business Week:

Still think I'm "doing nothing?"  ;)

I'm so sorry you feel that you have to vote for evil, Jerry.

Many of the problems you identity may be more difficult to solve, but getting all the money out of the election system is easy. One single successful election boycott can accomplish that.

Imagine if you were on the Board of Directors of a large corporation like Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, Chevron, or Lockheed-Martin, and your corporation had spent a small fortune (over FIVE BILLION DOLLARS have already been spent financing the 2012 election campaigns) financing the election so that you could demonstrate the consent of the governed for your wholly-owned corporate puppets, and then nobody (or at least a lot fewer people than before you'd spent that much money) came out to vote.

Corporations care about their bottom lines. They care about cutting costs and returning maximum profits to shareholders. If an investment doesn't pay off, they don't do it again.

Think about it. We don't need an Amendment to the Constitution. If we don't buy what they're selling, no matter how much they spend marketing it, they can't sell it. That's how boycotts work. Boycott 2012!

Once it becomes clear through low voter turnout that a government no longer has the consent of the governed, it becomes weaker, and the possibility of direct democracy opens up, so that we could vote directly to solve all the other problems. Right now people are voting to consent to be governed by a system of government that doesn't even require that their votes be counted. That's voter apathy--and voters show their apathy by voting.

You seem to care about all the things on your list. So why would you vote to leave the ultimate decisions up to a government that doesn't care?

What do you gain from doing something that makes you feel sad and that won't solve our problems?

A lot of local self-styled progressives used to tell me that they didn't like the candidates they were voting for, but that they were going to hold their noses and vote for the lesser evil. I think that anyone who has to hold their nose when they go to the polls knows exactly what kind of excrement they're voting for.

Before we can ensure that our votes our counted, we need a new Constitution that ensures our right to vote and to have our votes counted, and that vests power in the hands of the people, rather than in the hands of the government, by ensuring that the popular vote is the final say and cannot be overturned by the Electoral College, Congress, or the Supreme Court. In order to get a new Constitution, we'd have to alter or abolish the government we now have, a government that shreds the Constitution but defends its own right to do whatever it wants, Before we'd have any chance of altering or abolishing our government, it would have to be weakened, discredited, delegitimized, and shown not to be a democratically elected government at all, and not to have the consent of the people, but to be an illegitimate government without the consent of the people. That can be done quickly, legally, nonviolently, and effortlessly by means of a successful election boycott, and if you look at the second half of my post above about Sunday's successful election boycott in Italy, you'll see that it doesn't take much.

If we stop putting this government in power, it cannot remain in power. That's the only real power we have--the power not to vote for a government that doesn't represent us (and doesn't even have to count our votes).

I hear you, Jerry.  I agree with virtually everything you've said.  I also hear Mark, who believes the best action is non-action to protest the vote. 

Voting and non-voting have their compelling arguments, though, at the end of the day, I'll be voting.  As much collusion as there is within the duopoly, there are a few fundamental differences that I'm not interested in leaving in the hands of folks willing to accept words at face value from a man I perceive as a psychopath.  I'm not going to argue the minutia or madness of politics here. 

I will assert that non-action is playing into the hands of those frustrating the process.  I believe that's one of the prime strategies, is to frustrate people into not participating.  At the end of the next day, it's the force of the law and military that lines up behind the votes—stolen, gerrymandered or otherwise. 

The public at large is just waking up via the internet exposure of information previously obfuscated and swept from view.  This wider awakening is relatively recent.  It's naive to think that a long standing, deep-pocketed and highly organized industrial-political-militarized machine can be reformed or rebuked in less than a couple decades of equally organized and intelligent response.  I won't stop my activity if I don't see positive results in a term or three.  The current hijacking has been patiently rolled out over decades.  We need to be that patient while doing all we can.  That means each person doing what they feel is the right thing to do...even if it's conscientious non-action.

[I want to qualify my remarks by acknowledging that non-action in voting does not imply non-action in the realm of working to solve the issue.  It's just a different tactic. However, it can, in its more common (less conscious) forms demonstrate hopelessness and apathy]

Jitendra, it is your comment and Jerry's that demonstrate hopelessness and apathy. You're sad and frustrated but resigned to continuing something you know doesn't work and can't work, at least for the next couple of decades.

You write, "...there are a few fundamental differences that I'm not interested in leaving in the hands of folks willing to accept words at face value from a man I perceive as a psychopath," but you are fully aware that voting in elections where the votes don't have to be counted and can be overruled by the Supreme Court is doing exactly that.

The election hijacking began in 1787 when the Constitution constructed an electoral system where the popular vote could never be the final say if those in power disagreed with it, and has continued ever since:

Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition, 1742-2004 by Tracy Campbell

I admire your optimism that nuclear wars, nuclear power plant meltdowns, climate change, and economic instability won't threaten our survival and the survival of the planet within the next few decades, but I don't share it. In fact, I see your "patience" as a form of fiddling while Rome burns.

If you have a chance, please take a glance at my two most recent responses to Ben, which should be just above Jerry's comment.

As for what you consider to be "fundamental differences" between the candidates, would be please be so kind as to name them? They are both in favor of wars of aggression, the worst crimes against humanity there are. Isn't that a fundamental issue? They would both retain the right to imprison or kill anyone, including US citizens, without due process. Isn't that a fundamental issue? What issues do you consider to be more fundamental than those? Do you consider your issues so fundamental that you are willing to knowingly trade four more years of genocide and a total loss of due process for the hopes (no guarantee) of getting them?

I totally agree with the Marine mentality, Jerry. Our government can't lead, won't follow, and it is long past time it got the hell out of the way.

I have never read Ayn Rand and I have never been a Libertarian or felt drawn towards the attitude I've seen from some Libertarians on Twitter who consider everything, including themselves, to be property. I want liberty for people and natural rights for nature, not for property. I consider the earth our habitat, perhaps even our Grandmother as the indigenous put it, not our property.

If you want a viable third party, first you have to get a Constitution that allows for proportional representation, something that most countries have. And you can't get that through voting until AFTER you have elected enough third party candidates to overcome the strength of the two parties that do not want proportional representation and prefer to share power between them, as they have the same corporate and military-industrial funding and similar agendas.

One of the decisions that our government made was to mine uranium, and to manufacture and use nuclear weapons and power plants. There is constant radiation from the mine tailings which have not been covered up, and from each manufacturing plant, each nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers, and each nuclear power plant. The government claims that the routine radioactive releases are safe, ignoring the fact that while each release may be safe in itself, the radiation is cumulative in the human body. You'd have to grow some damned big kids for them to be safe from Cesium and Plutonium.

Gerneral Smedley Butler also had a Marine mentality, and I agree with every word he wrote in his 1933 work, "War is a Racket" just as relevant today was it was then. As for, "Theirs not to question why, theirs but to do and die," I think Kipling nailed it. And as for "One more time into the breach," I prefer Sun Tzu's "Art of War" and have found that strategic thinking and planning can be more effective than brute force.

In Bush v. Gore 2000, the Supreme Court made explicit what the Constitution had said all along, that the popular vote doesn't have to be counted. An uncounted vote is a silenced voice.

You have the right to gamble with your own and your children's future by casting votes that don't have to be counted, but I'm not sure you have the right to gamble with my future, our country's future, and the survival of the planet. Despite the dreams and aspirations of many, the cost of colonizing other planets is beyond our means, so when it comes to planets, we really only have the one. If you were down to your last bullet, would you expend it recklessly, just to be doing something?

Again, as long as we polarize ourselves without honoring our diversity of tactics, we'll all fail, because that is the core tactic employed by those that enjoy the rule of power.

I made a point of honoring your perspective, Mark, though it is personally not for me.  You only have two eyes and a limited scope of awareness, as do we each.  The day we understand how to harmonize and blend our multitude of perspectives, a significant shift will happen. 

It's the same as having a baseball team with a bunch of guys that bicker and vie for the spotlight while chronically underperforming, in contrast to the team of players that understand how to blend and synergize their efforts while exceeding everyone's expectations for success.  Sports may be a diversion for some, but there are powerful lessons demonstrated on a regular basis on how teamwork of diverse personalities and talents can accomplish miracles when the common aim is clear and honored.

You're not going to recruit me to your perspective no matter how many links you post nor do I think that will work with Jerry either.   I'm 100% sure that I won't change your mind either.  It's good that we're each that clear and committed.  Now...where we go from here, more specifically, HOW we go from here and how we treat each other, that's what will give us the change over time.  You can't win a war if there's a loser because the war never ends.  It's like pulling a weed without the root.  It comes back until the root of it is gone—our inability to respect our differences and celebrate our commonality.

There is no political debate worth losing one's voice over.  But there is the quest for human dignity which is worth dedicating one's life for.  Let's not decry others viewpoints while we fight for democracy (unless those views espouse violence).  That takes on the color of hypocrisy.


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