NOTE: This discussion was originally classified as "hosted" but has now been moved to the "member initiated" category.  In the view of the OC Stewards, what is taking place here is a debate rather than dialogue.  In a "hosted" discussion here at OC.org, we request that balanced participation be encouraged and that regular summaries occur recognizing all the views being presented.  

While we have no objections to people using the OC forum to engage in debates, as long as they don't cross the line into personal attacks, such discussion is not what we are seeking in the "hosted" category.  

Ben Roberts
12/31/11

We are delighted to have Occupy Cafe member Mark E. Smith offer this hosted discussion on the provocative idea of an "election boycott."  

As "host," Mark will strive to keep the conversation orderly, offer regular summaries of the perspectives being presented and encourage balanced participation among all those who are engaged.  Here's Mark's initial summary:

An election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government. It doesn't overthrow the government, it simply denies it the consent of the governed so that the government can no longer claim to have the people's consent. Among the many forms of noncompliance, such as removing money from big banks, boycotting corporate brands, withdrawing from the system and creating alternative systems, learning to live on less so as not to have to pay taxes, etc., refusing to vote can be one of the most crucial and effective tactics.

Thank you, Mark, for volunteering your services as "host!"

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I vote for that too.

Hold on... I'll fetch a paper ballot.

Cool! Thank you, David. And when you get both hands up, don't forget to Yell Fire!

(Somebody really needs to update that video.)

I'm putting this here cuz it's at the end of the posts and I don't know how this place works and it drives me crazy. There must be a better way to lay out a thread. This is in response to the last thing that Mark wrote to me which is on 17. I think? Last I looked?

Dear Mark,

   There are many things you have been saying from the start of my interactions with you last week on Bradblog and then over here that I am in complete agreement with. I've said that more than once. But there are also things you say and there is a manner in which you say them that I am not in agreement with. Finding some some of the things you say and the way you say them strange and intolerable and then trying to bring that up for discussion does not qualify as an ad hominem attack. To me, anyway.

You say "An ad hominem attack is something that is addressed "to the person" rather than to the issues. No, that is not what an ad hominem attack is. If it were, writing "I love you, Victoria." would be an ad hominem attack. I'm hoping that for starters we can all agree that me writing "I love you, Victoria." does not qualify as an ad hominem attack.

According to Webster's-- ad hominem--adj. 1:appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect. 2. marked by an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to contentions made.

Mark S Tucker, whose writing you so admired over at Bradblog, provides an excellent example that fills the bill in his attack on me-- "...an onanistic troll jackball chowderhead like Lasagna, whose excretion..." Now THAT'S an ad hominem atttack.

Complaining about, trying to make sense of, seeking clarification for, requesting apologies for, and giving you shit about ways of engaging in debate that you manifest and that drive me to distraction and that I can't make sense of DOES NOT qualify as personal attacks, at least in my book. Again to quote Mark S Tucker--"squalling groupie...intellectual midget...ignorable flimp..." THOSE  are ad hominem attacks.

Moreover to be ad hominem means to use insults IN LIEU of dealing with the issues. When you and I started over at Bradblog I very much was dealing with the political issues under discussion. Then as I was continuing to not understand what the hell was happening in our back and forths, the issue, for me anyway, switched to what the hell is happening in our back and forths? I didn't understand where the sense had gone. Yeah, so THEN I'm over here and I'm trying to bring issues up with you about you, etc. That's cuz I'm trying to understand what the hell is going on, who IS this guy, is he real, is he just jerking me around, what?. All that does not qualify as just attacking you for the sole purpose of attacking/discrediting you, nor does it qualify as not dealing with the issues. Those WERE/HAD BECOME the issues for me. For me the kinds of interpersonal confusion occurring between us are every bit in need of attention as the larger/broader societal dysfunction. I see the two as completely intertwined.

There's more but I gotta go spend some time with Mom.

In between your remarks about me, my style, and what went on at a site where everyone hated me and egged each other on to attack me, you mention "political issues under discussion."

Yet I see no specific mention in your comment of what those issues are, no opinions regarding such issues, and nothing that furthers a discussion of such issues.

If the topic of a discussion was protecting women from online sexual harassment, and you jumped in and said, "I love you, Victoria," yes it would be an ad hominem attack. It would not only be distracting from the discussion rather than contributing to it, it would be demonstrating exactly the behavior the discussion was about preventing.

 

This is in response to Mark's comment to me that starts--"In between your remarks about me, my style..."

I think I did give mentions, comments, and opinions regarding the issues at hand when we first started at Bradblog. Many others have done so here. I have repeatedly acknowledged that much of what you say is right on. Did you just see that sentence? Here try it again. Much of what you say is right on.

I'll say this again, too--But there was something besides you being right on that arose in the course of our conversation that didn't feel right on. Part of it was the issues themselves and part of it was the way the conversation was proceeding. Do you get that? There is something else besides just exactly what you want to talk about the way you want to talk about it that mattered to me, that affected me, and that I wanted to talk about. How do I say that so that you can hear it?

There's a classic therapy technique that involves listening to the another person and then giving an honest clear version back to them out loud of what they just said. It's to practice really listening and responding and being open to someone and something other than yourself. This isn't therapy and we're not intimates but still SOME version of that sort of back and forth is very helpful, perhaps essential, for meaningful dialogue. Cuz BOTH people need to felt heard. I do not feel heard in our back and forths. I feel like you address me again and again in a dismissive, mocking, competitive manner. Feels shitty.

From my point of view many people have shown that they are understanding your ideas. You have gotten a lot of praise and deservedly so. But there have also been times when objections have been raised. If there is to be dialogue, objections and especially repeated objections, especially if reasonably done and done in good faith need to be acknowledged.

Your latest response here in is typical of what you do that drives me crazy. There is absolutely no acknowledgment that I have a point of view. You convey zero inkling that you have understood or recognize as understandable anything that I think is worth discussing about how strange my experience of trying to communicate with you has been. Do you think I'm lying? 

Because I never feel like I get a response from you that in any way really acknowledges my point of view and because of your tendency to occasionally distort beyond recognition some of the things I say, you come off like a huge jerk. There, now I am attacking you. Ya happy? But it's still not ad hominem.

You guys are killing me. So far in this thread I had to look up ad hominem, fascism, oligarch (my favorite), and plutocracy.

But onanistic is in a category all its own. I can't believe there is even a word that means that!

Summary of debate points – Is it accurate?

Mark

-          The Supreme Court ruled that the votes of US citizens don't have to be counted therefore the voters’ will doesn’t determine the Presidency. This means that voting is pointless even if the vote-rigging could be prevented which is unlikely.

-           

-          The US form of government is a plutocracy and was designed as such. Even if it is modified it will still be a plutocracy. It cannot be transformed into a democracy.

-           

-          Voting is consenting to be governed by the plutocracy.

-           

-          Voters delegate their power to elected representatives who then make decisions that lead to atrocities. If elected again, the likelihood is that this will continue.

-           

-          Not voting delegitimizes a government since it can no longer demonstrate the consent of the governed.

-           

-          The success of occupy indicates that people are getting closer to the point when they will demand change.

-           

-           When people reach the point that they refuse to vote for plutocracy they will have attained the level of social consciousness needed to create a workable direct democracy.

-           

-          People will live a more sustainable harmonious life when they have direct control over the government. They will end the US wars of aggression which will free wealth to address the problems of the world.

-           

-          The US has reached the point at which empires collapse. Voting is propping up a dying system. Delaying the inevitable simply gives oligarchs more time to continue on their path of environmental destruction and mass-murder through war.

-          Victoria

-           

-          A complete replacement of our political system is virtually impossible.

-           

-          If we do not act there is a danger of chaos as the situation worsens.

-           

-          Most people who vote are invested in the current system of government. They are unlikely to stop voting as a tool to replace it.

-          Discouraging the more enlightened people from voting will just result in more of the same. We will be unable to support the representatives who want reform.

-           

-          We have structural corruption at all levels of government. We must try to stop the corruption or the country will continue on the same path of environmental destruction and mass-murder through war.

-           

-          Americans have spent years investigating vote-rigging and will be preventing or documenting any rigging they can identify.

-           

-          Some types of vote fraud are more difficult to accomplish with higher voter turnouts.

-           

-          The success of the Occupy movement is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction which can be tapped to support candidates who recognize the need for reform on issues like corporate personhood and campaign finance.

-           

-          If people feel cheated because their votes didn’t count they are more likely to rise-up in civil disobedience and demand possibly radical change.

-           

-          The Occupy movement will inspire protests where fraud is suspected.  This will pressure authorities to respond although the response may be violent.

-           

-          The only way to restore legitimacy to the electoral process is to return to paper ballots which can be physically tracked and verified.

-           

-          Direct democracy can only work on a local level.

 

Lindsay

-The voting system can be fixed.

-Electronic voting can allow and encourage greater citizen participation.

-Direct democracy can only work on a local level.

-Representatives need to be more closely monitored.

-The current system can be adjusted through instituting the ability to recall representatives.

-Other mechanisms can be put in place to trigger referendums on controversial decisions.

-A balance can be found between elements of representative and direct systems of democracy.

- The manner in which people engage in politics can be addressed as a separate issue from the system. (consensual versus confrontational)

-Common wisdom can emerge through a facilitated process

I apologize for nit-picking, Gisele, but I do want to get my message straight and use every chance I have to clarify my meaning:

          The Supreme Court ruled that the votes of US citizens don't have to be counted therefore the voters’ will doesn’t determine the Presidency. This means that voting is pointless even if the vote-rigging could be prevented which is unlikely.

The Supreme Court ruled that the votes of US citizens don't have to be counted. This means that in the USA, power is not vested in the hands of the people, as the government can decide whether or not to count the votes. 

-           

-          The US form of government is a plutocracy and was designed as such. Even if it is modified it will still be a plutocracy. It cannot be transformed into a democracy.

The US Constitution established a plutocracy. This cannot be changed by amending the Constitution, as the result of even the best possible amendments would be a less tyrannical and more benevolent plutocracy, not a democracy.

-           

-          Voting is consenting to be governed by the plutocracy.

As the Declaration of Independence states clearly, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The way that governments demonstrate that consent is by holding elections. In a representative form of government like the USA, when people vote, they don't know for certain what they're consenting to. For example, they might think they're consenting to allow decisions to be made by candidates who promised to represent the interests of the voters, but those candidates could change their minds once in office. A contract which doesn't allow one party to know what the terms of the contract really are, is not a valid contract.

-           

-          Voters delegate their power to elected representatives who then make decisions that lead to atrocities. If elected again, the likelihood is that this will continue.

Voters delegate their power to elected representatives. The representatives might use that power wisely, or they might abuse that power. Since abuse of power could be disastrous in many ways, such as wrecking the economy, or committing atrocities, voting is a very risky gamble, not a voice in government.

-           

-          Not voting delegitimizes a government since it can no longer demonstrate the consent of the governed.

Correct. A government that cannot obtain the consent of the governed can govern through force, but it lacks consent. In personal terms, it is the difference between a consensual relationship and a relationship based on domination of one person over another person who is either unwilling or unable to give their informed consent.

-           

-          The success of occupy indicates that people are getting closer to the point when they will demand change.

The existence of Occupy might mean that people are getting closer to bringing about change. Demands have to be directed at those with the power to accede to or refuse such demands, and are therefore not likely to be productive of change, since those in power tend to want to retain power.

-           

-           When people reach the point that they refuse to vote for plutocracy they will have attained the level of social consciousness needed to create a workable direct democracy.

When people reach the level of consciousness where they stop delegating their power to people who may or may not represent their interests, they are capable of self-governance because they have shown that they know what their own interests are and that they want their interests to be represented.

-           

-          People will live a more sustainable harmonious life when they have direct control over the government. They will end the US wars of aggression which will free wealth to address the problems of the world.

At the point where people are capable of representing their own best interests, they are capable of redirecting wealth from harmful and wasteful activities towards more harmonious, healthy, and sustainable activities.

-           

-          The US has reached the point at which empires collapse. Voting is propping up a dying system. Delaying the inevitable simply gives oligarchs more time to continue on their path of environmental destruction and mass-murder through war.

Correct.

It's not nit-picking at all to want to represent your argument accurately. I think I'm getting a much better grasp of your argument. When everyone is debating back and forth it's difficult to remember the basic argument. One detail gets argued so much that I lose sight of the basic logic. I think the magician story is a wonderful introduction to your entire argument.

I have a theory on how to present opposition to the current form of government. I have been thinking a lot about ruling-class think-tanks and how they have managed to convince people that up is down and black is white. How can we convince people of the truth?

Without ever being condescending we have to present arguments at at least 4 levels. The level activists are used to is university. It often comes across as pretentious and condescending feeding into the "liberal elite" narrative. It's long and tedious for someone who can take a car apart and put it back together again but doesn't care for academics. It's great for activists to debate but not so great if the intent is to communicate broadly.

The second level is people who haven't been to university but have some practical college-level skills. They want the Coles notes version of Shakespeare. They are fine with the complexity of ideas they just want it in English.

The third level is people who barely made it out of high-school, maybe didn't even finish. They are the most sensitive about being condescended to. They aren't stupid they would just rather go fishing and never saw the point of academics when they could be having fun. Maybe even if they wanted to be academic they aren't smart enough in the academic sense. But they know how to cook for 500 people or how to build a basic house without any plans. Maybe they don't even know that much because they have been mesmerized by Jersey Shore, but they still don't want to feel stupid or be condescended to.

Then there is the fourth level which is "sound bites".  You have 30 seconds to a minute to grab someone's attention long enough to get them interested in the shortest version of your argument.

Any argument intended for the general public as opposed to debating amongst progressives has to be delivered at these four levels. Furthermore, each level of message has to get shorter not longer. Outside of the university level you can't say plutocracy, you have to say "super-rich" or something like that.

If people have to look up a word to understand your message you have lost 80% of your audience and quite possibly offended them as well.

narrative = university

storyline = high-school grad, technical college

story = regular people

I'm not disagreeing with you, Gisele, but that's a very hard row to hoe, mostly because the situation we're in is brutally complex, once you get past "We are the 99%," "Congress is bought by corporations," and "income inequality."

Personally, I can get it down to the "storyline" level, but when it comes to the "story" level, I fail miserably. If there are people out there who can communicate the truth of our situation on that level, they are incredibly valuable to the movement, because I would guess that the great majority of the 99% are there.

Gisele, if you feel you have that ability, I urge you to start working up materials, "sound bytes," and "elevator speeches" (speeches so short you can do them between floors on an elevator). For printed materials, a good format is a four panel flyer (you print 4 documents on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper and cut it in 4 pieces). Those are easy to do on Word. I can give you samples if you want. A blog is another way. Still another way is to post on Facebook pages. And of course, there's always talking to actual human beings, strangers, friends, and acquaintances.

I am working on it but it is difficult. Only "we are the 99%" qualifies as "story" level. "Congress is bought by corporations" is for people who are into politics. "Income inequality" is "people make different amounts of money, so what's your point? "growing income inequality" is "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer". So tell me something I didn't know.

Congress is bought by corporations = Rich people are controlling the politicians we elect to serve us not them.

Growing income inequality = the rich get richer and the poor get poorer

So tell me something I didn't already know.

If rich people keep taking more and more of the money there isn't enough left for the rest of us to share.

I say "rich people" not "the rich". "The rich" is impersonal. "Rich people" implies a group of identifiable people. "Rich people" have names. "The rich" don't.

Visually, imagine two pie charts side by side. One is labled 1950 and the other is 2010.

The pie charts have only 2 sections each, one representing the wealth of the 1%, the other the 99%.

In both cases 1% is in the big section, 99% is in the small section.

Underneath you could mention the actual dollars each section represents but supporting the argument isn't necessary, even if it is attacked. Most people won't listen to arguments on either side. They will have that picture of the pie charts in their minds getting them more and more pissed off. We might want a third pie chart in some versions with the projected situation if things don't change but that is risky. It's more easily attacked as imaginary which would take attention away from the primary message. A third pie chart might be added six months later once the first message has solidified.

In this thread messages have remained complex because the purpose of this thread is to debate between activists. A simplied summary is possible but supporting arguments can't be entirely dropped.

I admire Mark's integrity in targeting only people who are already socially conscious. His message can get to "storyline level" but it can't go to "story" level without either becoming manipulative or seeming unrealistically radical. The message is too sophisticated at this time. A sudden severe rupture could simplify the message.

Victoria's message has more potential to reach the masses in simplified form because it supports the existing system which people are used to.

I do have an idea bouncing around in my head for a longterm campaign but it isn't ready for primetime yet.

I have an odd background. In 1996 I got a computer Aimless surfing brought me all over the place and I was able to connect with all kinds of people. Six years ago someone online suggested to me that I take university courses.

My family didn't want me to even apply. They knew I couldn't do it and didn't want me to be hurt by the rejection. To my surprise I was accepted based on age which they called "life experience". But there was a condition, first I had to take English writing 101. That is when I learned how to write a five paragraph essay.

Most assignments were done at home so I did fine. The teacher noticed how much I was struggling in class, that I didn't take any notes. Sometimes we had to write an outline or a paragraph in class. She would look at my work and I was so embarrassed and ashamed. She called me to her office and explained how seriously the university takes plagerism. She thought someone else was doing my homework. I swore it was my work, my ideas. I swore nobody was helping me. I started crying and explaining that it was too hard to think in class. I couldn't organize my thoughts. I couldn't write fast by hand. I begged her to believe me. Bless her heart she sent me for testing. I was diagnosed with ADD, mild dyslexia and dysgraphia.I don't have a degree, I only took a few interest courses in art but it changed my life.

People have always been exasperated by me, angry, frustrated. I was accused of not trying, not paying attention, interrupting, being deliberately obtuse etc. When that wasn't happening it was just understood that I wasn't very bright so I was steered towards low-level jobs.  

My whole life I have had an internal argument with myself. In my head I would be screaming "I am not stupid" I do have things to say. But then when I would try to explain it all came out garbled, and I had to accept the reality that I was fooling myself.

I still can't express myself orally in the sense of debating ideas or building a logic argument. It's still difficult for me to grasp the underlying logic to peoples' arguments. My mind is like the internet. You never know where you might end up. I relate strongly to being talked down to, to being treated like I am too stupid to discuss serious subjects like politics.

In that first class my teacher said the point of writing is communication. She said that good writing is the ability to express complex ideas in simple words. It really hit home. Fancy language and complex explanations doesn't mean the idea is better. Just because people seem stupid doesn't mean they are. Just because someone has trouble expressing themselves doesn't mean they have nothing to say.

Academics have a way of making other people feel stupid. They patiently explain their viewpoint as though you are a student in their class. They are instructing not having a conversation. If you don't agree it's because you don't understand so they explain in ever increasing painful detail. If you struggle to express your own ideas you get shot down because obviously your thoughts aren't worth exploring. They don't have conversations they have debates. When you talk with an academic you know they have no interest in what you have to say other than to point out where you are wrong. That is why the accusation that lefties are intellectual elites disconnected from the real world sticks.

Instead of us feeling stupid because we "can't keep up" the narrative is reversed. We are in the real world, you are not. You live in a make-believe world of fancy theories that don't apply in real life.

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