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, 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

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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Ok, I will do, thank you!

Um, Lindsay, I know I've been accused of having a style not compatible with TED rules, usually by people who are making personal attacks on me or trying to discredit my ideas. But I just read the rules, and I would like you to point to a single comment of mine that was off topic, uncivil, rude, or otherwise in violation of TED rules. That could be here, on BradBlog, or anywhere else that I've posted. 

When I say that voting is the consent of the governed, and that consenting to a government that is engaged in crimes against humanity is consenting to crimes against humanity, it may anger people and they may feel that they're being attacked, but I'm actually not saying telling voters they're a bunch of baby-killers, even if people have accused me of doing that several times. If anyone can point to any place where I called people names or was rude or uncivil, I'll post a public apology.

Just because I've been accused of things doesn't mean that I'm guilty of them, not even if many people accuse me of the same thing. They never post a link to an actual incident of me doing what they accuse me of, they just make broad generalizations, vague allegations, and unfounded accusations.

When somebody, in the middle of making a bunch of personal attacks on me, my ideas, my style, my tone, etc., accuses me of making personal attacks, ask them for the link so that you can see where I did it. If somebody is doing something that they, without any evidence, accuse me of doing, ask for the evidence. Since they're obviously doing what they accuse me of, everyone can see it is something that they do, and that they see nothing wrong with when they're doing it, so their accusations should be judged accordingly.

There was a guy on BradBlog (not me) who responded to personal attacks with personal attacks. But he didn't start the personal attacks--he was attacked and he responded. I don't respond the same way that he does, but I even though I don't and didn't do the same, I won't condemn him for responding to personal attacks in kind. That sort of thing would not be allowed on TED but it is on BradBlog. I've found that responding to personal attacks in kind just drags me down to the level of my attackers and isn't productive. It also takes discussions off topic.

One website years ago allowed political operatives to make page after page of personal attacks on me, of the crudest, most vulgar kind, and, page after page, I responded by pointing out that their comments were off topic and reminding them of what the topic was by continuing to discuss the topic. Finally I was banned for being disrespectful of someone because I'd referred to him as "kid," not with any of the vile and filthy epithets that had been aimed at me. Although I may have been disrespectful, there was obviously a double standard. 

I did register at TED conversations, but my thumbnail isn't large enough to be used as an avatar there and I don't have another one, so I can't upload a picture. 

What does TED conversations do about people who violate their rules? I've sometimes mentioned that I was being subjected to personal attacks to the owners or moderators of websites where personal attacks are prohibited by their rules, but I've never gotten any response.

I'm not sure how to bring this back to the topic, but perhaps I can mention that we have a lot of laws in this country but when corporations violate the laws they are rarely brought to justice, at most merely given a token slap on the wrist, whereas ordinary people are regularly punished severely for much more minor infractions. Like, steal a loaf of bread and you'll go to jail, steal a billion dollars and you can afford enough lobbyists and campaign donations to get the law revised so that what you did is no longer illegal. It's also a double standard and there is also selective enforcement. Was I as disrespectful for referring to somebody as "kid," as the people who weren't banned but who had repeatedly called me every unprintable name they could think of?

Many people "find" or "feel" that my tone or style is disrespectful or abrasive or somehow uncivil, but they have to twist my words to make it look that way. If I really was rude and uncivil, I doubt if so many people would be willing to engage in a discussion with me at such length.

I do present uncomfortable realities in unsettling ways, but not in ways that would violate TED rules.

This is all way off topic and I am sure stewards and other members don't appreciate this scrolling through as the welcome to occupy cafe..I suggest you contact ted adminsitrators directly with your questions and read through some conversations to see if you think it is a good match for you.

I agree it is good to stretch what people think, to dislodge them from automatic and built in opinions and encourage them to work through and defend or grow what they make their beliefs informed and chosen rather than mere meme.  Isn't that the whole point of global conversation? of any good conversation?   Isn't that key to any transformational process to get into a more fluid dynamic way of exchanging information, asking questions?


Ideology is the enemy of transformation .

I'm sorry if this is off-topic, Lindsay. I only asked you instead of asking TED administrators, because you'd told me in a previous comment, "I didn't mention it to you because your style is not at all compatible with TED." 

So I was hoping that you could point me to an example of my style not being compatible with TED (not unfounded allegations by others).

You'd also said, "at TED all comments must be on topic  and all discourse must be civil," so I thought you might know how uncivil comments come to the attention of administrators and how they are handled.

I can point you to examples of people being uncivil and off-topic in this discussion, particularly when discussing me or my style rather than discussing my ideas, but all I can do is either ignore it or try to bring the discussion back on topic. Your suggestion that I contact the administrators at TED makes me worry that it might be no different there, and that rude, uncivil, and off-topic comments would be allowed as long as they were aimed at discrediting me or my ideas, but that my ideas would not be welcomed and would be fiercely attacked no matter how politely I presented them.

I got off the computer and took a walk for a while and it occurred to me that folks on this thread seem to be reaching a consensus. Or maybe it’s my imagination. Here it is:

  1. Our political system is so gamed and corrupted that no true reform is possible. The only thing that might be “accomplished” are some cosmetic “reforms” that the ruling class can figure out a new way to game.
  2. The ultimate goal is to get people to realize this basic truth, use direct action and other means to accelerate the fall of our respective governments, and replace them with some real version of democracy.

The main differences seem to be how to accomplish this.

Mark seems content to simply repeat the same message with infinite variations and explanations, leavened with sarcasm and insults (sorry Mark, but it’s true), like a modern day Jeremiah or Cassandra. The idea is that people will keep doing what they’re doing until their hearts are broken and then they’ll finally wake up and be receptive to Mark’s message.

Gisele and Victoria seem more interested in reaching people where they are and gradually bringing them up to speed, even if it involves political engagement which will ultimately prove fruitless. By working alongside wherever the political energy is, they can influence where the political consciousness goes, and ultimately get folks to realize the truth.

In both cases, the destination is more or less the same.

Am I on the right track here?

I think you are most definitely on the right track, Mr. Blue, with regard to consensus.

As for methods, I see it somewhat differently.

Gisele and Victoria want to allow people to keep getting their hearts broken over and over, because they think that might eventually enable people to stop doing fruitless or harmful things and concentrate on things that might not prove fruitless or harmful.

I'd like to find a way to explain things to people so that they don't keep getting their hearts broken over and over, because that has been happening for a long time now and it doesn't seem to get people to stop doing things that are fruitless or harmful and concentrate on things that might not prove fruitless or harmful, and it involves people getting their hearts broken over and over.

I think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If I can explain to a kid that running with scissors isn't a good idea and could result in them getting hurt, without them having to do it several times and get hurt several times, I think that's the way to go. If they won't listen, I'm still not going to say, "Okay, here's the scissors, go ahead and do it again." I'm going to try to hide the scissors in a drawer, or, if they already have the scissors and are running around frantically, try to get them to stop and try to take the scissors away from them. Yes, they're going to get very angry, think I'm insulting their intelligence, and assure me that they are capable of running with scissors and not hurting themselves, even if they did get hurt the last few times they tried it. But I'm the one they always come crying to when they hurt themselves, and I'm the one who has to clean and bandage the wound, and sarcastic and insulting as it may sound, I'm getting sick and tired of it, okay?

If by not voting I was contributing to the replacement of the system I would do it in a flash. I don't think the critical mass exists for this to be a workable solution at this time. Voting does no harm but has the potential to accomplish minor good even if it is only to get more people angry. Not voting accomplishs nothing because not only is there no critical mass, people haven't reached a general level of social consciousness to be ready for what you want. "Not voting" doesn't even send a message to people.

So you believe that voting isn't doing your civic duty to the system, Gisele? Strange that people here call it that. 

Everything on the Occupy Wall Street List of Grievances is due to decisions made by elected officials. How can voting to delegate our power to elected officials who are likely to keep making harmful decisions be doing no harm when it has already caused so much harm and, if left in place, will undoubtedly cause more harm?

Suppose that you hung out with a bunch of friends and all of you had taken to drinking to excess. This had resulted in some divorces, some people losing their jobs, some vehicle accidents, and a lot of other problems. Would you wait until there was "critical mass" among your friends to stop drinking? Or would you look around, see what happened to others, and say, "Y'know, I think it's time for me to sober up." 

Maybe the fact that you stop hurting yourself and start acting responsibly wouldn't inspire anyone else. Maybe you're the only one who would benefit from it. Does that make it less worthwhile?

By not drinking you might not be contributing to the future health and welfare of all your alcoholic friends, but you'd stop endangering your own health and welfare. 

But how can you know for sure that your actions wouldn't inspire somebody else? You can know you won't inspire everyone else, but you can't know that you won't inspire anyone else.

And all it takes is a few intense anyones and next thing you know you've got critical mass.

I can't engage much tonight but I just want to point out a flaw in your argument here. People are capable of doing a lot of damage with or without elected representation. YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE ALTERNATIVES. Don't just give us the "people can do no harm" message because we know too many people to believe it. We need to know what systems of societal arrangements can work in place of what we have, and why. Focus on that.

Exactly how can people push trade deals through Congress that can force millions of people into poverty to benefit the 1%? Exactly how can people declare wars of aggression? Exactly which one of the Occupy List of Grievances could have been accomplished by people in the General Assemblies of a direct democracy without need for elected representatives? 

And even if it was possible, why would people outsource their own jobs, illegally foreclose on their own homes, and deny themselves and their loved one health care just to benefit the 1%?

I'm not saying that people can do no harm, so please don't put words in my mouth, Victoria, I'm say that the most evil and worst-intentioned people in a direct democracy where everyone has an equal voice, cannot do as much harm as even well-intentioned good people do in an inegalitarian, hierarchical system where a few people can control all the power. 

Do you know the results of the 2012 election? Do you know who will win and what they will do? Do you know their plan? Do you know for sure that even if the people you vote for have a good plan, it won't be thwarted by those already in power? And if you don't already know all that, why are you willing to vote without knowing what it will lead to? Do you trust the system because it has led to good things in the past? Of course not!

Why are people angry because they voted without knowing what the consequences of their actions would be, but insist that they can't stop voting unless they first know what the consequences of their actions will be?

I don't think staying home would inspire anyone. Whether you stay home or not the machine of state will continue to run. People all over the States are working on alternative ways of living from innercity window gardens to inexpensive and sustainable building techniques. Because the state has failed to provide people are running food-banks. Insufficent security led to neighbourhood watch forming decades ago. New Economy proponents are working on alterative methods of production that don't require corporations. The creation of good voting systems applies to any form of government. People are still getting ready for a transformation. Critical mass does not have to be reached one by one, inch by inch. In my opinion critical mass is more likely to occur when people are engaged acting in unison rather than sitting at home.

Violence is inevidable, lives will probably be lost. It came close to that at an Occupy. I hope it can be evolution rather than revolution, as Chavez chose to do. Critical mass is not going to happen in 2012 (in my opinion). My voting causes no harm whatsoever unless critical mass has been reached. It may not do a lot of good but it may hold back some of the harm that would have been done by another candidate. In the meantime, I still actively work towards creating the moment of critical mass through respectful engagement.

It's common knowledge that many people are voting for the lessor evil therefore voting is not hiding one's dissatisfaction with the status quo. It will not prevent critical mass from occurring.

Critical mass has already been achieved through voting. There are governments already in place in both Canada and the US, governments which derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. There are millions of people in both countries who vote.

The constructive alternative activities you name are often being achieved one by one, Giesele. Nobody waits until there is critical mass to plant a window box.

Voting for the lesser evil doesn't demonstrate dissatisfaction with the status quo, it demonstrates acceptance of evil. It says that only evil is possible, therefore the only option available is to try to decide which evil might be lesser. 

I don't see anything evil in creating alternative economies that don't rely on death and destruction. It isn't on the ballot so people can't vote for it, they have to just do it, one by one or in groups, step by step. 

But if you wish to plant a windowbox, Gisele, and you vote for a system of government in which elected officials have the power to make it illegal for you to plant a window box, you are risking your future and jeopardizing your window box. Those elected officials might allow your window box, or they might not, but once you delegate them the power to make that decision, you're gambling your freedom on the chance that they might make good rather than evil decisions. If you voted for a lesser evil, they might make less evil decisions (or they might turn out to be a greater evil), but their decisions will still be evil, as you knew when you voted for an evil.

One thing that helps prevent critical mass from occurring is when governments sent in shock troops to quell protests. Fewer people are able to gather in peace to discuss alternatives. Governments that do such things are not democratic governments and it is not expressing dissatisfaction with them to vote for somebody who might send troops in armed only with pepper spray as opposed to somebody who might send troops in armed with nerve gas. The option of voting for somebody who won't send troops in at all isn't on the ballot and can't be expressed by voting for independents, third parties, None of the Above, Nobody, or casting blank ballots. It isn't the individual elected officials who send the troops it, it is the governments controlled by the 1%, and voting is the act of consenting to allow such governments to have that power.

I won't delegate my power to a government that has violated my rights in the past, and is likely to again in the future. I think that would be self-destructive, like giving an evil person (either a more evil person or a less evil person) a loaded gun and then hoping that they might not shoot me. I don't trust evil people with loaded guns not to shoot me.


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