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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.
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!"
We're framing all of this with a term called BioDemocracy. It's our effort to evolve our democratic understanding to encompass not just human society, but all life on this planet, as worth of representation.
Representation? Not rights? Life on this planet is worthy of having representatives decide if it should continue or be destroyed, but not worthy of the right to exist, the right to self-determination? Just representation? Isn't the right to exist one of those unalienable rights that nobody can either grant or take away?
I think some European countries must be more democratic than the US because they were able to ban GMO foods, whereas we'll be lucky to get labeling. It was pretty radical, maybe even utopian to think they could ban GMO foods, and a few have lapsed here and there, but I don't think any of those countries are anarchies or run by anarchists.
I'm not going to be promoting a fully anarchist system to millions of people who are simply not ready to even consider it. First we're talking about how the current system is a death-empire. Then we're talking about how our elections are a sham. Then we're talking about how to have real elections.
Okay, one step at a time. First tell people that GMO foods might be dangerous and that toxic fertilizers and pesticides most definitely are toxic (that's why they have that skull and bones on the label). Then we support organic foods so people have an alternative. Then we petition government to allow us to label foods so people will know which is which. We can't just expropriate the land from Monsanto and give it back to the Indians. They'd probably just build more casinos anyway.
So first we talk about how our system is a death empire. Check.
Then we talk about how our elections are a sham. Check.
Then we talk about how we can have honest elections in which to vote for the death empire. Or that maybe would allow us to get a few more liberals and progressives elected to the death empire. Beeeeep!!!!!
Victoria, because you're smarter and more experienced than me, as much as I respect and admire you, sometimes you lose me. Before I "met" you here, I learned a lot about HCPB from your writing and what other people wrote that they'd learned from you. And I'm sure that your efforts contributed toward my understandings of GMOs and organic foods. But if you're worried about promoting something that people might not understand, that last one is it for me. I don't understand it and don't understand why you'd promote it.
Suppose that the death empire might allow us GMO labeling, at least until a new administration or a new Supreme Court decision takes it back. Is that a reason for me to vote for the death empire? Suppose we had publicly funded, HCPB elections. Would that be a good reason for me to vote for the death empire? What good would having real elections in a death empire do? We'd be voting for representatives to decide whether or not to keep on being a death empire, and since most of them benefit from it, most of them would continue it.
People in the US, for the most part, benefit from the death empire, whether we know it or not, want it or not. Fascism is the merger of business and government. Hitler was democratically elected, but he was still a fascist. A democratically elected death empire would still be a death empire. Even with HCPB.
You're right. I don't have a practical plan or alternative that is marketable to millions of people. All I'm saying is that if we stop voting for death, no matter what aspect of the death empire might seem beneficial to us, we might have a chance at life. Maybe. No guarantees. The only guarantee is that if we keep voting for the death empire, that's what we'll have.
Not with my consent. I won't vote for people who support GMO labeling, support environmental conservation, or support human rights, if I'm voting for them to try to do so as part of a death empire. Every time I sign a petition to the US government, I'm signing the death warrants of babies being drone-bombed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I've been there. They have very high infant mortality rates. They've got it hard enough without us killing them. Dear President, Congressmember, US government representative, please vote for me to have GMO labeling, if you get a chance between funding wars. Thank you.
Yes, I'm guilty of signing the stupid things. But at least I stopped voting to delegate my power to a death empire. Petitioning tyrants can expose their tyranny and awaken public anger, especially when the petitions are ignored. It recognizes their authority, but questions their abuse of power. Voting legitimizes their power. First I want some system other than a death empire to vote in, and then, if the elections are honest, I'll be proud to vote.
Mark, I've been through all this with you. I'm not going to go there again and repeat myself again, and again. Sorry I lose you. Not much I can do about it.
Victoria, I started a thread on building a better democracy.
Please come and contribute. I would prefer to discuss your ideas about BioDemocracy and voting over there.
I won't post in your discussion any more, Gisele. Thank you.
Thank you Mark. I'm sorry if I was testy. It's just we really have discussed all that stuff alot.
Victoria, you didn't answer my earlier question. Why did you stay with those smelly anarchists?
I was homeless for many years and ran into many bad situations, but what I did, in self-preservation, if a situation looked bad or smelled bad, was to leave.
Did you stay because of the certainty of knowing where you were, awful as it was, as opposed to the uncertainty of leaving and not knowing where you'd end up, whether it would be better or worse?
If I recognized the certainly that the place I was in was a bad place to be, I usually chose the uncertainty of leaving, because the uncertainty contained the possibility of better or worse, whereas the certainty contained only bad.
Evil empire = bad.
Change = Maybe better, maybe worse.
Or wait! Do you see some possibility of the evil empire becoming less evil? Did you stay with the smellies because you hoped they might bathe someday? Maybe by inserting your good influence into a barrel of rotten smellies, you thought you could reform them? Was that it?
Well, like I said, more than a few times, I left them. I wonder why it is you consistently choose to misrepresent what I say? Why do you still do that? If I say I left the smelly anarchist house, why say that I didn't? I didn't live there for too long -- every time I sat on the couches, terrible plumes of dust would arise. But they were basically squatting and there was no electricity to plug in a vacuum to clean the couch . . .
As for me, no, I don't choose to stay with certainty over uncertainty -- in fact, it's shocking the kind of security I give up if I feel I can't do what's right. I've left jobs that everyone around me was drooling over, with no job waiting for me, and no money in the bank, because I couldn't speak the truth. I've always had someone to let me stay with them, but I often haven't had my own house. I've lived in tents, in the northern winters. I've lived in my truck. All because I was trying to find ways to survive that didn't compromise me utterly.
Let me ask you -- why do you keep trying to reform or enlighten people who constantly reject your teachings, or simply can't fulfill them to the extent you deem necessary, or at the pace you demand, or in the order of actions you think are appropriate? Why do you keep coming back at them with the same teachings? Do you think you'll break through eventually? What do you think will make someone finally see the light?
Ah. I'd been getting sick and tired of people discrediting democracy as an anarchist idea, Victoria, and if that wasn't sufficient, reminding people of how dangerous and horrible anarchists are. It reminded me of people discrediting health care as a Communist idea. Some people will always believe that democracy was an anarchist idea, just as some will always believe that universal health care is Communist. Since every developed country but us has a national health care plan (some good, some lousy), if health care is Communist, then the Commies won and have taken over the developed world. I don't think so. Anymore than I think that if real democracy succeeds it will mean that the anarchists won.
But those are very good questions. Why do I persevere?
Because I'm still naive enough to think people might mean what they say.
I'd spent seven Bush years protesting with local peace activists. No war! End the war! Impeach Bush! Impeach Cheney first! (I just came across my old "Impeach Bush & Cheney" cap and I think I'm going to start wearing it again.) So when they were all supporting Kucinich and Kucinich said he was probably not going to get the nomination and that he would support whichever of his good friends, Hillary or Barack, was nominated, I asked each of them what they would do. They all said they'd vote for the Democratic nominee, and when Obama got the nomination they all said they'd vote for Obama. When I pointed out that Obama was committed to expanding the war in Afghanistan, they said they'd hold their noses and vote for him anyway, as the lesser evil. One announced to an activist meeting that the only way to bring about peace was to vote for Obama and then try to get him to change his mind about war. But I was stupid enough to think that they really cared about peace, at least somewhat. Why else did they go to all the peace rallies? Well, it turned out that with a few notable exceptions, none of them gave a damn about peace. Most were Democrats who'd thought that calling out Bush and Cheney with regard to their wars of aggression would help get a Democrat elected. When Obama started even more wars, they were silent and didn't go to the marches any more.
So I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to get people I thought cared about peace, not to vote for war.
This may be a similar situation. I see a lot of people who say that they want a better world, that they're opposed to the evil empire, and who have dedicated most of their time and energy to working for alternatives. But when I say, "Hey, if you don't want the evil empire, don't vote for it!" they reject my message and tell me that it's too extreme, it's too soon, or it's too risky. They're willing to get their heads bashed in and go to jail to protest the government, but they're not willing to stop voting for it. It will probably turn out that most are just Democrats or other political party organizers, using the environmental movement, Occupy, and anything else they can find, as a means to register voters and get out the vote for the evil empire. Maybe some do care about what our government is doing, but not enough to stop authorizing the government to keep doing whatever it wants. After all, government must know better than they do, right?
I'm glad I persevered. There were a few people who got it. That if you really care about something, you don't leave it up to somebody else to decide. Particularly if they've always made the wrong decisions. There are always a few people who get it. Those with vested interests in the continuation of the evil empire, won't ever be persuaded, because while they might want a few reforms, stuff that would benefit them personally, they don't want to see the evil empire fall. It may be evil, but it's the only empire they have.
No matter who is elected, the evil empire will continue with the consent of the governed. It will continue to be pro-war, pro-1%, and anti-earth. If they manage to get a large turnout, all the political people will be rejoicing. Not that they will stop petitioning the government to reform and continue protesting when it doesn't. But they're loyal, patriotic, flag-waving, voting citizens, and they support their government.
Here's a sentence from a comment by user "paschn" on Truthout:
Well, I began researching the over FIVE HUNDRED military campaigns, (these are documented, many more are not), the Fascist States of America has started and without exception, the only winners are the international corporations and their w h o r e s in D.C.
We've known war is a racket at least since 1933 when the most decorated US General in history, Smedley Butler, said so. And we know that as long as we leave the decisions up to the government, the racket will continue until the empire is so overextended that, like all empires before it, it falls.
But voters don't care. Worse than that, they actually want the evil empire to continue, and are so frightened that it is losing legitimacy and might not continue, that they're using every trick in the book to attract more voters.
Why did I (along with you, Bev, and many others) persevere in warning that our elections were rigged, when everyone rejected the message, called us conspiracy theorists, and banned us? Because we knew the elections were rigged. And eventually everyone was forced to admit that we were right.
I can't persevere forever. I'll be moving along soon. There are other forums and I also have my own little website. But what few breakthroughs there have been came about just this way. Most websites have more readers than people who post. So I always leave my email firstname.lastname@example.org for anyone who might wish to stay in touch. There are always some who agree with me but don't want to say so publicly.
To summarize, not voting is the most effortless, most effective, and the only proven nonviolent way to delegitimize a government. Not overthrow, just delegitimize. But it will only appeal to those who understand that their government is undemocratic and does not deserve the consent of the governed. Those who believe that their government is essentially good and only needs a few more good people, a few reforms, or a few Constitutional amendments, will continue to vote. And there's no arguing with believers.
Ah. Well, what can I tell you. Seems like you misinterpreted human nature somewhere along the way. I guess I'm not suffering from the same problem. I understand that people's self interest is going to kick in somewhere along that road to Mordor. That's why I asked you if you thought Frodo and Sam would have had the courage to go if they'd known how bad Mordor really is.
People are willing to fight for peace up to a point, and everyone has a different point, but most people have it, and then they stop.
Weekend protests are popular and fun. When people realize the regime isn't going to stop the war just because a few million people asked them to over the weekend, they still go back to work on Monday morning.
It has been my good fortune to know many people who did, in word and deed, devote their lives to peace, ended up in prison for it, and continued fighting when they got out.
I don't know if we can even measure what percentage of the population that is. Too small to measure I think.
So, I gave up a long time ago on saving the world, Mark. I dropped out and became an artist for a few years. I tried not to think. I painted. I tried to think only about colors and layers and textures and not about death and war and murdered babies and the bastards who just get richer as the world burns.
Then Obama came along. And I couldn't help it . . . I had to get back involved again, because I knew the change was coming. He would be the one to blow the mask off the Democrats. And then there would be new opportunity. A power vacuum on the Left. More people awake, angry, looking for answers.
I don't argue with you, I just know what those people want to hear, and can hear, and are ready to hear. You've already noticed your message doesn't resonate with them. It's because not only do they not want to abandon what they believe America is, you are not even giving them an inkling of what the hell they'd be getting on the other side.
It's like people who can't leave their abusive spouses until someone new comes along. They can't be alone. They're afraid. You want to tell them what losers they are? You want to tell them how much better it is to be free? Stand on their own when they never have before? Go ahead.
I stopped telling people not to vote.
There's a passage in one of the Carlos Castaneda books where Carlos is trapped at the house of a bruja, one of the women sorceresses. And she's going to try to take his power, and kill him. And he knows it. He tries to escape, but she promises him that he can't. It's fated for them to have this meeting. He gets desperate. Finally she tells him, ok, I'll HELP you try to leave. I'll help you look for your keys and start the car. But whatever they do, it doesn't work, and he finally realizes there's no way.
Partly I feel this way about voting. If people want to vote, I'm tired of telling them not to. I want them to try -- I want them to run for office, I want them to get involved, I want them to learn about the process and see for themselves whether it really works for them. Get REALLY engaged.
Then one of two things may happen. They may actually make some kind of difference that I can't foresee -- or they will finally reach a moment of full despair and hopefully that will lead to the next step.
But your insistance that people leave their abusive spouse and walk out into the cold without a suitcase and head for the bus station with no clear destination is likely to inspire a few who are really ready to do it -- but the rest will slam the door in your face.
And you really need to stop thinking that people care about killing babies in foreign countries. They SO don't care about that. Come on.
Yeah, people do think we can get a kinder, gentler government if we get enough decent people in office, and if we can pass the right Amendments to the Constitution. They believe that, and that's what they're willing to work on. So, I'm going to help them do that, too. And either we will succeed -- we will find the keys and start the car and get away from the fucking witch -- or we will find that its impossible and have to face the real battle.
"People Shouldn't Leave Their Conscience In The Hands Of Elected Officials. Shut Down Gitmo & Bagram!"
I woke up this morning remembering an Oprah Winfrey show I happened to see. Oprah was doing a get-out-the-vote show. Oprah had invited an audience full of people who didn't vote and proceeded to register them all to vote.
Except for one strong-minded, intelligent black woman. That woman refused. Oprah begged and pleaded. The entire audience begged and pleaded. Oprah knelt down beside the woman and wept real tears. The woman was unmoved and the show didn't have the happy ending planned.
But the woman never embarrassed Oprah. The woman never said, "This is the government that enslaved our ancestors, invaded Haiti, is committing genocide in the DRCongo, and you want me to vote for it?"
I hope in 2012 more nonvoters start to speak out. Nonvoters aren't apathetic, most are better informed and care more deeply than voters. And we're about 50% of the population. When asked, most nonvoters say that the reason we don't vote is because none of the millionaires on the ballot will represent our interests. Hasn't the Occupy movement figured that out yet? They oppose the 1% but still trust the 1% to govern them?
Getting OWS to make demands is a politcal strategy. To be effective, demands have to be made on somebody with the power to accede to those demands. That can only be our current government. Since they have no credible way to back up their demands, government won't accede to their demands. Then the political operatives can blame the incumbents and urge everyone to vote for new people to replace them. And then, instead of a unified movement, OWS will become warring camps of Obama supporters, Ron Paul supporters, Republican nominee supporters, Green Party nominee supporters, supporters of independent OWS candidates, and people intending to vote for Mickey Mouse, None of the Above, Nobody, or cast blank ballots. It all contributes to the election turnout but there will no longer be a unified Occupy Movement or even the possibility of one. When Occupiers sign a voter registration form, they're signing the death warrant of the Occupy Movement.
I agree with you.