Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Of course, things will be better if you vote

Look how much change they're bringing!
Who says New Zealand’s political commentary is myopic and vapid? I’ll have you know its writers express visionary ideas on a daily basis! Take this piece on voting for instance by the good Bernard Hickey, political commentator extraordinaire:

“…There were 743,200 aged 18-29 who could have voted in the election and who will have to pay the taxes to cover the $100b in pensions by 2060, yet only 49 per cent voted. 
If the young had voted at the same rate as the elderly there would have been an extra 282,000 voters. 
That would have easily been enough to get the attention of politicians and open up the debate to include the interests of those who will be paying taxes from 2020 to 2060 - the core of their working lives. 
Instead, the debate is frozen in time because a generation of politicians nearing retirement can rely on the indifference, inattention and laziness of a generation who will have to pay the price.” [Emphasis mine]

Perhaps Mr Hickey is talking about voting in FIFA? That would kinda help his argument make sense. But if this is all about voting in the real world (not to be confused with general elections), then what I said earlier about NZ’s quality political analysis was wrrrrrrr…sorry, ahem, it was wrrrrrrrr… sigh… Dammit, I’ll get that word right one of these days.

I believe Mr Hickey fundamentally misunderstands the purpose and effects of voting. First off, I cannot accept the form of his argument, which is the only form he’s decided to ask: change can only happen via voting, therefore those who don’t vote are detrimental to their own livelihoods. This is incorrect, and I’ll mention why soon, but it is an entirely correct way of thinking from the perspective of the status quo.

I really have only one reason I don’t participate in voting: there are a series of decisions which can only and always will be made in one direction regardless of a person’s ideology in leadership. If that leader wishes to remain in control of a viable and growing country, then it is possible to predict what those choices will be if one understands his/her constraints. These are called national imperatives. With a particular emphasis on “imperatives” – as in, must-be-done.

If Mr Hickey thinks a few thousand more votes would alter those imperatives, then he’s drunk the cool-aid and there’s nothing else I can do for him. Politicians only pretend to listen to the public if it helps their efforts to get into a position of power, a position from whence they can then make decisions about choosing the national imperatives.

If someone says a politician is making a decision based on what they say the “public” wants, you should slap that person all the way back to maths class, because they can’t add or subtract. Any decision made because the public apparently “desires” it, is, by definition, not a national imperative.

Yeah, you tell 'em
Just sticking with the given example: should the retirement fund be proven as detrimental to the viability of this country, then a decision will be made to alter it. But if it is shown to actually be viable for the country, then it will be boosted or at minimum left alone.

No politician – or mass of voters – has the power to control the nation by the winds of social feeling. Only tyrants and true revolutions can do that. And even then, both act within different constraints. And both will scuttle the country in an effort to forge a new one.

Yes, I know people think voting is their chance to “tell the government what you think” and “getting its attention”, but this is false in a very specific way. Ask yourself where you heard about the importance of voting. The idea certainly isn’t biological, so someone definitely convinced you at some time in your past that it was a good idea.

Most people have been socialised to accept not just the imaginary benefits of voting, but the imaginary consequences for non-participation as well. Not only has voting been made to feel like it’s a free choice, which you’ve made for the benefit of society (of course), you’re actually doing the system’s job of controlling other people’s behaviour in the desired direction by forwarding articles like this and telling them that they’re hurting themselves if they don’t vote.

What I’m trying to say is, the belief that voting is a useful pastime isn’t your fault. It emerged as a good idea, fully formed, in your head at some point in your deep past. And by “deep past”, I mean way before your birth created by family members and neighbours you never met. How did this happen? Why is it so effective? Voting is just one detail in a script designed to get people like you playing along with modern nature of society. And the rules and levers of this society have figured out ways of making YOU think voting is a free choice. Game, set and match.

Voting prods our egos from an extremely malleable direction. It reinforces the self-imposed, socialised and narcissistic illusion that everything we do as individuals actually matters. That you aren’t just a number or a battery without cosmic significance, let alone significance in the family living room. We’ve been told throughout our entire lives that WE matter, so why shouldn’t our votes count? And off we go to tick the two boxes while wearing shirts that “totally bring out my eye colour”.

That you have any significance has never been true. It will never BE true. And the longer we keep this illusion up by “participating” in a vote every three or four years (how much do voters read/learn about politics during that three-year period anyway?), then the only thing that’s changing is the public’s gradual distancing from the halls of political “power” and the abdication of influence to those (re: companies) who actually know how to manipulate the country’s national imperatives to their advantage.

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