Many times we’ll hear an old maxim expressed as unchallengeable truth, that humans on Earth have two choices, the ballot or the bullet. That is, we either have a system where everyone gets a chance to use their “voice” to cast a “vote” and thereby express their preferences regarding now a country is run, or we will have baddest-warlord-takes-all violent chaos, like we see in the streets many places around the world. Particularly after another endless, bitterly divisive campaign/election season comes to a blessed end, we can always count on some politician or pundit to be given the stage to say some variant of this quote, “Well, it’s over. I know that it was uglier than ever, but we can all breathe a sigh of relief that there has once again been a peaceful transition of power. Thank you to our dear Founding Fathers!” Given that dichotomy, what rational person who desires to dwell in peace and stability wouldn’t choose the ballot?
So the reality on this issue of electoral politics is quite different from what we have been taught, as it is on many, many, many issues. This distance between how the world actually works and what we have been told about how it works is the subject of many books, websites, periodicals, documentaries and blogs, and there is no way, nor would it be desirable to try to cover it in a short essay. I will attempt a two sentence synopsis of this massive issue: While human freedom actually exists, very few people are actually free (particularly Americans), and these two facts have been systematically, deliberately hidden from the bulk of humanity by calling slavery “freedom”. And, people are becoming aware of these facts at unprecedented rates, all around you, your neighbors are waking up, and taking action to understand and express their innate freedom, which actually cannot ultimately be taken away. This freedom is intrinsic to being born a human on Earth, it was not granted to you by any human document, it cannot be defended by a military. It can be taken away by a military, for sure… But underneath the massive Matrix of control, we actually ARE free right now, we just don’t know it and act on it.
That foundation set, this essay will focus on the counterproductive practice of voting, and under this heading, I place all the associated activities of debating if this candidate or that would be better, circulating petitions for ballot issues, trying to register more voters, protesting the loss of voting rights…My views are a mix of my own, and those of some great young teachers who are emerging in the Internet age (whose views are, in turn, a mix of their own, and other teachers). As a result, I’m not going to attempt to give references and sources for every idea. No one owns these ideas, though there are many with more advanced understanding of them who have articulated them brilliantly. I will point in a general direction, and encourage you to travel under your own power there, refusing to just accept anything I or these teachers say, but instead doing the mental work of testing everything said against your own research and experience. The Internet has changed everything in terms of our ability to go deeply into topics that just a few years ago would have required many painful hours in a library. We need to learn how to take advantage of this while we still can. Anyone who needs to apply a very reductionist lens, and find some specific view here that can be attacked and refuted, will be disappointed by this essay. The necessary research demands the balanced participation of both halves of your brain, the critical, discerning half, and the intuitive, compassionate half, as well as the participation of your heart. Do the hard work of enlivening and developing both halves and the heart, and you may be surprised at the internal and external doors that open as a result.
So humanity is trapped by multiple false religions, but one of the most important is a religion called “authority” (Mark Passio and many others, http://www.whatonearthishappening.com/). This is an idea that we are fed from birth, and it is reinforced again and again, until it becomes like the water the fish swims in and so is thus not even aware that “water” exists. It seems so fundamental to everything, and no one around us doubts it, and we are rewarded for believing it, and punished for speaking out against it. I believed this idea for 43 years, so I am not special in this regard.
The myth of “authority” is ancient and simple. One person, or group of people, has the right and duty to issue commands, and all of the rest of the people have a duty to obey those commands, and if they don’t obey, it is moral that they be punished by the rulers with death, violence, or loss of freedom. Otherwise, we are told every day since our birth, it will be chaos! People cannot run their own lives, they’re too stupid, violent, greedy and selfish! So we will take a small subset of those same stupid, violent, greedy and selfish people and charge them with running all of our lives, and allow them to use any violence necessary to do so. (Larken Rose, “The Most Dangerous Superstition”, “The Iron Web”) Of course, the rulers themselves are not bound by the rules they enforce, ever. It’s the tough discipline of the capitalist marketplace for the 99%, and massive, tax-funded bailouts for the 1%.
In the old days, this myth of authority was called “the divine right of kings”, and the masses were told that the monarch got this right to rule directly from God, so if we disobeyed the monarch, we were disobeying God. Things went along, and supposedly in 1776 this idea was overthrown, and now “the people” suddenly had a right to express an opinion regarding how things were run. But on balance, for the masses, the system of hereditary power continued, it was just replaced with an oligarchy, which itself is largely hereditary. We now have permanent rule by the richest and their chosen lackeys, because of the topic of a different essay, because these people control the money printing press. The structure of the society under the monarchs did not fundamentally change, still now, post-“Revolution”, a relative few at the top of the pyramid call the shots, while the many at the bottom must obey, but there are perhaps a few more masters at the top of the pyramid.
But now, where do these slightly more numerous nouveau monarchs claim to get this right to rule everyone else? They get it when we walk into that voting booth and express our consent to it. They set up a fascinating, dramatic, but completely rigged game, in which every contrived “choice” they allow us to make serves them. Coke or Pepsi? IBM or Apple? Romney or Obama? Or as George Carlin so astutely puts it, “Forget the politicians! The politicians are there to give you the illusion that you have a choice. You have no choice! You have owners! They own you!” So then we dutifully play our part, as I did for years, telling my friends who were rejecting all electoral politics that that was exactly what the far right wanted them to do! Can’t you see that we must play the game? To not do so is apathy!
Well, Hitler was elected. It is in fact quite a difficult logistical challenge to set up large scale atrocities like Nazi Germany or the slaughter of the American Indian, these can only really get going in a society where the myth of authority is well-entrenched, and provides the necessary governing apparatus, tax dollars, the cops and soldiers, and moral sanction to kill on a large scale (Manifest Destiny! The Master Race! Law and Order!).
Government is supposedly created to protect us from killing and stealing and raping. Unfortunately, that government always itself goes on to be the best at killing, stealing and raping, because they are the LAW, there is nowhere else to appeal other than this psychopathic power structure. Search “police brutality” on YouTube if you still doubt this fact. (And I know, this sounds like a far-right antigovernment rant, that’s how I would have heard it too, just a few short years ago. The Left/Right paradigm is just another clever deception created to control us, to give us that illusion of choice. They’re all on the same team, playing against us.)
This concentrated, centralized power structure calls to psychopaths like a flame does a moth. They are then able to kill at an industrial scale (and have, many times), where any individual crazy is quite limited in what they can do. The only way to effectively stop the genocidal maniacs of the future is to do away with the myth of authority, to deny them the infrastructure that they need to do crazy on a large scale.
Whenever an anarchist brings up the fact that it is impossible to concentrate this power in the hands of the few, and have them not go on to abuse it, that this ALWAYS happens, we hear “there has to be control! Someone has to restrain the truly crazy, dark psychopaths!” It would be great if the work of police officer or soldier only attracted gentle, sane, mature Andy Griffith types, who are balanced, wise sages who only use the power they’ve been granted for good. Is this anyone’s actual experience of the military or police? Sure, there are a few good eggs, and a few bad apples, but on balance these organizations, like the government generally, are populated primarily by people who CRAVE POWER and desire to CONTROL OTHERS, and think it is OK to use violence to do so. As anarchists are fond of saying, the last person who should have power is someone who wants it. These are people who believe the myth of authority is true, and they are well rewarded for this belief. So there is nothing more chaotic than having heavily armed “enforcers” who are themselves criminals, while, for “safety”, everyone else is disarmed. Who polices the police?
But certainly Elizabeth Warren will make this all better! Or Ron Paul! Or maybe we can get Kucinich back? How about a pointless attempt at a presidential run by Bernie Sanders? If only GMOs were labeled! Or gay people were respected! It is time to stop struggling over endless SYMPTOMS and instead go for the real CAUSES. So we thought the ballot would save us from the bullet, actually, ultimately it leads to many more bullets. So the first, easy, indispensable steps on a path to real freedom via noncompliance with evil: stop voting, stop dithering over electoral issues of any kind, and when people accuse you of being apathetic, unapologetically explain to them how you no longer vote because you are MORE engaged and MORE informed than the average voter. Apathy is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. We are not powerless, the power is in our hands, but paradoxically, it often doesn’t manifest as something you need to do. It more frequently manifests as stopping doing, stopping complying, stopping paying, stopping just going along with lies and insanity as if they are truth and sanity.
A couple of favorite quotes to conclude things:
“Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it." Aung San Suu Kyi
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” ―
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark