What follows is an argument free of any Party alignment though I naturally tend towards what is called the ‘Left’ and bring with me a certain disenchantment via my American heritage.
My thinking is this: pretending that I have influence when I do not is an unsustainable denial of the reality of my public powerlessness.
Therefore, I will not vote.
Thanks to Fiona Katauskas
Because the offers from the major Parties are the same: same economics, same foreign policy, same education and health policies, all coming from the same socio-economic-political paradigm and only differing in defending or offending the dwindling power of workers to stand up for themselves and the unbridled powers of management to take even more than today’s excesses.
And because my vote doesn’t matter in two ways: because I live in a safe Labor seat; and because it doesn’t contribute to the overall outcome.
Both of these defects of Australian democracy are found in other democracies like the USA and UK. They matter now more than ever and are most obvious where actual votes as a proportion of possible (or registered) votes are counted as in the USA and UK, where Bush and Blair were elected by less than half of half the possible voters.
This leads to the deeper reasons I won’t vote.
I won’t vote because the political process is so debased that nothing can come of it apart from minor revisions of general existing trends. The debasing has two main forms: the conversion of every public utterance into a ‘debate’ with a lifecycle of a few days (if you’re lucky) before it becomes dead media meat; and the aversion of responsibility by political actors at all levels (for example, the epidemic of denial in the anglosphere, at least, around Iraq).
Hand in hand with these debasements goes the degeneration of the language of public discourse into a slimy sludge of clichÃ©s and dogwhistles covering all areas of human activity. Whether the linguistic material or its use to spin the world came first doesn’t matter the combination makes it very difficult to tell any sort of concrete truth, especially within the adversarial arenas which nowadays pass for public discussion spaces.
But who cares? Why does it matter if I vote or not?
These are ‘powerful times,’ characterised by dilemmas across a wide range of human contexts. They create personal and social fragmentation through the increased intensity, pace and unpredictability of daily life. Some responses to this experience disengagement, disconnection, rage, social breakdowns of all sorts are acknowledged across the political spectrum, though with different valences and cadences.
And all this is happening when capitalism is at its historic height of productivity and standards of living (for the fortunate) are also high combined with the growing realisation that more stuff and choice doesn’t mean better lives.
If our political and discussion systems cannot engage this world, we will certainly make more mistakes in our responses to it than necessary. So far, we are doing quite un-successfully following faith-based strategies in international affairs, and look likely to continue doing so, only more painfully. The shortcomings of the approach are becoming evident, and when these are the outcomes of the greatest democracies ‘spreading democracy’ we all have to start wondering.
What kind of action does this situation call for? How about these: non-compliance with the systems which sustain the various debasements of democratic practice sketched above; encouraging others to do likewise; initiating systems or spaces which allow emerging realities to be entertained by participants?
A ‘protest vote’ isn’t an option for me because a protest has to be heard to be effective; the Greens and Democrats are already cast out of the pale by the majority discourses.
Therefore, I will not vote and will not pay the subsequent fine. And I encourage you to do the same.
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