What Your Vote Means

by Manuel García, Jr.

September 20, 2004   


(Swans - September 20, 2004)   It's all about oil.

See http://www.worldp ress.org/specials/pp/front.htm, and click on the map called "Oil and Gas Pipelines in Central Asia," or find http://www.worldpress.org/specials/pp/pipelines.htm, (active 8 September 2004).

Welcome to the next war. It should be over in about 40 years.

We, people who would read a magazine like Swans, will have piercing insights and write great articles about it all, but this war is not preventable.

And this brings me to the election.

Those who say it doesn't matter how you vote are correct, when it comes to this war, or any fundamental change in American policies or public attitudes. Whoever is crowned, by whatever fair or unfair electoral procedure, this war will be pursued with unflagging devotion.

Why? Because 97% of Americans want it that way. If you don't believe my 97% number, go out on the freeway -- that is America's collective unconscious.

What DOES matter in this election is the possible fate of the most marginalized people in the country, those who most need the many forms of public assistance -- the infirm, ignorant, poor and generally disoriented lost souls who get their majority of what could be called help from charity groups and agencies funded directly or indirectly by government, to some degree.

Beyond that, the next most vulnerable group to the whims of political fortune are children and those with the lowest wages and least workplace protections. You can easily imagine a catalogue of such types. The only impact we as voters really have is in affecting the outcome for these people. To the extent there is a difference between the war candidates on the treatment of these populations, that is our leverage.

That this is a pretty paltry degree of leverage for popular votes maddens and frustrates many, including me, but that is the way it is.

So, if you want to be frustrated about what you can't get by voting -- fine, but worthless. If you want to get more for your particular vote, then you have to offer time and money as well. Time is cheap and prices are steep in this market, so don't expect much for what you offer.

A better attitude, to my mind, is to take what you can get from voting, which is best done by thinking about the consequences of your act (and who those consequences will fall upon) and taking responsibility for it, and to focus on that rather than your own preference among candidates, or your own preference among imaginable politics for the society.

Vote as an agent of compassion and change, not as a consumer of political "product."

Remember, the entire propaganda industry that manipulates your thinking (oh yes, even you) works to program you to vote your ego; and the elites that control the political process structure parties and candidate personas to reflect these ego self-images, to collect popular votes and power under the pretense of becoming the proxy of the popular will. So, if you are voting your ego, for whomever it may be, then "they" win.

Well then, how do you actually affect changes in the society, if voting is essentially neutralized? That's wide open. It's your time, money, preferred causes and style. What I am convinced of is that the people who will be most effective at actually instigating social and political changes will be those who most accurately and realistically analyze the nature of the existing system and its basis in widely and tenaciously held attitudes.

In my opinion, such a realistic assessment would indicate that no social change is possible as a voluntary movement. The oil drive is terminal, the war is an inevitability -- we're in it now -- and the consequences of this war must be sustained, like it or not. By voting and with social agitation, we may be able to soften some of the blows that will fall on some of the easiest victims. But, real change will only come in response to real consequences.

After the sky has fallen, umbrella salesmen will be welcomed.

If we give up in despair, I am not suggesting that realism absolves us. Despair, and abandonment of voting, is simply an egotistical response to realizing that personal preferences are not available. Instead, remain committed to extracting what little good the system allows, to help in softening those blows we know will fall -- on somebody.

Who knows what may come out of that? The future is always fundamentally uncertain, and it seems a better and happier choice to blend our efforts into keeping hopes alive so long as we are.

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US Elections & Democracy on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans

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Manuel García, Jr. is a graduate aerospace engineer, working as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He did underground nuclear testing between 1978 and 1992. He is concerned with employee rights and unionization at the nuclear weapons labs, and the larger issue of their social costs. Otherwise, he is an amateur poet who is fascinated by the physics of fluids, zen sensibility, and the impact of truth.

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Published September 20, 2004
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