Voting not to Vote


The 2015 Canadian election is finally underway and many of my excited friends and colleagues have already decided who they'll be voting for: no one. They are declining the ballot not for good, wholesome, traditionally Canadian reasons like, “I can't be assed to take a break from the TV,” or “I don't give a fuck,” or even the humble, “There's an election?”—rather, they genuinely believe no one's the candidate for them.

Vote for no one! A vote for no one is a vote to keep this country great! No one's a man of people! No one cares about you and your family! No one's the political star of the age and champion of our race's manifest destiny! Vote no one or the figments of a paranoid moral panic will engulf the nation and inflict unspeakable atrocities upon your loved ones!

I have long been suspicious of partisans. The sight of someone holding a pamphlet listing the virtues of a party platform strikes me with the same apprehension of brainwashing I fear from bible thumping door-to-door evangelists. Religious zealots, at least, can justify their conviction against the endorsement of some magical superman—partisans get that enthusiastic about promises made by middle-aged and older slime-ball lawyers. As civil society descends ever further into stagnation, however, our non-voters have begun to sound of the same missionary fervor. Not only are they voting for no one, they believe in it too.

I will not petition them to do otherwise. To do so would fling me headlong into a yawn-worthy debate over whether voting has some symbolic value as a mass ritual reaffirming the universal dignity of each citizen by aligning their individual subjectivity with the ideal of popular sovereignty, or whether it demonstrates contrition in a political system that justifies the right of ruling elites to inflict their will upon the suffering masses by demanding their participation in a grotesque pageant of commercialized, reality TV-style campaigning designed to fabricate a fictitious political mandate. Instead of concentrating on voting, let us instead consider our options.

To suggest we fight for reform at the ballot box is like suggesting a medieval peasant fight for reform by flinging themselves into the mud before whatever lord they're slaving for and pleading to be spared this or that routine torment because, for pity's sake, Tiny Tim's sick half-to-death, and Uncle Pete's got the devil in him again, and we're all just getting over that witch old Bess poisoning the well—it's a noble's job, after all, to dole out justice to their serfs. Surely the formal declarations of benevolence claimed by both feudalism and electoral politics can be taken at face value—they're supposed to help people!

Many modern nation states provide a perfectly transparent framework for addressing every citizen's myriad interest—bribery. Yes, sending the right stack of bills to the right people can accomplish anything. This is about as accountable as electoral politics when you consider that either way the shadowy bureaucrats who actually wield power ultimately make up their own minds—at least bribery gives them any incentive to do as their asked.

The most ancient political systems depended upon that most endearing of institutions, dumb luck. Oracles, omens, and signs have formed the backbone of sound political decision-making since time immemorial. Want to know whether to go to war? Drop a crab into a hollow log and see which end it scuttles out. Need a more nuanced proposal for an upcoming trade deal? Hack a cow apart and scrutinize each aspect of it's liver in detail. Or how about getting some virgins high and writing the annual budget according to their visions?—to say nothing of the cryptic potential inherent to dream interpretation. This kind of politics is, at least, equally obscure to all.

It wouldn't take much to make it participatory either. Each side could select a champion to set ablaze and the one that jumps into the water last wins! Finally, the most passionate would prevail. I'd feel a lot better about the incumbent government if I knew its policies had been purchased with a heap of charred conservative corpses.

But, let's not forget the example of effective government provided by our revolutionaries! I think Canadian democracy would be much improved if the ballot box were used not to send a few hundred shady factionalists to parliament, but the public spectacle of the guillotine! We could behead Harper, Trudeau, and Mulcair in the same afternoon! If our political system can be called transparent because we can punish a party's misdeeds by voting them out of office in the next election, imagine how transparent it would be to vote them out of existence! Parliament Hill might as well be a house of glass (not that you'd be able to see through it for all the blood gushing out of everyone's neck holes).

In ancient Athens the highest houses of government were administered by common shlubs selected by lottery the way we do jury duty. Instead of old lawyers and money-men with connections we'd have a cross-section of common Canadians deciding how this country ought to be run. Rather than ignoring the constitution, they'd be ignorant of it.

If you've ever had to feed five friends—invariably accommodating a vegan, a celiac, a picky little bitch, and a cannibal—the horror implied by such a proposal should be obvious. Imagine having to hash out the fate of the nation with the sort of people you get sandwiched between in a lineup at the passport office.

Athens ran into problems too, voting for the immediate genocide of Mytilene one day and deciding to spare it the next—it's hard to flip-flop about these things—but part of me thinks we should give it a try just to see what would happen. I'm not sure what territory would ever agree to such a scheme, so let's volunteer Prince Edward Island—that way, it's no big loss if it doesn't work out.

I think we can all agree the ideal form of government is Fascism—yes, Fascism would be perfect if only it were your private interests being promoted as the necessary, exclusive, representation of the common welfare. Something you don't like? Make it a crime punishable by social exclusion and imprison! Are there people you don't like? Genocide! Something you find sexy? Make it the central motif of your nationalist propaganda! Something you want? It's now freely available to you at public expense. And you get to play toy soldiers with people's lives too!

Certainly as the world's democracies come to the Neo-Liberal consensus that their sovereignty ought to be constrained by international corporate finance and vote suppression, it's an idea we're all going to have to get very used to.

Yes, we can vote, but we've also got options.