Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Won't Vote

I decided this morning that I won’t vote.
I decided to put my vote with the Anarchist non-party of the World.
I’m with the growing majority of Canadians who just don’t see how their vote will affect the “going to hell in a handbasket” path our leaders are on.

Their refusal to let Elizabeth May into the televised debate was the last straw.

I’m tired of the petty squabbling over the chance to serve the real leaders of our country - corporate interests. Jack Layton’s promise to limit credit card interest rates is like the student council president telling us he’ll stand up to the high school principal. Behind that high school CEO is a vast power structure. We all know who’s got the power.

I believe in democracy. I just don’t believe in parliamentary democracy.

Hasn’t it always been so?
Wasn’t parliament invented to try to get the best deal from the rich?
Isn’t that the job of politicians? To twist the arms of the rich and ruthless (that’s a redundancy I know – to be rich is to be ruthless) so that they are forced, shamed, coaxed into sharing.

How can politicians get them to do what their kindergarten teachers failed to do? Like petty thieves going to prison to learn how not to get caught next time, Country Clubs provide the rich a place to trade tax law loopholes. Taxes are mere nuisances in their quest for what is their due.

The rich necessarily have an attitude – I don’t know if you’ve noticed it – that they have a “right” to profit at other’s expense. How can investors in Canadian mining companies turn a blind eye to the theft and devastation of native lands? They must feel that they have a right to profit at whatever are deemed “acceptable costs”.  How can theft be called “acceptable”? How can any level of cancer causing radiation be called “acceptable?

To vote is to participate in this process of negotiating with thieves and mad scientists.

Jesus said “unless you pick up your cross – you cannot follow me”.

He didn’t say “hold you nose and vote”.

The “cross” is an invitation to martyrdom. In the face of an empire that had corrupted the religious authorities of his country – the indigenous rulers who themselves had bought power with righteous violence – Jesus says “commit Hari Kari”.

His own death is a statement about power. He clearly says ‘You can take it all. Take my money, clothes, dignity - put my followers to the test at the point of a sword and watch them run – make me watch them turn against me - and then torture me til I’m dead. And then we will see. We will see what the worst of your power can do to the souls I have fed.”

When people have nothing to lose, they have everything to gain. When the rich and ruthless take it all away – all you have is your soul.

If I choose to follow Jesus, then I am choosing to follow a soul.
Not a politician. Not a preacher. Not a saint. Just a soul.  

Now I can wait til I’m dead to follow him to some heavenly peace. Or I can wait to see if my accumulated sins will end up torturing me for all time. Or I can choose to lose my life and live as if I’m already dead – as if all I’ve got – really – no really – is a soul.

Soul gets expressed only moment by moment.
It gets tested in every moment and every decision.
I can’t expect the soul decisions I make today to last past sunset or moonrise.

Some rich and ruthless one will be sure to take whatever real thing my yesterday’s soul expression results in - and twist it into an opportunity for more power, prestige, money, or a means to those ends.  Every artist knows this all too well.

Take a look at Jesus’ own soul expressions. His words and acts have been used and abused for all the right and wrong reasons for centuries. Misinterpreted, manipulated, manifested into great works of charity that provide safe havens for both sheep and wolf in the same pen.

Of all the print and commentary that has flowed thru my brain in these last weeks – all the news of war, man made environmental disaster, political hockey games, and failures of community to protect the weak – these words rung true.

In a conversation with a Kurdish friend, CPTer Carol Rose commented that sometimes nonviolence doesn’t yield the hoped-for-results right away. The friend replied “Yes, but sometimes you are happy in nonviolence because you are not losing your soul. You might lose hope, or get tired, but you are not losing your soul.”
from Signs of the Times
Christian Peacemmaker Teams
Oct – Dec 2010

For me, voting in this election would be a soul-deteriorating act. One more small compromise of what I know to be true. It would be one more step off the Jesus path – a distraction from the path of soul. Doing something that seems like a thumb in the dike when I need to be living as if the flood has already come and washed away all of my “acceptable” creature comforts. Comforts bought at the cost of the earth and the earth’s peoples.

Will I also ditch my car and walk that path?
One soul expression at a time.
Today my soul says “I will not vote”.

Anyone care to join me?


Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff Allan - and not just because it's an anti-parliamentary rant into the bargain. Although not spiritual in origin, I'm of the opinion that people who don't take the time to educate themselves on Canadian political party opinions, shouldn't vote. It's not crazy.

There's more to democracy than "the right to vote". The right to not vote, for stated views like yours, is also valid.

Paul Connelly said...

Allan, I read your blog while standing in line at an advance poll today. When I looked up from my phone I saw a scene that, if it had been a movie, critics and the audience would have called clichéd. There was a tri-generational family from India in the line-up; a chinese woman; another woman from the Caribbean; a man talking in Italian on his mobile phone; a group of people who looked Toronto-born and -raised; a mixed-race couple; a disabled adult being pushed in a wheelchair by his sister; a couple with kids in a stroller; a woman pulling in kid in a red wagon; two middle-aged women who, if they weren't lesbians, seemed pretty comfortable wearing many of the signifiers that said "dyke", a young woman who seemed to be voting for the first time since she appeared to be young enough to have been ineligible to vote last time; several retired couples, some with walking sticks, some without; people from a nearby public housing apartment building; people like me from single-family housing in Leslieville. One of the Elections Canada volunteers had multiple face piercings, which doesn't exactly conform to the popular image of an Elections worker. And there we all were, waiting in line for half an hour, no complaints, everyone smiling or at least in apparent good humour.

Maybe we were dupes. Maybe our good intentions will be perverted by the powers and principalities. But everyone was their through their own will. We wanted to do this. We wanted our voice to be heard.

Allan, I think you need to consider the reality that the rich and powerful win two ways. If the party (or two parties) they support get elected, then laws will be passed to protect their privilege. But if we don't vote, they will win that way too. You must be aware of the intense campaign at least since Reagan and Thatcher were in power to promote private enterprise, to de-legitimize government, to even call into question the notion that people can grasp the levers of power to create a society they want. (Remember, Thatcher said there's no such thing as "society", and Reagan said government was the problem.)

But there was a group of people with me today saying things don't have to be that way. There is a locus of power that doesn't rest with the corporations, with the "ruthless rich" as you call them. That locus is a democratically elected government. It can be a counterbalance to the powers you decry. The people can use democracy to demand social policies that serve the common good, not just the corporate good.

I know there are flaws (lack of proportional representation being an obvious one, since the first-past-the-post system tends to exaggerate regional differences and create an us-vs-them scenario). I know the economic forces will press on the elected MPs right from day one. I know there's a good chance there will be a circus about "coalitions" vs. "legitimate governments". But we need to play this out. We need to get people we want into Parliament and we need to keep them accountable.

You'll note I'm not countering your theological position and justification for your conclusion. I'm just bringing forward my own experience of today (Good Friday, as it happens), to stand in contrast to what you said. I'll leave for another day my questions about your shaky theological construct.

But for now, my message to you is don't give up. If you do, the bad guys win.