“All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” – Guy Debord
To borrow a line from Politics is not a Banana, Barack Obama does not exist. Neither does Mitt Romney. Nor Joe Biden, or even that studly Paul Ryan. Sure, there are people with these names, but there was also probably someone named Jesus, but I sincerely doubt he walked on water.
Instead what exists are figures, like Jesus, messianic by nature, carefully designed to make us think they will pull us out of whatever woes we face, to answer whatever prayers we may have. We can only hope tomorrow is better, that the economy will be “fixed” (whatever that means, as if our collective experience in this world can be summed by a single abstraction of a nation’s financial well-being). A witty one-liner or picturesque smile might make us go to bed easier, at least for one night, if only to rise again and go to work.
The point isn’t that voting won’t change anything (which it most certainly will not), but that we have resigned ourselves into allowing these vultures to make our life decisions for us. Anyone who listens to Democracy Now! at all knows the Democratic Party doesn’t flinch when it comes to bombing foreign countries or increasing surveillance on American citizens. The Republican boogeymen created by the Democratic Party, and vice-versa, only serve to hide the fact that they are exactly the same. All of the infighting aside, both meet the whims of the powerful and serve to further oppress wage slaves at home and sweatshop workers abroad. The wars won’t end and the “middle class” probably won’t ever be proud homeowners again.
Representative politics exists to strip the power we have over our own lives, but with the shiny veneer that the power still resides in us; that fellow “citizens” who share our problems will meet our needs, just as long as we vote for the right ones. This serves undeniably to take the decision-making of our everyday conditions–from our jobs and our towns–out of our own hands. Think of the last time a road or a suburb was built-in your neighborhood, were you consulted? Rather than maintaining autonomy on our own being and communities, we instead relegate it to those who do it for a paycheck.
This self-perpetuating castration is not only painful, but dangerous. Not only for us, but for the environment. As a living being on this planet, my interests lie with those of my fellow living beings, plants and animals alike. But as a material representation of the rich and powerful solely dedicated to the perseverance of capital and the state, our elected officials couldn’t care less. No amount of federal regulations are going to stop the death-march of civilization from destroying every last tree in order to consolidate power and profit.
So what does this all mean? A call not to vote isn’t a call for apathy–that’s what voting is! Instead, take the time you would spend making phone calls for your preferred candidate or watching scripted debates and spend it on collaborating with your neighbors, coworkers, and friends, people who actually might share similar interests to you, and help push for a world in which we make the decisions that affect us.
By Jesse Rogers