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Why voting is an exercise in futility

By Sean Hurley

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
Emma Goldman

Voting has not always been a pointless exercise, there was certainly a time when it was the most efficient way to bring order to society. With the advent of the internet, however, voting has become exposed as critically lacking in value and effectiveness when it comes to how we socially organise ourselves.

Candidates have their nuances, and let’s be fair here, that is all it really is. With the American Presidential election finally over we have a brand new great white hope and like we saw all the rhetoric from the Obama camp we will get it again from Donald Trump. Fundamentally what change are we being offered? Nothing really, nothing of substance, concerns are pushed around and people play at the fringes of real issues suggesting superficial changes. Yes those superficial changes can have serious consequences for people, however when we step back and look at the big picture we are not even beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the deep lasting systemic changes we need to be making in the short term.

It is the same in any “democracy”, from New Zealand to Canada, we are all overloaded with political rhetoric and slogans at election time. Stop the boats, growth and jobs, build a brighter future, change we can believe in, it’s time for action, a future fair for all, yes we can, killing for crude…

Okay maybe not that last one, not out loud anyway, the point is all we are getting is politically charged bullshit and it’s not even new and improved bullshit. Nope it’s all old hack, neatly repackaged for mass consumption as the go to phrase when thoughtless applause is required. The goal is to get us voting and keep us voting.

What do we get for Voting?

A truncated view of the world, restoring the economy, dealing with immigration, protection from terror and action on climate change are the big four. We have a tendency to look at these as separate issues, we can stimulate the economy, secure our borders, engage in the war on terror and preserve our environment. We are sold these issues with some limited connection, where it serves to maintain the status quo. The economy can’t grow as effectively if immigration puts too much strain on infrastructure, if people are gripped with fear of terror, or if environmental action is damaging to corporate expansion. So we get the promise of jobs, a hard line on border protection, engagement in war on foreign soil to protect the homeland, stricter security so we feel safe and a measured approach to the environment.

What we don’t get are the more complex connections, maybe partially because subconsciously we don’t really want some dots to be connected, but this is also most certainly deliberate. How many of us are aware the destabilization of Syria started with a severe drought which is almost certainly connected to climate change, resulting in mass protest, rebellion, giving extremist groups a foothold in the nation.

Do we want to consider how countries destabilized by war and civil unrest will create mass migration, just like serious economic disparity or hardship can also fuel migration as people attempt to move in search of opportunity. It is a sad reality that a portion of our western society do not see extreme economic hardship as a good enough reason to accept people into our lives of abundance. It certainly has parallels to “The Hunger Games” where the haves gorge themselves in the opulence of their walled citadel, while the have nots eck out a meager subsistence as they provide for the needs of the capital. The parallels here between western and emerging, as they are termed, nations is stunning. People in Africa scraping by as western corporations load containerships with resources destined to return with our waste. Fittingly for our system of economics governments and corporations in these nations are charged for the waste, western corporations never lose.

The only time our politicians have any interest in discussing the impacts of our global economy or foreign nations is when it impacts us directly. When we start to feel the pinch, because China is slowing down, or a terror group is creating trouble for our oil corporations. We are certainly not going to discuss how our voracious appetites for stuff is promoting deforestation, or that we have access to cheap products because of slave labour.

No we are the lucky countries, we have and the only thing which matters more than having is making sure we keep having, no matter the expense. So at election time we get slogans, we get promises of continued prosperity, we get to keep voting for corporate backed representatives.

In a system where our politicians are beholden to the corporate dollar to fund a campaign it is simply unreasonable to expect conversation about how our economies impact on people. We can stem crime with more laws and enforcement, why would we want to ask how a system of differential advantage impacts on behaviour? Look at all the stuff you can buy, don’t worry about where it comes from, or where it goes when you are done with it. We need more jobs so we will make more stuff, don’t worry about the environment or those other nations, they have a corruption problem it has nothing to do with us. Just keep voting.

So let’s get the Money out of Politics!

This is a fantastic push, not because it will actually achieve anything but because of what it subconsciously admits and accepts, money corrupts. It’s a gentle baby step in the right direction, our species cautiously testing the water of a new way of thinking.

However our struggle for social progress is not being restricted by money in politics alone, we must also confront the status quo.

“We preserve the status quo, preserve existing systems”
Julie Bishop Minister for Foreign Affairs Australia

This mindset will stifle any real progress before it has even begun. If we are unwilling to question the existing system, the impact our global economies have on every other system on this planet, then how can we hope to have any kind of lasting change to outcomes? This attitude in itself is an outgrowth of our political structure, as we elevate certain individuals above the rest. These are the smart people, the informed people, the ones who understand and will help to steer society in the correct direction. No politician is going to forward discussion focused on replacing our current political system with anything more efficient. Of course they preserve existing systems, those systems provide them with status and entitlement.

If we are going to start from the presupposition of the existing system being beyond reproach then by default any ills which are an outcome of the scheme are basically being regarded as natural, or unalterable. How can we ever bring an end to inequality from the confines of a frame of reference, by which society is structured, based on people not being equal? How are we to preserve the natural landscape when the economy demands continual growth, seeing as preservation and efficiency result in less economic activity? How can we ever end violence when the distribution of the advancements of society are restricted, meaning the system itself is structurally violent?

“Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
John F. Kennedy

Voting is Design by Opinion.

Voting is an exercise in futility because it makes no more sense to vote on the rules of something as complex as society, than it would to vote for the way to build a bridge or rocket. Surely if we want our society to promote the best outcomes for our entire species then we should harness scientific and technical understandings in that regard, without needing to clear it with elected officials whose primary concern is self preservation.

Our social problems are technical and as such require technical solutions. Not the consensus of uninformed opinion, which is what democracy generates by the very nature of the system. This is not being pessimistic, this is the sad reality of the situation, the voting public in general are woefully uninformed.

What more should we expect from T.V. nations which bombard us all with what amounts to being little more than mindless crap. If we are honest with ourselves we know full well that whereas we understand there are a range of issues on our planet, we are not across the complexity of every subject.

While we are all aware of a refugee crises and how it is driven at least in part by social unrest or war, our understandings of what has lead to those situations can be less well understood. Even when we suspect we do understand, we have a tendency to blame religion or corruption. We are somewhat less inclined to look into how our governments and corporations may be complicit in exacerbating a situation, or how our changing climate may be impacting on people. It easy to blame a “corrupt” government, while not recognising how corruption has become ubiquitous in our society and how corporations not only take advantage of it, but can also be the drivers of corrupt behaviours.

Having an opinion does not make us right or correct about anything, it is nothing more than a representation of our attitudes toward subject matter based on our current level of understanding. Sharing an opinion which is in line, or closely aligns, with party policy is not a validation of that opinion, especially if the party policy is created based on a similar level of understanding. In fact worse, party policy can often be carefully crafted to appeal to the masses without any intention of delving into deeper understandings. Keep it simple and be charming in order to garnish the most support from the voting public.

So if we are rational with ourselves, how can we expect voting for a politician or party will change social outcomes in any real tangible way? Especially when our politicians and parties in general are all working from the same frame of reference, trying to manipulate the rules of a board game which uses acquisition and hoarding as the metric for success.

If Not Voting Then What?

Viewing our social problems as technical in nature, would it not be preferable to empower those with a background in each relevant technical field to resolve problems as they arise in our society. We could have a world where instead of governments and corporations working against each other in order to attain advantage over one another, there could be global teams working together to solve problems, improving society and life in general on our planet.

Now if we really wanted to solve the problem of say drink driving would we strengthen laws and make penalties harsher, or could we perhaps address the situation of humans being in control of motor-vehicles at all? If we allowed the individuals with the appropriate skill sets to work together to research and develop automated vehicles, not only would drink driving be a thing of the past but all driving issues would be resolved. No more speeding, running red lights, accidents, unpredictable reactions and or actions. Just computer guided vehicles that communicate with each other making hundreds if not thousands of decisions a second based on the environment and information gathered from other vehicles around them.

This not only solves all these driving problems but also makes theft redundant, how would anyone steal an automated car and if all cars become automated, why would anyone actually need to own a car? In reality it is not the car we need, but the functional utility of the car. Instead we could phone for a car when it was needed, use it, get out and it drives off to the next place it is needed. Make these vehicles electric and we can start to see some long term fundamental changes take place.

This is just one example of how technical solutions outperform laws and legislation, I am by no means saying that technology itself can solve all our social quandaries. The point here is addressing social problems technically means as a species we get to the root cause and generate solutions, which resolve these issues. This allows us to generate better long-term outcomes, as opposed to fumbling along applying patchwork band aids.

As different problems will stem from different technical variables it is not a select group of technicians that can solve all our complications, but rather many groups of technically skilled individuals working towards solutions for predicaments in their related fields. A desire to be involved with a technical group would only require skill and education in the appropriate field.

The entire process could be completed with total transparency, making all information and progress available to the public via the internet. This could facilitate public involvement in a way our current democratic system does not, giving people a way to raise concerns and gain a more in depth understanding of what was being done. We could also decide that as a team completes a project they must be disbanded and not be able to work on another project for a set period of time.

The current political system, of people arguing with each other and distracting us with bullshit, does not hold a candle to technicians resolving problems through the process of the scientific method. Our technical understandings have opened up a world of possibilities, we could make dramatic changes to our system of social organisation in the interest of greater efficiency and improved outcomes for society in general. Then again we could continue with the voting, suffering the inadequacies of this approach and complaining about politicians lying and making poor decisions. The choice is ours, we have the technical capability to dramatically improve our systems approach to social organisation.

This article was originally published on Social Rebirth.


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  1. king1394

    If people would develop an awareness of the differing philosophies behind major parties, instead of accepting the bribes they offer, voting might be more effective. Voters are choosing their representatives based on personal finances or a promise of improvement to basic services (trains that run on time) rather than recognising any overarching vision. At Council level it’s ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ and at State and Federal level it’s reduced taxes and fees. Only when politicians create a security crisis do most voters give thought to a greater good. No wonder we seem to be permanently involved in some sort of ‘war’

  2. Red Leaf

    People need to be educated about all matters pertaining to politics and voting otherwise voting is indeed a wasted exercise. However, even allowing for all the education available, you cannot expect all people to vote the same way. The policies of either side will always have it’s adherents. For democracy to work the people have to accept the elected leader/party even if they didn’t vote for them. I also believe that for democracy to work voting must also be compulsory but that necessitates compulsory education.

  3. David Bruce

    Two issues here.
    1. Science and scientific method has proven to be great success. Applying it to Human Activity Systems is fraught with disaster. Physical matter may be in more than one place at a time, but it can’t choose between alternatives. Humans can. This is why Economics and Psychology, as they are taught at Universities, are so much bullshit
    2. We will teach them how to vote. The details are in the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Despite being a fraud and a hoax, the Protocols have predicted, with remarkable accuracy, the society we live in today

  4. Ricardo29

    How do the teams of technicians get selected? I’m sorry but i find this article ridiculous and unsatisfying. While i agree with a lot of the underpinning claims i dont think the solution follows. We need a better educated polity which is better informed, and by informed i dont mean fed three word slogans. Perhaps we need to limit politicians to,say, two terms as with the US President. Pay them better and ensure there is no way they can be bribed or influenced. encourage the concept of political service as a noble endeavour, a public service to which you dedicate a fixed term of your life, then move on.

    I wrote a lot more expanding on this concept but in the end decided i was going off with the fairies so deleted it, it was too utopian.

  5. quiltingforkids

    Term limits, say two fixed period terms, may be the answer to a jaded and corrupt political system. But removing the big money from our system is also an answer. Our Congressmen are almost literally bribed by big business interests and will do/say almost anything to retain their positions of power. Given the recent results of our national election, it is, of course difficult for me to tout the advantages of voting over any other approach. However, it still seems to me the best of crappy alternatives.

  6. Athena

    Agree with king1394. A lot of voters only tune into politics at election time and then vote against their own best interests.

  7. Wayne Turner

    It is. In Australia,the ignorant gullible majority out number the informed.The ignorant and gullible majority aided by a MSM that’s BIASED and owned by too few.

    In the USA:-
    For example in America’s latest undemocratic election: Clinton got MORE votes,yet Trump who got LESS votes is president to be.

    All thanks to the flawed and undemocratic electoral college system.

  8. Aortic

    We could all get as well versed in politics as we like, apart from a relative handful of marginals, unless a policy has substantially hurt the vast majority in a major way, the rest wil vote in their time honoured blinkered way. it is all pointless smoke and mirrors designed to placate the masses. Question time is an anachronistic costly joke as they trot out facts and figures to paint as rosy a picture as possible and which to the average punter are entirely unprovable. Democracy at least had a veneer of democratic involvement when all interested parties turned up at town halls to hear in person what candidates were proposing. Today’s social media has taken any semblance of so called “people power” away from the people and real power rests with the corporate donators who call the shots with both majors. Quelle domage but we with our disinterest and disconnect have allowed this to happen. Public funding of elections may help but the movers and shakers will always find a way to undue influence. Truman said, ” no one gives you money and expects nothing in return” and he was so right.

  9. Anomander

    The choice of candidates presented by the two major parties is also a perpetual problem.

    You’re often faced with the prospect of consuming a steaming plate full of shit or a bowl of cold vomit.

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