Nonviolent votes?

From this week’s Sojourners newsletter:

We recoil from nonviolence at our peril. Dr. King rightly saw it at the heart of democracy. Our nation is a great cathedral of votes — votes not only for Congress and for president, but also votes on Supreme Court decisions and on countless juries. Votes govern the boards of great corporations and tiny charities alike. Visibly and invisibly, everything runs on votes. And every vote is nothing but a piece of nonviolence.

– Historian Taylor Branch, in a recent op-ed, “The Last Wish of Martin Luther King.”

How is voting, particularly in government, nonviolent when every act of government is back up with the threat of violence? Votes are cast for those who support a certain sense of morality so that those who transgress that morality will be threatened with violence. As long as there are prisons, police, judges and soldiers then voting will be a violent act.

The Presidential Election

I’m amused by the grand pageant that is a presidential race. I follow along halfheartedly, thinking of the various personalities as characters on some TV dramedy, and just trying to see where the story goes. There are some I like more than others, and many I truly despise.

That said, I’m not voting. I haven’t in many years.

Now, knowing that any political post is quickly followed up by people saying “Oh, but you’re wrong!”, I’m going to write about this anyway.

The foundation of my decision not to vote is that participation in an election is entrusting one’s authority to make decisions to another party. Voting is giving sanction to the government, telling them by casting a vote I endorse the form of government and its ability to make decisions in my place. Voting is also taking on responsibility for the actions of the government. If I had voted for a senator who voted for the Patriot Act? I’d have given them the authority to do that. Voting is giving away the right to self-determination and taking responsibility for the theft of that right from others.

A further reason for not voting in a presidential race is that the President of the USA is the commander of the military forces of the country. As a pacifist I cannot say, “Oh, I’d like this person to be in charge of the murder of people.” No. I will not choose the person who has access to that little red button. I’ll settle for nothing less than the destruction of that button. I won’t try to choose someone who will use their military might with restraint. That is a sanction of the use of said force AT ALL. I won’t compromise.

Is Dubya a psychopathic warmonger? Yes. Without question.

Was Clinton better?

Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish.

Bill Clinton, December 16, 1998

Sounds like a familiar justification to me. Less psychopathic? Yes. Still evil? Yes.

In keeping with the pacifist reasons for not voting, years ago I came to realize that the central principal of any form of government is violence. There is very little difference between Capitol Hill and the Mafia. Deviate from approved behavior and we are met with thugs threatening or using violence. Refuse to pay for protection (is there a difference between taxes and protection money?) and the thugs are at our door, stealing and brutalizing if we don’t comply. Choosing nicer bosses for the thugs does not change the centrality of violence to government, and sanctioning government by voting is saying that this violence is okay.

I’m not going to offer up my power to make decisions, my power to work for good in the world. I’m not going to say that violence is okay when the majority agrees on who should direct it. No. Not me. I will not vote.

Hierarchy, Scarcity, Beauty and Love (from touchyourself.org)

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. My last semester of undergrad work, and probably my last semester of college overall, has just gotten underway and I’ve been getting back into the swing of things with school. I walk a lot, and the past couple of days I’ve been listening to the audio version of Crimethinc‘s manifesto, Days of War, Nights of Love (buy the book or download the audio) and the discussion on capitalism, competition and a scarcity economy sent me off on a tangent. The authors write:

The truth is that there are simply not enough job openings for everyone to be a rock star or a syndicated cartoonist; somebody has to work in the factories to mass produce the records and newspapers. If you don’t become the next world-famous basketball star, and end up selling athletic shoes in a mall instead you must not have tried hard enough… so it’s your fault if you’re bored there, right? … Rather than all competing to be the one at the top of the corporate ladder or the one in a million lottery winner, we should be trying to figure out how to make it possible for all of us to do what we want with our lives… Thus capitalism centers everyone’s values around what the have rather than what they do, by making them spend their lives competing for the things they need to survive and achieve social standing.

In so much we do we take on the mindset that “there’s only so much X to go around, so I have to get the most I can. I have to get as close to the top of the hierarchy as possible, or else someone else will get more and use it against me.” It’s a competition and scarcity-economy based mindset. Living in a capitalist and materialist society where “stuff” is the primary god and “stuff” is finite, it is easy to see why this mindset is in place. When worth is determined by hierarchical status and acquisition of “goods” (how good are they?) then the competitive drive is what pushes you toward survival and beyond to comfort. As much as I dislike it, I can understand why such a view of the world can be beneficial within our system.

But so often we don’t limit the hierarchical/scarcity worldview to the realms of material possessions. It bleeds over into abstract concepts and emotions. You love Jim, so you can’t love Jane. That would displace Jim from his place in the hierarchy and take away the finite amount of love he gets. I don’t think anyone really believes love is finite, but when it comes to sharing love beyond the elevation of the single person to status of lover, then the hierarchical/scarcity mindset automatically kicks in. Fear takes over and there is a scramble to stop this loss of the good of love and maintain the place at the top of the love hierarchy.

It’s asinine.

And of course it doesn’t stop there. I remember telling one of my friends how physically beautiful she was to me, and she was flattered, even though she did not trust in her own beauty. Over time she became aware that I find extraordinary amounts of beauty in extraordinary amounts of people. When we came back to the topic of my finding her beautiful she remarked that it meant very little since I thought so many people were beautiful. By finding X, Y and Z beautiful, I was taking away from the amount of beauty L had, at least in her eyes. Beauty is valued, and since we are so conditioned to think hierarchically then the one who is beautiful is at the top of the beauty pyramid. When the definition of beauty, or rather, the recognition of beauty is expanded, then there is no pyramid to be on top of. In the hierarchical/scarcity mindset, this devalues the beauty of any one person by not making it the pinnacle of beauty. To this way of thinking, something is only valuable because of its rarity.

Love is valuable because it is.

Beauty is valuable because it is.

Neither can be ranked. Neither is finite! As long as we keep applying this pyramid scheme to things outside our economy all we will do is hurt ourselves and damage each others self-worth.

Come to think of it, that’s what we do when we apply it within our economy as well.