Back in 2004, there was a campaign by the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective and its allies called “Don’t Just Vote, Get Active.” This campaign argued that whatever our thoughts may be on voting versus non-voting, we should still focus the bulk of our enegry on direct forms of action rather than the indirect approach of voting for candidates. Rather than asking politicians or businessmen to act on our behalf, we should reclaim our power by engaging in directly democratic community organizing and forms of demonstrations which achieve direct results (i.e. interrupting systems of oppression in some direct way rather than asking that they be interrupted). This campaign was an effort to find common ground between people who see voting as endorsement for a corrupt system versus those who see it as a strategically important tool in seeking social change.
Don’t Just Vote inspired a lot of people and mobilized a lot of them into action. Some of them voted; some of them didn’t; all of them sought ways to participate more directly in the political process. Sadly, Mr. Bush was “re-elected”, and Don’t Just Vote faded from prominence. But I’d like to take a moment now to rehash and retool some of their arguments for the current context and issue a call to action of my own.
Voting is a very serious issue. Throughout history, many have fought for our right to vote, and some have even died for it. It is one of our few (if not only) means of participation in the systems of power. And yet, the entire system itself is flawed beyond salvaging. Instead of voting on issues, we are asked to vote on candidates — and these candidates are selected for us by two corrupt political parties and the handful of transnational corporations and businessmen who fund them.
In theory, voting could be one of the great foundations of a truly free and directly democratic society. But in its present form, is it just a brutal mockery of all things free and democratic? If the system of voting asks us to choose between Hitler and Stalin, must we carefully weigh which man is likely to kill less people and vote accordingly?
As usual, I’ve sought to find a golden mean between these two perspectives — a delicate balance of the strengths of each which provides an unexpected and powerful solution.
The Don’t Just Vote campaign is a part of that mean. It shifts the primary focus of our quest for greater freedom and democracy away from the halls of power and into the hands of the people. Our struggle to create a better society is not defined by who we do or don’t elect to office every 2 to 4 years; instead, our struggle is defined by the work of our own hands, and the voices of our communities coming together in pursuit of a better life and a better world.
Personally, I’ve decided to vote. In fact, I’ve decided to endorse an independent political candidate, which I’ll be doing in my next entry. But I haven’t chosen to join a third party, or to spend any substantial amount of my time promoting a third party or any other voting-related initiative.
Why? Because I believe that our greatest hope for better communities and a better society lies in the hands of the people, not the hands of a party or a politician. Even with all of the horrific things I’ve seen in this world, I still believe that we, the people, have the power to act in a free, direct, and democratic manner in the service of a better life for one and all.
I will vote because I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do so. I will vote because I want to lend my support to those good people who do believe in using their political party as an engine of social, economic, political, and ecological change. I will vote because I am so very tired of the madness that surrounds me in the public and social arena, and so terribly desperate to take a public stand against it that I will grasp at straws in order to do so.
But in the end, voting is something that I will only do every couple of years when the opportunity arises. It’s something to do, but it’s not enough. In the end, the important action — the action that will make or break the future of my life, my community, my society, and my world — is the action that I take on a daily basis to promote the spread of noble values and qualities such as freedom, social cooperation, direct democracy, and ecological wisdom.
Don’t just vote, or not vote. Get active! Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members about issues such as global climate change, green collar jobs, health care, and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tell the people in your life how you feel about these and other issues, and ask them what they think. Find ways that you and those close to you can make a direct difference in your own life and the lives of those around you.
Maybe you believe that Politician X is definitely going to bring a great change to Washington. Or maybe you think that there’s not a politician alive who genuinely cares about the good of the people and the planet. Either way, if we want to live in a more free, cooperative, and ecological world, we’re going to need people on the ground in every community to make that happen.
So whatever you do or don’t do on Election Day, be sure to take action on the other 364 days of the year. I can guarantee to you that corporate lobbyists, oil tycoons, war mongers, and other malevolent forces don’t take a break the other 364 days of the year. So why should we? However great or small you contribution may be, I can guarantee you that it will be appreciated by someone, somewhere, somehow.
If you’re like most human beings, you like reading, watching, or hearing about the stories of heroes. Now is your chance to be an everyday hero, or perhaps even an extraordinary one.
I look forward to hearing where your adventures are taking you, and I’ll be sure to let you know where my adventures are taking me. In the meantime, good luck, and don’t forget to have as much fun as humanly possible along the way!