This post is an exercise in rhetoric, and while the author does endorse the arguments herein, individuals should contemplate their decision carefully before deciding to refrain from casting a vote and instead consider a redoubling of efforts to voice dissent in other ways.
Sometimes one is inclined to express dissatisfaction with political order and government decision making. In the myriad of information and popular opinion, it is increasingly easy to see one’s own views sinking into the depths of obscurity and wonder if there is any way to be heard. For those of us who have been raised under democratic regimes the expectation was that agency could be expressed through the political selection practised in secret ballots. Unfortunately, no proportional system of representation can even pretend to offer any real translation of this agency.
The selection of candidates must pass through the filter of an archaic party system whereby voters are coalesced into doubting their own choices. One is never sure if they should vote nationally, locally, regionally, based solely on party policy, personal belief, character, candidate or by random number generator. Sometimes the latter seems to offer the best chances at just rule.
The power of not voting comes through in several ways. Political parties receive funding based on votes received. Not voting means denying the party funding your vote would imply. Foreign nationals are also reasonable in assuming democratic governments are representative of their citizens, unless their mandate is questionable. In the current Canadian federal system the formation of majority government does not imply that the majority of Canadians have cast ballots in favour of that government’s rule, or even that the majority of votes were cast for that party. Since seats are elected regionally and then assembled nationally to decide which party will form the government, there is no guarantee of truly democratic representation in even a majority parliamentary government. Ever. Not voting further reduces the legitimacy (both real and perceived) of any elected government. If voter turnout is sixty percent, even a truly democratic government elected from that pool would only represent thirty percent of the eligible population. In our system there is not even that guarantee. How can it be assumed that the demos rule when potentially only one quarter or less of the population acted in the selection of this government? And what of the agency lost in representative government? When a mere faction of the population acts on a scale of minutes to months, once in a period of years, how can we have any guarantee that the means of democratic rule are not being completely circumvented in the intervening time?
I was never given an offer of citizenship. I was never consulted in the practice or formation of my government, except within the unrealistic and undemocratic constraints of the modern institution of voting. Were I aboriginal, I would be in my right mind to completely deny any legitimacy for the Canadian government. As a non-aboriginal that government underpins my only claim to legitimate occupation of land and territories which were once held in common.
The comforts and guarantees of modern (western) society are many and alluring. Yet it has become apparent that these goods have come at an insufferable cost to human and natural well being. In our endeavour for comfort we have invented the sweatshop, the atom bomb, the ubiquitous automobile, credit fraud, default-swapping and many other completely unnecessary ills.
We are living under merely conventional political structures. Their only means of maintaining legitimacy is to act as representative for the demos. This phenomenon of democracy has yet to exist outside of the tribal structure. Our government is illegitimate and has consistently failed to act in the interest of the people. It is time to dismantle. It is time to stop the wheels of production to reorient them in the right direction.
With active non-violent resistance we can change. Not voting is one step. Getting your friends not to is more important. How low would the numbers have to go before a government would lose representation within the UN? Forty-percent, thirty, twenty, ten?? Unless this government (Canada) and countless others undergo drastic changes that reduce their waste of resources and human potential, we must use every peaceful means possible to disrupt and redirect their business. Protest, write letters, stage sit-ins and blockade legislative offices. Enforce your right to peaceful assembly and political demonstration. Don’t let the dangerous precedent set in Toronto and elsewhere become the norm, and return our nations to the idealism and optimism which are our only means for survival.