The Essays of The Man From the North by Rivera Sun
Writer, Dandelion Salad
November 2, 2018
The Vote – the beloved, abused, scorned, corrupted, stolen, hijacked, pointless, profound, hopeful, depressing, hard-won, cherished vote – is not the only way to take action for meaningful change. Currently, the elections operate in our nation like a cattle chute, all too often forcing us back into the deadly, no-win tracks of the two-party duopoly that serves only the moneyed class. It becomes a handy device for siphoning off the demand for revolutionary change by giving false hope that elected officials will actually enact their campaign promises once in office.
Instead of taking matters into our own, capable, millions of hands, we vote to let someone else take care of it. And, in large part, these representatives do nothing. We wind up hamstringing our movements over and over. We vote for Candidate X’s promises of someday guarantying living wages instead of going on strike until we actually get them. We vote for Candidate Y’s vow to someday ban assault weapons instead of picketing and blockading arms dealers. Instead of targeting fossil fuel investors, we try to elect politicians to craft legislation that, even if passed, is largely ignored by industry until they manage to get officials and judges in place to overturn the law.
It is maddening and infuriating. We have other – and better – options.
Change happens on many levels: cultural, economic, industrial, social, artistic, personal, psychological, spiritual, and more. We must work in all of them if we hope for lasting, systemic shifts. Don’t be fooled by the annual circus of voting. Go vote, sure, but don’t sit back down on the couch when you’ve cast your ballot. Go out into your community, businesses, churches, colleges, and so on, and work for the changes we wish to see in the world. In truth, no legislation has the power to enact the full scope of change without the cooperation of all those other institutions and the popular support in ordinary citizens.
Want living wages, for example? Change the sickening culture of greed and the hero worship of the criminals at the top of capitalism’s cannibalistic food chain. Challenge the moral “right” our culture places upon exploitation and survival of the fittest. We will never see justice for workers while we salivate over billionaires and laud their “brilliance” (read: ruthless willingness to shove others under the bus) with which they “made their fortunes” (read: stolen from others by means of low wages, high prices, global exploitation, insider deals, destruction of the earth, corruption of democracy, self-serving laws and legislation.)
Elections and politics are the games of elites. We are whipped up each election cycle to serve as their cheering crowds at their jousting matches. It is no better than the feudal days of fighting for this king or that queen when the real struggle is the establishment of “nobles” and the theft of common land from the people. In the 1500s, the real struggle was not whether Queen Elizabeth of England and Mary Queen of Scots would sit on the throne, but rather, how ordinary women were being stripped of rights and lowered into the status of property. Neither Mary nor Elizabeth’s rule stopped the rise of patriarchy into a monstrous beast that still echoes in the policies and practices of today.
History is long, I could go on with examples across nations, class, and creed. The real challenge of our times is not which super-wealthy Democratic or Republican regime gets to hand out sweet deals and lucky breaks to their friends, but how we, the people, wrest the state apparatus from the death-grip of the “nobility” of our times. Just as fighting for this king or that queen was not as vital as defending the commons, so do I warn you, today, about over-inflating the significance of the vote.
The idea is wonderful; our practice of it, deplorable. Never confuse those two. Prize our ideals. Exercise your right to vote – it is hard-won for seventy-five percent of our populace. But never allow its current, corrupted incarnation to distract you from working on cultural, economic, social, or any other type of change. Measure for measure, pour your courageous heart into all levels of change. If you spend ten minutes reading a report about a candidates’ forum, spend the same time reading about – and participating in – strikes for better wages or sit-ins to abolish mass incarceration or shut-downs of insurance offices for affordable healthcare. If you go door-to-door canvassing for a politician, spend an equal amount of time knocking on doors to build support for a boycott of exploitative goods. If you’re willing to throw a house party for an election campaign, go to a local organizer and offer to throw a house party in support of their social justice cause. If you donate to a political campaign, donate to a movement, too.
These are just a few examples. Remember that the elections have become a massive industry. Many of our social justice movements remain shoestring, miracle-workers. Your time, skills, and donations are all deeply appreciated by your fellow citizens who are striving for significant change. Don’t forget them during the shouting matches of our election circuses. Without our movements changing the hearts and minds and daily lives of ordinary people, the mere words on paper that make up legislation have no meaning. Laws are irrelevant if officials ignore them, courts reject them, and people disobey them. Do the legwork of making sure that the populace can uphold justice, not merely because it is the law, but because it is our will, our belief, and our sense of justice turned into a way of life. To do this, you must make change in every level of our lives.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequel, The Roots of Resistance. Website: http://www.riverasun.com
The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequel, The Roots of Resistance. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today”, when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution. This article is one of a series written by The Man From the North, which are not included in the novel, but can be read here.
From the archives:
Beyond Voting by Howard Zinn + What Else You Can Do: 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action by David Swanson
Step Right Up – to the Amazing American Quadrennial Electoral Extravaganza! by Paul Street
MFTN: We Are Standing On The Sinking Titanic
The Biggest Political Delusion Of All Is In The U.S. Electoral Politics Itself by Paul Street + Nobody to Vote For by David Swanson + Politicians Robbing Us Blind
“Be Realistic–Demand the Impossible!”
Chris Hedges: Would the American People be Better Served by a Movement for a People’s Party?
Chris Hedges: Know That If We Resist We Keep Hope Alive
The Problem is Civil Obedience by Howard Zinn + Matt Damon Reads from Howard Zinn’s Speech
Abby Martin and Rosa Clemente: Electoral Politics Never Saved Anyone
Chris Hedges: Liberal Elites Spoke The Language Of Values While Thrusting A Knife Into The Backs Of The Underclass
Transformation by Gaither Stewart
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The electoral college should have been done away with at least 100 years ago imo. I’m one of those people that does think that voting makes a difference. People voting against a rightwing takeover which was what I was trying to impress on people,would have made a huge difference to the people in a US territory that died [like up to 4000] and their families relatives and countrymen now. To the thousands of snatched at the border especially the trafficked molested and murdered no one will ever find out about. Voting has been made illegal before & people have died to be able to vote. People need to get out and organize if they aren’t happy with their candidates as I am not here to get something better into office. Making concessions isn’t fun but all anyone has to do is look at the people who sat on their asses last election and what is happening to so many country and word wide to see how very much that could be the end of us and has for many. They apparently had nothing or no cares over what was lost we have had many & it pisses me off s much money time and energy has been funneled into basic givens that we had 4 years ago it is pathetic. Posing or protesting instead of working under the best platform that could be achieved to further go forward to goals and actually help people without massive damage and destruction would and has always worked slot better. Every time a gop got into presidency through indifference from reagan getting in long has had volumes of back lash of nightmares in country and worldwide. People that didn’t try to stop it then and further promote equal rights for all through actions have everything to do with the looming police states now along wit the extinctions and environmental disasters. People knew from the reagan cheat of undermining Carter with the hostage release on that this group of right wing elitist murdering lunatics taking over/part of the GOP would do everything to oppress & the ones that cared tried to expose it and fight it. I had many acquaintances die then & more people I heard of because of the fingers in foreign countries and support of death squads and the phony created drug wars as a cover to commit any atrocities under illegal state and federal investigations. It is going to be 1000 times the work with irrecoverable lost in people land, wildlife and resources now because too many felt no need to vote in 2016
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The older I get the further to the left I move. Electoral politics has rarely inspired me (as a child of Watergate). Yet, to NOT vote is to lay down one TOOL—a tool that may ONLY be “self-defense” in some places, rather than a catalyst for significant change. But, when the ballot has far right-wing racists whose aims are to ratchet up the Trump-GOP anti-immigrant, anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBT rights & Pro-FUNDAMENTALIST (could be seen as christian Taliban—spelling intentional) agenda–you bet I’m voting for the Democrat!!! Some will say that all that is “just identity politics”–but, I doubt that many Black, Latino, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people or women who are paying attention to the all-out assault on our basic rights–would make that claim.
YES: it’s our SOCIAL MOVEMENTS that have brought about the MOST change–but, how many “NON-voters” do so out of some principle? or are engaged in those social movements INSTEAD of voting? I suggest NOT MANY.
If anything the DIS-ENGAGEMENT of far too many Americans is a significant part of what’s gotten us to the backwards place we are.
From the essay:
“Go vote, sure, but don’t sit back down on the couch when you’ve cast your ballot.”
Thanks, Gerry! I appreciate that you “got” this piece. Our realities are complex, multi-faceted, and yes, hard to articulate.
Good essay. I would add only that election day is an unusually good day for handing out leaflets. The leaflets don’t have to be about the election.
Thanks, Lefty. Good idea on passing out leaflets.
That’s a great point and a fantastic way to springboard off the intense time and money the parties pour into getting people to the polls. I’m a big fan of using such moments strategically.
I’ve been struggling for the last hour to write about the futility of voting in a local election in which the duopoly candidates are poor options, while also knowing that we cannot stop working for a better world even though we feel depressed about our electoral options. Then I found this piece and “Bingo!” – you said it all. Thanks, Rivera!
Wonderful, Gerry. Thanks for commenting.