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2017

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2014-08-24

Voting

It seems pertinent, in this time of electionary foment here in Aotearoa, to address the current political crisis.

Here in Aotearoa we are currently being bombarded with propaganda and hysteria regarding the impending democratic ritual that justifies the authority of what is known as the New Zealand Government.  This process involves the shameless fixation on characters and either building or demolishing their esteem.  For reasons I do not understand, people respond to this process as if it was in some way meaningful.  They respond to it in exactly the same way they would  a soap-opera or a "reality" TV show in which their favourite characters may get "voted out".  These people fail to in any way to contextualise the phenomenon or to objectively consider the information they are receiving from the media.

There are others who take themselves more seriously and apply more analysis of the various candidates by discussing "issues" or "policies".  They apply a more sophisticated form of character politics by constructing what they perceive to be personal images of all the political parties based on what they promise to do after the election.  The promises, while appearing to be serious issues affecting peoples' lives, society and the environment, are as fictitious as the characters ritually raised and burned periodically because everybody knows that promises are not kept.  The political parties, in listing their post-election policies, are merely drawing an image of themselves to appeal to their particular corner of the so-called "public".  Like those who choose their favourite Idol contestant, the one with whom they can most identify, they choose their favourite political party, to define and elevate themselves, like those who say, "We won," when their favourite sports team wins.

We define ourselves and thus create boundaries.  We are supposed to place ourselves on a spectrum between left and right, to separate ourselves from the idiots or the scum on the other end of the spectrum.  Are these scum the same people we have an enjoyable conversation with until we suddenly find out who they are voting for?  Is this left-right spectrum a meaningful way of separating ourselves from our fellows?  The left-right spectrum is simply a difference in economic policy, whether the mechanisms of politics are set up in a way that channels money to those with or without resources.  It is an admission of the success of capitalism to redistribute the wealth and the moral right associated with it, or an ambivalence or lack of faith in the mechanisms of capitalism.  This in no way defines me as a person and I refuse to place myself on this spectrum.

In fact, I refuse to define myself on any of these party-politic images.  I refuse to distance myself from those around me with arbitrary boundaries imposed from above.  We are told we live in a post-colonial period, that we live in a reasonable social democracy, and that we should be grateful.

Why should I bother to vote?

In Aotearoa, perhaps more than any other English-speaking country, the indigenous people we tried to squash are in the process of reclaiming their mana, though perhaps only in relation to the rest of us, who were colonised thousands of years before the Māori.  We are all colonised and we all continue to be distanced from a direct experience of the world in which we live, instead settling for a mediated, commentated experience.  We denounce military coups and forget how our own government was established.  We imbed ourselves in an abstract and arbitrary universe in which the news media is the oracle, the economy is god and the government is the heavenly hierarchy and then we lament that our false reality is not translating successfully to our actual lives.

"The desire to live, to continue, becomes more and more indecisive, more and more phantom-like."
(Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth)

I vote because there is only one thing worse than thinking voting will change anything; thinking that not voting will change anything.  I sympathise with my friends in Australia and USA who don't bother to vote and I do vote for the very same reason.  Here in Aotearoa in 2014 we actually have someone to vote for.  I am not suggesting we will make huge political progress as a result, I am not saying that I believe in or am even aware of their stance on blah-blah 1 or blah-blah 2, but I witness, in my peripheral observation of the political process and its noisy media emanation, a modicum of integrity, a delicate and almost miraculous quality to maintain in the political arena.  While we drive full-speed towards the political failures of Australia and USA we have the opportunity to redirect the train.  We have an intelligent engagement with a political process that can still be influenced.  I would never put myself in that situation, so I can respect reasonable individuals who place themselves in the political world and, however naively or cynically, try to influence it.

My faith lies in the hope that it will collapse, and in the meantime we can only minimise damage.  It is clear that nothing of value can be achieved on a political level, and so I vote for those in whom I can see integrity, because I trust the strength of the human soul, not ground down with political dogma and heirarchy, to stand up against stupidity and violence.  Meanwhile, real change is manifested with real responsibility, in our lives, in our society, in our environment.

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