If Voting Mattered, ETC.
I have decided or did decide some time ago not to vote. Why vote when whoever you vote for will do nothing to correct or reform the oligarchic imperialism the defines American politics, and while voting legitimizes that oligarchic imperialistic order. We need “new modes and orders” and voting will not accomplish that as it reinforces or fortifies our “old” or the prevailing modes and orders. Which is why our leading politicians and others invested in the status quo pound away at the importance of voting, that we are duty-bound to vote as if the 11th commandment said “Thou shalt vote!”
Voting is paradoxical because it’s both the exercise and the surrender of power. And the latter, the surrender of power, is the final, the longest lasting effect of voting. Once you’ve voted, you have given your power away, transferred it to someone else over whom you have almost no power. This is a dilemma that cannot be solved. Real reform, real change, has to come in other ways, viz., by people rejecting the approved “wisdom,” the conventional wisdom, by embracing what is labeled “extremism” because it rejects the prevailing conventional wisdom or, to get even more extremist, because it rejects all forms of conventional wisdom in toto. Once wisdom becomes conventional, officially approved, it is not wisdom – just as “near beer” isn’t beer or just as “reality tv shows” aren’t actually real [they all have writers writing script].
This is why those who challenge the conventional wisdom are so dangerous to the “old,” or the established modes and orders. Just as Socrates said in the Republic that the poets had to be exiled, so too today those who challenge the established consciousness are “exiled” by way of marginalization. Those who see the conventional wisdom for what it is – illusion – produce what is labeled “entertainment,” which allows for “escapism,” stuff that is to be enjoyed but not taken seriously.
Those who make, say, Jane Austen out to be either a “traditionalist” or a “left-winger” don’t see her extremism or radicalness. The same is true of others, like Mark Twain, Montesquieu, or Leo Strauss. Strauss argued that this is what disciples do, what Platonists did, what Jesus’s disciples did, what all disciples do, turn radical thought into conventional wisdom, thereby undermining the originality, the radicalness of genuinely creative human beings. Strauss, I would say, would not be a “Straussian” as that group is and wishes to be conventionally understood.
Hence, Machiavelli recommended the necessity of returning to “the roots” of what were new modes and orders. These returns – are they eternal, ala’ Nietzsche? – might or will not be peaceful. Still, they are, as Jefferson put it, as cleansing in the political world as storms are in the natural world. And like storms in the natural world, the stronger, the more violent they are, the more cleansing they are.
But Machiavelli told us also that there have been “unarmed prophets” who succeeded, who cleansed old modes and orders or who created new modes and orders, even without great violence. Of course, Machiavelli was writing about Jesus and the triumph of Christianity, a triumph that was non-violent so long as it wasn’t taken to be conventional wisdom. Once it had become the conventional wisdom, Constantine’s sword appeared and the pogroms, the crusades, and the inquisition followed. The sword appeared because conventional wisdom is illusionary and only way to maintain illusions is with force, that is, violently.
Insofar as what some refer to as the “new world order” is our conventional wisdom, we should expect endless wars, wars that need not be won but wars that need to be fought in order to fortify the new world order and its illusions. Those who think that the new world order will bring peace don’t understand the human condition. As Plato succinctly put it: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
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