Do Not Go Gently

10/11/2008 By Shawn Burns

What is the difference between six and half a dozen?

To many, to the undecided and indifferent, this question is at the heart of their uncertainty in the upcoming election, and in every election. Or rather, the obvious answer, ‘nothing’, is at the heart.

Few political candidates get to where they are by being radical; they get there by dancing with suburban Volvo owners, cosmopolitan fundraisers, and small town American values voters. No politician is a success by changing the system that empowers them. And knowing this paralyzes a lot of voters. To them a vote for either candidate is an endorsement of the system, and if a voter thinks that (a) the system is broken or (b) the system is fine they are going to feel exactly the same way about the two candidates on offer. If the voter thinks the system is broken then he won’t vote for either of the champions of the broken machine. If the voter thinks the system is fine he also won’t vote for either, because he is confident the system works and it just doesn’t matter who is in office: the system protects us, lulls us, keeps us safe, so the consequences of choosing one rather than another are almost insignificant.

But to view the choice between candidates as being the same as the choice between six and half a dozen, and to thus view the choice as insignificant is to ignore one crucial aspect of decision-making: framework.

What is the difference between six and half a dozen? Perspective. The same as the difference between a half full or half empty glass: the worlds built around each, the framework of the choice, is an essential part of the choice. Choosing six is choosing a world were aggregation rules; choosing half a dozen is choosing a world where division rules. Do you see?

Neither tells a comprehensive story. How could they? Their individual existence is a fundamental denial of the existence of the other.

What every political philosophy offers is a different UNFAIRNESS. Although every proponent of a political philosophy will try to sell her view as the best, she does so as a Dr. Magnifico, selling snake-oil. That is, no matter the merits and demerits of the political philosophy, what you get from her is a sales pitch; a manipulation. Side-effects may include lower a lower poverty-line or higher gas prices. Because it’s a sales pitch you won’t get to hear about the UNFAIRNESS that gets packaged up with the miracle cure. And so all snake-oil salesmen end up sounding the same.

So look at the election in November as a choice, a real choice, between political philosophies. Look for, recognize, and accept the UNFAIRNESS that your endorsement of six or half a dozen entails. The worst injustice committed against the voting public is the promulgation of the belief that their choice is victimless. Because if our choice is victimless then the people hurt by our choices are not our victims, but our enemies, and we are permitted to hate them, hold them in contempt, and ignore them.

You may or may not know that I am a member of the Green Party. I’m not more environmentally conscious than anyone else; probably less so than most. I endorse a different unfair system than most people, and I accept my responsibility for creating the victims of that system. Without guilt we are golems, with no compunction to do better. Choose your own unfairness in November, but CHOOSE.

Do not convince yourself that the choice doesn’t matter. And don’t convince yourself that those you disagree with aren’t going to be victims of your choice. Stare the decision in the face, and then make it.