Sunday 4 November 2012

What does it mean to say I am 'against voting' as a system?


My recent post on voting

produced a lot of interesting comments - but I spent an inordinate time trying to re-explain what I was saying - and something similar happened on a thread at Orthosphere.

But the problem was typical of much of my commentary and critique over the past couple of decades, and the reason seems to be that I think in a different way from many people.


I tend to think in terms of abstract principles or systems; and often I want to discuss these, but in fact it seems hardly anybody else wants to discuss principles or systems, or can stop at principles and refrain from jumping back to motivations or jump ahead ahead to implications.

The trouble is that going from principles to motivations make it subjective, while jumping to implications entails a further step, which may or may not be clear - at any rate the move from principles to practice is seldom clear and uncontroversial.


When I spoke about not voting, many commenters assumed (often, it seems automatically) that what I really meant was that I personally disapproved of those who voted; and they rushed to defend the motives (or results) those who vote.

I find this again and again in the response to my writings; that most people look at what is being said, and then jump behind it to make assumptions about the motivations of the person who said it.

Everything is assumed to be about motivations, and what people actually say is assumed to be a 'rhetorical' tool for influencing the behaviour of others.


So that for me to criticize the system of voting as a way of making decisions, is assumed really to be merely a product of my motivation; an expression of negative emotion (disdain, dislike etc) towards the people who vote.

Then people line-up and either support the fact that I attack (supposedly) voters because they too dislike voters; or attack me for having (supposedly) attacked them. 


I experienced this at an international media scale a few years ago when I wrote about the effect of social class difference of intelligence on college admissions - specifically the mathematical certainty that the more selective is a college, the bigger the social class difference in admissions.

But this factual observation was - on the Left , and up to the level of the British government, either regarded as me personally claiming that there were social class differences in intelligence (which is an un-refuted finding  more than 100 years old, as well as being common experience); or else an expression of hatred for the working class and the poor.

This misinterpretation went up to very high levels, and I got it even from world famous academics in qunatitative science.

I think we are dealing with human nature here - near enough.


Human nature cannot discuss principles and systems (except perhaps in very exceptional situations, and probably the focus is tenuous even then).

So when principles and systems are on the agenda, as they must be from time to time - for example when a club or a country needs to decide the procedure by which a leader is chosen - the actual discussion will not be about them.


So, with the stuff about voting, my major point was that the idea of getting a group together and having a vote is an utterly bizarre notion of how to make a decision, and it is hard to understand why anyone might ever imagine that it would be a good way to proceed.

On top of this, there is the problem that a vote destroys individual responsibility for decisions, which makes the decision non-moral, which means it is in fact a-moral (wicked, evil).

So the principle of voting, as a way of making decisions, seems to be utterly without any basis either in expediency or in pragmatism or in metaphysics, or in anything.

It is just what we have


Of course, once voting had already-become established as the default method of decision making and had also become regarded as the only basis for a just and equitable decision and so on, then this generates its own expedience and even a kind of rationality.

If people are used to voting and have been inculcated with the idea that it is good; then they will usually accept the results of a vote. 

But there was no coherent basis for privileging voting in the first place. 


Having noticed this fact (it seems like a fact) I find that I draw the conclusion that I personally shouldn't participate in votes - but that inferential jump form system analysis to personal behaviour is not logically entailed.

It is, however, made easier for me by my religious belief that ethical behaviour has beneficial effects even when the causality is non-obvious - even when such behavior seems invisible and powerless.

So that, although a worldly and expedient and linear-causal analysis may suggest that not voting is just to abandon responsibility, to disappear-oneself from decision-making, or to allow evil to happen, or to fail to take simple steps to prevent harm; I have an imprecise but confident belief that (if my decision is real and properly motivated) then not voting will have a good effect, in some way, but by means which I (almost certainly) will never know about (at least, not in this life, in this world).


To put it another way, for a Christian it is hard to imagine any act which does not have some (permanent) effect towards either good or evil - Surely that is what life is.

Nothing is trivial (or rather, we can never know that any particular thing is trivial) - hence we must treat everything as important; even when we had hardly even imagine how it could become important.

No man is an island, and all humans are in it together ('it' being life in relation to salvation).

So I am not much swayed by arguments based on expediency, when I am pretty sure that what is being asked of me is participation in a system which I understand is irrational and necessarily immoral.


Does participation in a system of which we disapprove make any difference? Well, yes, it must (or we must assume that it may).

How might this work? 

Thinking about such matters using a 'morphic resonance' analysis - it would seem that participating in a process strengthens it, while refusing participation does not strengthen it; and perhaps by participating in something other than the voting process tends to strengthen some other rival process.

On this basis, whenever we go along with something we believe is bad, when we ourselves comply with a bad process; then we actually fuel that process (by invisible patterning mechanisms): we make that process more powerful and increase its range and scope.

That would fit in with the fact that evil always wants compliance; in fact evil is usually satisfied with compliance (and does not require assent).

In some way (morphic resonance is only one way of conceptualizing the process), simply going-along with evil, just going-through-the-motions prescribed by evil, actually strengthens evil.

But that makes another assumption to go with my first one.


The first assumption (to recap) was that it is valid to discuss the abstract process of voting in terms of its rationale (or rather, lack of rationale).

We live by processes, even if the processes are - in practice - conflated with assumed-motivations or presumed-outcomes of processes: in fact we often do not know enough to assume or infer these things. The processes and systems should be able to stand on their own two feet...


By which I mean, processes should be valid when understood from a traditional Christian metaphysic - they should make sense in exactly the way that voting does not.

Many people seemingly can't or won't do this; or maybe I am not actually doing it, although I think I am? - at any rate this topic doesn't seem to get very far with most people.

However, it seems that, in practice, most public discourse, and probably all effective public discourse is very simple and prescriptive, and conflates principles with practice, effectiveness with morality and many other things - it coalesces around basic dichotomies - and all attempts to make it anything else are apparently doomed to fail.


Which is why evil works by processes.

Once evil has imposed a process - like voting - then that process becomes de facto ineradicable qua process.

If voting is indeed evil, then we are apparently stuck with it until it is swept away by some other change; because the subject matter of voting-as-a-process is one which cannot ever occupy a public agenda.

As things stand, the only way to get rid of voting would be to vote on it...



Jonathan C said...

You write, "Everything is assumed to be about motivations, and what people actually say is assumed to be a 'rhetorical' tool for influencing the behaviour of others." It seems like the unfinished implication here is that few people really believe in transcendental truth, so the idea that you might simply be trying to identify truth (rather than doing public relations) doesn't even occur to them.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

Very good post. These things need to be said and repeated regularly, as all important things should. Not as magic or hypnotic repetition, like most of what is being hammered on us continually by the evil spirit of the time, but as instructional repetition about the “structures of sin,” or “social sin,” as John Paul II put it (excerpts on this blog:

If I jump to practical conclusions, though (what else is the purpose of philosophy or science if not to arrive at sound conclusions, intellectual or practical), and say with my practical intellect that, when reduced to voting, if we want to act morally soundly, we still have to vote – except if the vote is a mockery like in tyrannical regimes – to diminish the evil and advance the side where there is more good on the essential issues. As you say, voting is always counterproductive and utterly insufficient, and the lack of a moral choice as well as the viciousness of the system should be denounced as forcefully as can be, but in the meantime we have to navigate through it.

This is the Catholic position, I believe (I did not review the texts). We must participate in the public forum and try as hard as we can to advance the good, or at least impair evil. I have been doing that in referendums and elections, in addition to praying and speaking, and I was obviously not alone for the trends of evil were slowed down a bit on more than one occasion here in Canada and Quebec Province.

In fact, I am sure St. Michael and his angels are always in the fray with men of goodwill. We just have to ask them and the bit we can do will suddenly have more weight than what we thought.

George G. said...

Very interesting idea regarding forms and fields. Per your old metaphor, my mind is stuck in the "billiard-ball" conception of universe. I assumed that if only we had a big enough computer and a basic enough particles we could extrapolate and predict all of history and future. This sort of saps the spirit out of life though as we are left with a merely mechanical process and all choice is merely in appearance only. I'm not sure what implications that would have for Democracy.

Your assertion that voting has larger implications puts a whole new meaning on "lesser of two evils" - by voting for a lesser of two evils, one would still be supporting or giving consent to evil. That is, in trying to avoid a greater evil one is still supporting evil... not merely avoiding a greater evil, but falling into a clever trap. Modern assumptions, like mine above, would make it impossible to even recognize the trap for what it is.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JC - that may be a part of it, but isn't what I meant to say.

@SDR But if - or when - the vote goes against you, will you live by the decision? Of course not. So you are not truly believing in voting.

Perhaps it would be possible to vote honetly if this was made clear by stating in advance something like: "Yes I will vote and try to win the vote; but I do not grant the vote any authority whatsoever, and if the result of the vote goes against me I will disregard the fact, and I will not not abide by it, because it is wrong."

@GG I hope that causal thinking using a metaphor of fields and forms may be as liberating for you as it was for me!

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

"I will not abide by it, because it is wrong"
I will abide by the (voted) decisions of the elected officials when they are not morally wrong, not because they were arrived at by a vote. By natural law, we have to render Caesar what is his, whether or not our masters were voted in office, but of course we do not owe Caesar obeisance in matters which are not his, even when it entails persecution.

Voting could even have a bright side if we succeed in electing people who will be able to check abuses in law designing and enforcement by unelected bureaucrats (I think Americans call them Czars = Caesars).

Bruce Charlton said...

@SDR - I think we have by now discovered that Caesar believes everything is his - and in fact that there is not much which is free from Christian implications, or moral implications. The Left has won by this means; by smuggling pseudo-neutral laws and regulations onto the books, which are then used to impose the secular Leftist agenda and to attack Christianity.

For example, BHO's recent speech including that you 'didn't build that' refrain was a way of suggesting that the State had a hand in 'building' everything, therefore the State has a moral right to whatever it wants.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

"Caesar believes everything is his": certainly, but we Christians know it is a delusion. We might be overwhelmed by Leftist agendas imposed on us everywhere but we must continue to fight with the means we have until they are turned completely evil. From what I read on other blogs, there is fear but it is not yet proven that voting is completely rigged by now in North America.

Rich said...

Mr Charlton,

I don't comment often, so I wanted to express my gratitude for all your work. You are one of the few folks I still read daily and you often provide me with a good deal to think about.

This is a bit off topic, but while we are on the subject of morphic fields I was wondering if you would share your opinion, assuming you have one, of some of the folks Rupert Sheldrake works with from time to time. To be more specific, I'm mainly interested in hearing what you make of Bruce Lipton (and Psych K) and Matthew Fox.

Thank you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ads - In one of my postings on Sheldrake I remarked that he should not be judged by the company he keeps; which is in many instances appalling.

However, so far as I can tell, Sheldrake is invariably honest and does not change his message according to his company.

(Sheldrake is certainly a Leftist, and that is one reason why he keeps bad company - but scientifically speaking he is one of extremely few modern famous scientists who hold themselves to the traditional standard of complete honesty in all things, large and small.)

I don't know of Bruce Lipton or Psych K - but Matthew Fox... well, he is one of that terrible breed of spoiled priests who have done so much harm to Christianity over the past half century.

If I read almost anything by Fox, I can feel my mind being poisoned by the clever mixture of truths and lies. He strikes me as a very thoroughly corrupt, nihilistic individual, capable of almost anything.

So, when I bought 'The Physics of Angels (a conversation between Sheldrake and Fox), before I started reading, I went though with a black marker pen and obliterated Fox's contribution - so I could relax and profit from Sheldrake without all the good being undone by Fox's incoherence, lies and waffle.

Brett Stevens said...

The whole point of "invisible hand" systems like voting and monetarism is that no choice needs to be made, and no one needs to take responsibility for their decision.

If we elect another nitwit, whose fault is it? Well not mine, surely, and not yours, because I'm polite. It's the system. We shrug, like Russians watching mass executions.

Even worse is that voting allows people to displace their need to behave into "activism." That translates into people behaving like jerks 90% of the time, and then donating to Haiti or Orphans with AIDS and proclaiming themselves "good people."

Rich said...

Good to hear. I just bought a copy of "The Physics of Angels", maybe I'll do the same.

FHL said...

Maybe this is slightly off topic, but I think it is a good example of a very different selection procedure that would never be considered in the West.

And I'm not posting this just to brag about my church or anything, but because I feel it's relevant to the discussion.

This weekend was a very exciting weekend for Coptic Christians:

If anyone is wondering how they chose the top three names, the answer is that they were voted on by the bishops of the church. (I am uncertain if they have to be unanimously approved or not. However, if memory serves me correctly, I think they do.) And if anyone is wondering how they chose the young boy who drew the name, allow me to share in your curiosity, for I myself wish I knew! I asked that same question myself and no one in family knew the answer!

Also, the chant you hear in the background when the young boy is being blindfolded and when the selection is made is as such:

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleision
Esmahnah weh orhamnah.
Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison
Ya Rub orham.

Which is a blend of Coptic/ancient Greek and Arabic that translate into:

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy
Hear us and bless us.
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy
O Lord, bless (us).

...and caught me...maybe I just wanted to brag a little bit...but only just a little itty bit- it's a joyful event for me and I'm in good cheer so I felt like sharing...

FHL said...

oooh! I just realized I made a mistake in the translation! Wasn't thinking clearly- sorry!

Orham= have mercy
Orhamnah= have mercy upon us

So the correct translation is:

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy
Hear us and have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy
O Lord, have mercy.

Anonymous said...

I tend to think in terms of abstract principles or systems; and often I want to discuss these, but in fact it seems hardly anybody else wants to discuss principles or systems, or can stop at principles and refrain from jumping back to motivations or jump ahead ahead to implications.

The trouble is that going from principles to motivations make it subjective, while jumping to implications entails a further step, which may or may not be clear - at any rate the move from principles to practice is seldom clear and uncontroversial.


I get that All. The. Time.

And the imputations of motives and/or inferences layered on top of all sorts of imported, unstated, undefended assumptions are treated as some kind of reductio ad absurdam.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Zippy - hello there! I've often wondered whether you took your name from this chap?

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered whether you took your name from this chap?

Nothing so deliberate and cerebral, hah!

It started as a throwaway handle for some comment thread at Mark Shea's. I doubt I thought for more than a few hundred milliseconds about it: he had banned me under a more conventional handle (we are good friends now), and I wanted something silly but easy to track in a long comment thread. I don't recall having any intention of using it for more than that single comment thread. The name stuck, and here we are, it must be close to a decade later, since I resisted blogging for a couple of years and only ultimately gave in out of laziness.

JP said...

@ Sylvie,

"From what I read on other blogs, there is fear but it is not yet proven that voting is completely rigged by now in North America."

We got our answer to that last night. Yes, it is. Rigged not just in the crude sense but through the "election of a new people" and the willingness of the existing people to vote for evil.