Why I Stopped Spending My Time on Politics… And Why I Think You Should Too
By Paul Rosenberg
Many of my friends vote; people I love and respect vote; but I’ve given it up. That horrifies many people, but—truth be faced—it bothers them mostly because it calls their choices into question.
That’s very unfortunate, because I quite understand why they vote. And I don’t look down on them for it; I did it plenty of times myself. I just wish they’d stop punishing themselves with politics and be happy instead.
Politics is a type of slow-rolling torment. I don’t want people I love to suffer through it.
Yes, I know that my opinion seems crazy to many people, but again, it’s mostly because it differs so starkly from theirs. If my opinion is right, they’ve been wasting their time, and almost no one likes to consider that sort of thing. We fight such possibilities reflexively.
So, if you like your politics, you can keep your politics. I’m not trying to take it away from you. I’m just saying that I wish good people wouldn’t pour their time and energy down that particular drain—I don’t think it benefits them.
Now, since so many people will object, I’ll explain why I think this is so.
“Then Bad People Will Win! Things Will Get Worse!”
This is the first argument I usually hear, to which I usually respond: “It’s already bad, it’s getting worse, and none of the past ten elections have changed it.”
To that I get a lot of “Yeah, but” responses.
The truth is that repressive regimes steamroll right through politics. There were armies of politicians and endless elections in the Soviet republics, after all, and their constitution had some very attractive stuff in it. For example:
The rights of authors, inventors, and innovators are protected by the state.
The privacy of citizens, and of their correspondence, telephone conversations, and telegraphic communications is protected by law.
Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed inviolability of the home. No one may, without lawful grounds, enter a home against the will of those residing in it.
Respect for the individual and protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens are the duty of all state bodies, public organisations, and officials.
Obviously, politicians and political documents didn’t help the people of the USSR very much.
Repressive regimes, however, cannot steamroll through mid-level and lower-level operatives who fail to execute their orders. If those people fail to obey—or if the people who pump their gas or fix their heating systems stop complying—their rule ends, and quickly.
So, in real life, a repressive regime isn’t restrained by politics; it’s restrained by disobedience.
In the end, rulers can go only as far as the obedience of their subjects. If they go too far… if their subjects stop obeying… they’re done.
Power—including political power—always corrupts, and it will always expand to the limit of its subjects’ obedience. I’m not alone in saying this, you understand. Frederick Douglass said the same thing long before I did:
Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them … The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
The worst problem with politics is that it increases the obedience of the populace. The Blues always blame the Reds, the Reds forever blame the Blues, and everyone keeps right on obeying. After all, their team may win the next election, and then things might finally go their way!
So, not only is politics a drain on our lives, but it makes people more likely to robotically obey. And that is truly dangerous.
No Matter Whom You Vote for, the Government Gets Elected
When people think of the US government, they usually think of about 600 people in Washington, DC. The actual government, however, is composed of millions of employees, many of whom are almost impossible to fire. To make it worse, oceans of money are moving through this operation on a daily basis. This arrangement fosters the abuse of power, and it always will. It’s a structural issue, not “a few bad apples.”
Your government structure is corrupt and abusive, and it will stay that way until the structure itself changes.
Politics keeps us believing that things can improve anyway… once we defeat that horrible enemy party, of course. But regardless of our hopes, we always end up with something that might be called “practical rulership.” In other words, not much changes, even when the televised faces do.
Politics Relies on Superstition
Embedded in the practice of politics is a superstition, which is this:
If we complain enough, and in the right ways, we’ll get what we want without having to take any risks at all.
In other words, we want to believe that politics provides us an easy way out… that our complaints invoke magic.
But if we want things to be different, we must act to make them different. Politics shuts that down by making people think that talking is magic and passivity is a virtue.
So, we have millions of decent and capable people who are more than able to solve their own problems but who never consider acting on their own, because they’re intimidated and because they think that they can get what they want without risk, by talking correctly.
Politics has given them an attractive lie to believe in: Change your world: no pain, no strain, no risk.
Not only is this promise a rank superstition, but it also sidetracks people from actually changing their world. Why spend your blood, sweat, and tears when mere complaining will work the same or better?
Politics Is Prehistoric
Being that I study the ancient past, I can trace men ruling over men back to about 6400 BC. I can trace rulership that resembles ours back to about 5000 BC. I can trace bicameral assemblies (like our House of Representatives and Senate) back to about 2500 BC.
Most of that is what we commonly call the “prehistoric” era.
So, here’s my question: What else from before the Egyptian pyramids still rules the lives of women and men?
Men no longer pull plows. They no longer start fires with flint. Nor do they pull sleds or wooden-wheeled carts or rely upon animals for power. We have learned to write, to invent, to navigate, to cover immense distances, to drive, to fly, and to reach into the heavens. And yet…
And yet, this one relic of our primitive past remains. If there’s one area of life in which humans have failed to evolve, it’s politics.
So, I’ve made my case, and you can make of it what you will. But I’ve become happier and more productive by walking away from politics, and I’d like that for you too.