Since the beginning of time, people who have spoken truth have been persecuted by the majority. Perhaps the earliest and best example (academically speaking) would be Socrates. For merely setting out on a quest for capital-T Truth, Socrates is tried and sentenced to death by hemlock.
Over 1200 years later, Boethius writes in The Consolation of Philosophy
“And now you see the outcome of my innocence – instead of reward for true goodness, punishment for a crime I did not commit … here I am, nearly five hundred miles away, condemned to death and to have my property confiscated, silenced, and with no opportunity to offer a defence, all because of a somewhat too willing support of the Senate.”
Yet, as Boethius also claims, it is only natural that the philosopher put his philosophy into the state-politik, if only for the sake of attempting to further a sense of goodness in humanity.
But Politicians Are Not Humans
Flashing centuries forward, Elizabeth Hawes remembers well Albert Camus’ early reticence towards all things political. She says in her 2009 biography, Camus: A Romance:
“Referring to these … matters, he had confided two remarks in his journal in 1937. ‘Every time I hear a political speech or read those of one of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing that sounded human.’ One month later, even more emphatically he wrote, ‘Politics and the shape of mankind are shaped by men without ideals and without greatness. Men who have greatness within them don’t go in for politics.'”
Of course, in the case of Camus we have an utter contradiction, for as we see unfold later in his life, he delves right in to politics to try and prevent the further desecration of post-war France, and to try and liberate the Algerian people and secure their rightful place in world society. But as with most philosophers-gone-politicians, Camus swiftly fell, even more abruptly and harshly than when he rose. We can thus use him as an accurate portrayal of the truth to politics.
Camus’ fall, so to speak, occurred simply as a result of his insistence on publishing the truth in an editorial on a situation in Madagascar. He upset many of the politicians he was working with at the time, though, and thus thrown from political grace to absolute obscurity. With (literally) the blink of an eye, he fell from the graces of the popular majority and left reeling with the harsh reality that he spoke of in his early journals – that mankind is not shaped by anything human. Mankind and society is shaped by something that is for the majority, for the betterment of those in charge – shaped by men (and women) lacking greatness to the utmost degree.
But We All Get Sucked In At One Point Or Another
If you were to look at my profile of a life, you would find someone that has recently recovered from the bloody wounds inflicting upon me by the local political vultures – waiting to feast on someone else (or perhaps me again). I – in the same manner as many others before me – was eaten alive by a group of local political-junkies. Junkies who could not even get their facts straight; and often supported each other without even knowing the reasoning why.
As a young, fledgling politician, I entered the party of the people, and thought I would be able to make a difference by merely showing up and “pounding the pavement” to reach the voters and influence them to get out and sound their voices. Soon enough, though, I learned that not only do the voters statistically have no voice; but even in local elections, their voice is only as loud as their pocketbook. In other words, regardless of what issues are being voted on; regardless of what your candidate says in campaigning, it is an undeniable fact that in American politics it is at least 85% governed by the money. So much in the way of Camus, if the people who you work with do not want the truth to be heard, it will not be – even if it is merely by way of a slanderous rumor or two through the grassroots of the party.
I went the way of the political dinosaurs in this fashion. At some point or another, I said something that the “party” did not agree with (and by “party,” I mean a group of paranoid people, all of whom were so busy arguing about who was going to be in charge that they often had no idea what their ideals were, or what, exactly, they were fighting for). Specifically, I stated that I did not agree with slandering the opposition on our bumper stickers; and, that I would publicly support the candidates with whom I personally support, not only who the party told me to. This caused great controversy, because by my mere silence in the case of one candidate, I was saying he was a fraud. Then, I made clear that the party was not as supportive of (us) young people as they could (or were claiming to) be. In other words, the sum of these three minor incidences equalled (for me) speaking the truth; (for the “party”) speaking in opposition of them. For this, I was slandered, slaughtered, insulted, accused of being an infiltrator, and a turn-coat; I was brought before the head of the party and asked if I was working for the opposition; and it was said I was off my rocker. Politically I was blacklisted.
Two months later I was phoned by one of my slanderers and offered a job working on his campaign. He said he needed someone with my inside know-how; and was willing to “let bygones be bygones.” I have not talked to any politicians since.
Thus, We Must Abstain
And yet the problems of politicians, politics and the government in American society today are much deeper, and more systemic, than just the way campaigns are run. At its very core, American politics are fed by the American obsession with change, with a better life – and it is only by abstaining from raising our voices that we will be able to let the truth reign free. In order to be free of the corruption in politics as they are now, we must rid ourselves of them entirely.
A case in point is with President Obama. He enacted a spirit of drive and change to such a degree that voting in the 2008 election was at unprecedented levels; and yet he has fallen the way of many politicians, and is (in many ways) governed by the interests that support him. As with all politicians, his political success is determined by how much money he can raise; thus, he is stuck conceding many things in the interest of being able to make so-called change.
But more than that, a politician will argue that “at least Obama is there to make some changes, even if he has to concede others.” However, the problem is again on a larger scale, for it is in the tying of the hands of our politicians that we see an injustice to people who otherwise deserve the same as those with the money. For example, why should one lobby group with more money be deserved of a particular legislation, while another lobby group with less money be deserved of nothing? Why are the people of Iraq being liberated while the people of Sudan are left to be slaughtered?
Yet, to keep it in a more local light – on a scale with which we can actually affect, to argue that we can make change in our community is a matter-of-fact falsity. And this is for two reasons: (1) that local politics, down to the most miniscule and seemingly meaningless waterboard position, are run by the example of politics on the grander, more national scale; and, (2) politicians on a local level always have their sights set on the bigger goal, thus they will always act in a way that is advantageous to them – even if it is stepping over and slaughtering other’s character in the process.
Thus the only way to truly make change is to abstain from voting altogether. For when you vote a candidate into the system as it currently is, you drive them straight into the beast for which they will have to conform to only to survive. Only by abstaining can we call for a complete reform of the way our politics are handled; only by abstaining can we enact systemic change and make a difference in our community and in our country. Voting for change sends the message that all we need is a little political propaganda, or flashy logos, to secure a footholding in public office. By contrast, not voting for anything sends a message that we will not feed the beast any longer.
It is not an anarchy that I am advocating; nor am I advocating for a communism, or a socialism – or really any sort of an -ism (at least in the context of this conversation). And it is not an overthrow, or a change in governmental systems that I am calling to action. Merely, I am asking that we act by inaction; that we change our corrupted system by refusing to participate in something so corrupt words like “inhuman” do not even begin to scratch its true nature.
Since the dawn of time, anyone who spoke truth about corruption within the system was persecuted. In democratic Athens, Socrates was sentenced to death for just inquiring of the locals. In the Holy Roman empire, Boethius was condemned for speaking truthfully in the Senate. The likes of Camus, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, Chomsky, Rorty (and some of the most contemporary and well-respected activists and philosophers) are often shunned for speaking out loud the truths they know all too well. It is one thing to be patriotic and to do your civic duty; it is another to turn a blind eye to what is going on right in front of you. Abstaining from voting out of ignorance is an altogether different issue; but abstaining to make your voice heard is logically equivalent to attending a rally, writing an editorial, or testifying before the Senate. If we are really wishing to preserve our “rights” and “happiness,” as we are guaranteed in the most precious words of the United States Constitution, then we must consider what our vote does to that. If we vote for hiding the truth, we are dealing with a complete denial of those rights.