“To vote or not to vote, that is the question”

By Sean Crawley

Global citizens, change-makers, anarchists, activists, followers of Russell Brand, and anyone else out there who has given up on humans being able to form good government, I urge you to resist the growing call not to vote.

I understand where this is coming from. I feel anger with every new exposition of corruption, and I want to punch the television when I hear the endless and bipartisan lies about economic growth and national security. I will even admit to a kind of schadenfreude when I see signs of collapse. But to not vote is to ignore that we are social, and therefore, political animals and that we each bear some responsibility for our presence, benign or malignant, on planet Earth.

Three levels of political apathy:

  • People within the “save the world” world — many have totally given up on governments and their underlying political ideologies. And it’s not hard to be persuaded by their arguments that essentially centre around the premise that governments are a major part of the systemic problem. The hardcore have even given up on civilisation and the totally disillusioned have given up on Homo sapiens.
  • The savvy enterprising punter on the economic capitalist treadmill subscribes to a belief that governments are corrupt, they are run by the faceless wealthy elite, and it has always been that way and always will. The best tactic is to fly as low under the radar as possible, play the game hard and fast, breaking rules if needed, to get ahead of the pack and feather one’s own nest.
  • The vast majority of humans, just keeping their heads above the rising water, do have not the foggiest idea as to what politics is actually all about. Right wing and left wing are just the least desirable parts in the box of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Blindly they vote according to the loudest mainstream media that has instilled a fear of unemployment and terrorism deep within their adrenals.

Freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that ‘Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,’ as if that makes someone cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable.

– Bill Maher

The evidence that we have stuffed up big time is in our face everywhere you look these days. With over seven billion humans racing to get ahead in the modern world it’s hard to miss. Do not doubt that governments are the most powerful force in operation around the globe — even if they are mere puppets of the elite and wealthy. Governments have been enacting into law the rules and regulations that have brought us to the brink of collapse. Primarily these rules are based on the insane myth that each and every one of us ought to have the opportunity to become rich and famous.

This misguided venture is destroying the planet, us included, and is largely ignored — or worse, denied. The vast storehouse of human knowledge and the perennial wisdoms, accumulated over thousands of years from a diversity of cultures — the results of honest human observation, contemplation and debate — are ignored, or at best have been relegated to mere platitudes that adorn fridge magnets and wall calendars. The average punter is understandably disillusioned with the practices of government and justifiably harbours disdain for the average politician sitting in those halls of power. They need to be voted out — not ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.

A diversionary note at this point about Anarchism: The underlying faith in the capacity for human beings to solve issues of economy, security and dispute without the intrusion of government or the state is not in question here. The evidence is clear that we, as a product of nature, have been shaped by the processes of natural selection to live in cooperative, peaceful relations with each other. We do not, as social animals, need a state or a government to enforce this upon us. The counter-argument to that, the Hobbesian view — that the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, and therefore, the only way to secure civil society is through universal submission to the absolute authority of a sovereign — was constructed by an individual living within a society that had gone awfully wrong. Unfortunately this flawed worldview has survived and underpins the modus operandi of the contemporary “globalised” world. 

Anarchy may be the ultimate endpoint of an enlightened human culture, but to ignore or abandon the existing systems of governance is not an immediately viable solution. If we simply turn our backs on government and politics we get pretty much what we have now. Political apathy has allowed some of the most dysfunctional and incompetent members of our species to rise to power. And this is why governments are not irrelevant; they have the capacity to wreak havoc. We ignore at our own peril.

What about revolution? Perhaps the strongest objections to Anarchy, and our fear of it, arise from historical accounts and recent experience of revolution. The worst of human behaviour explodes into the vacuum created when years of dysfunctional government or tyranny are overthrown by revolt. This unfortunately becomes yet further evidence of the inability of humans to govern their own affairs — Hobbes is vindicated, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. So for the moment, because of where we are in history, we need to vote — for governments that are not built upon a Hobbesian ideology.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

– Plato

Have you ever heard, “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, a politician gets in”? Or this one, “Liberal (right) or Labor (left): they’re as bad as each other”? So do we just curl up in the corner and let them fuck us over?

In response to the first objection let me say: Nelson Mandela, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Waxman, Bob Brown, Gough Whitlam, Aung San Suu Kyi, Alexander Dubček, Marina Silva, Helen Clark, Ken Livingstone, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Wangari Maathai and José Mujica.

In response to the second: The Australian Greens, The Green Party USA , Green Party (UK), The Socialist Democratic Party, Syriza and Podemos.

OK, you could say I am leaning left and green, and you’ll have no argument from me. Because the swing to the right and money, even from traditionally left wing parties (in pathetic attempts to survive), that has dominated world affairs since the 1970s has proven to be a disaster for both humans and the environment. But times change and the current political apathy and ignorance, that accompanied the legitimate desire for people to be free of tyranny and any form of oppression or control, is over. A recent rise of the green left, as epitomised by Syriza and Podemos, is good news for the common people and for the life support systems of the planet. We are waking up to the fact that the “free market” — a bullshit justification for the rape of the planet and the enslavement of the masses — is neither fair nor sustainable. This should be encouragement for even the most hardcore disbelievers in humanity. So get out there and vote.

The most powerful force possessed by the individual citizen is her own government…Government is the only organised mechanism that makes possible that level of shared disinterest known as the public good.

– John Ralston Saul

Political apathy is no longer cool. Virtually all of the destruction of the environment, and all of the human rights abuses, happening right here, right now, are permitted or ignored by the governments of the world. Opting out of the political processes that form our governments is not a form of protest; it is neglect. If you are not 100% happy with the current world’s state of affairs, casting a vote is the very least you can do. All activism is political and every tool available ought to be used. There are alternatives; the defeatists will point out that “they will never get in”, but every vote for a minor party or an independent does have an impact. If there is no alternative to the two major parties in your electorate, an informal vote is a thousand times greater protest than simply not turning up. Better still, get active within your community and help to make sure there is a green socialist candidate standing next time. Then vote.

Around my way recently I heard an elected government boast that the nation is “open for business”. This same government then revealed that it has no qualms about dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, because apparently “coal is good for humanity”, and the economy of course. It is hard to find anyone prepared to admit they voted for this government — but enough did. I know you didn’t, so how about changing the subject at work, at home, or in the street, from sport, fashion and celebrity to politics. You may get some moans and groans, but if you point out that Cristiano Ronaldo, Jean Paul Gaultier or Kanye West are not going to change the world for the better then you may get some attention. You will be part of creating a more informed public, that crucial element to a strong and healthy democracy. Then make an informed vote.

All suffering is ignorance. Now is the time to look, listen, learn and talk about what is really going on.  The governments that are currently on watch and with all the power, the very same ones that are performing so poorly for us and the environment, were voted in by us, and can be voted out by us. They only get away with it if we allow them to. So vote.


  • Sorry to say that I have to disagree with the article.
    The voting systems given to us to participate in are are not designed to overthrow the very people who so generously provided them. These people are the same ones who are destroying the planet & exploiting the weakest people living on it with a ruthlessness most would be unable to fathom. Such is the level of this ruthlessness it’s obvious they do not meekly sit with fingers crossed each & every election hoping their electorates hand them yet another 5 years in which to plunder & line their pockets – no, they’re secure in the knowledge that their political structures will protect them from the people they rule over.
    In other words you cannot vote them out.
    Therefore not voting is the better option for the following reasons:
    Firstly, because in most countries you’ll tap in to a base of between 1/4 to a 1/3 of people who for various reasons don’t vote, which is immediately a far larger platform than decades of campaigning will ever achieve.
    Secondly, should enough people refuse to vote the political system is then revealed as the dictatorship it truly is. At that point people have a clearer choice between dictatorship or resistance.
    And thirdly – in a reversal of the general wisdom that if you don’t participate you have no right to complain – if you do vote you lend your backing & credibility to a system that deserves neither, & it’s those people who cannot complain.
    But where does that leave us in what could be a very long meantime? I believe that the one true power people hold is their power as consumers of whatever it is corporations wish to trade with us. If we effectively single out & target certain concerns, both as a punishment & a deterrent to others, then we’re engaging them in their own world & can exert a control over them that voting never can.
    In effect we by-pass the middlemen they put in place (the politicians) and ‘talk’ to them in the only language they respond to, that of money. To do this ordinary people (the victims) need to organise globally, & that is the major challenge – elections are simply a side issues that serve the purpose of quelling discontent.


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