Vote! That’s what students in Britain are being told on election day. But here’s an alternative view: Abstain and withhold your approval of a flawed system.
By Arsentiy Novak
It is a near impossible task to find a student who has not been pressured to vote in Britain’s snap election today.
Widespread dissatisfaction — to use a gentle term — with Prime Minister Theresa May, with a lack of consistency in her Conservative Party’s manifesto and with her inability to extinguish rising terrorist aggression sets young hearts ablaze. The majority of youngsters stand behind the meek and mild Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party.
But no matter how Thursday’s election ends, there is a deep and growing sense of unrest over an inconspicuous illusion: that the individual matters and that the election offers a genuine choice.
I want to present an alternative view.
A vote by itself confers consent.
Voting is a necessary part of any democracy and underpins our state. Voting keeps the wheels of democracy turning. But we, the voters, only make up the tractor’s engine. The government is in the driver’s seat, and propaganda is its fuel.
So what gives a government legitimacy? Quite simply, our consent. Before I turn to the notion of a vote, there is a proposition that must be rejected: That we offer our consent simply by acquiescing to an elected government. That we are free to leave the country if we don’t like it, and we should accept this as fair.
This notion — that we are free to depart if we are not content — is undiluted masochism, and its proponents are sadistic. Their claim is this: I provide a life that I decide is best for you, and in return you repay me with your freedom and gratitude. Failing this, you will be punished. You must accept this bargain as well-deserved and proper.
Well, I don’t.
A vote by itself confers consent. It provides legitimacy to a system designed mainly to correct deviants — those who stray from the designated path. With our vote, we legitimize a system that works like a parasite, eating away at its creators and forcing us into a contract of coercion. We select our leaders, and so face the consequences.
Abstaining from voting is one of the few liberties we can still enjoy.
Slavery is often tempting to our species. We want a government that’s strong and rigid to outside oppressors, and just and good to these within. May promises the former, Corbyn the latter. Whomever you “choose,” remember this: Tyranny takes root in the erosion of individuality. One is coerced into bowing to the wishes of the majority. A majority whose consciousness is formed by the government.
To simplify, let’s substitute “father” for “government.” We are told that we are free because we can vote and therefore choose between options presented to us. These options are chosen by the father, put forward by the father, limited by the father, and our choice is influenced by the father.
Want to say this is not true? Want to say you are the one who makes the decisions? But who are you if not the consequence of your parentage? Our very way of thinking is molded by our father. In Britain, we can chose how the father looks, but do you really think the choice is free?
Abstaining from voting is one of the few liberties we can still enjoy, something our friends in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Luxembourg and North Korea — where voting is compulsory — have lost. Use it.
If you question the legitimacy of state rule, voting is nonsensical. Abstain while you can, and you will still have a right to complain.
After all, you will have had nothing to do with the forthcoming circus.
(The views are the author’s.)
Arsentiy Novak was born in Ukraine and has lived the past 12 years in Britain. He is studying Philosophy at King’s College London and is particularly interested in religion, political theory and metaphysics. He hopes to pursue a career in theater and film.