Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It’s primary Election Day where we live. Members of political parties will truck to the polls to pick senators, representatives and other positions.
We will not be voting. We haven’t voted for many years and have no plans to return. Today, we look at the idea of voting through an absurd lens.
Now we know that the idea of the absurd goes against nearly everything we’ve been taught since we were knee-high to a grasshopper. It goes against nearly everything society would want us to believe. We are told to work hard, be good in school, obey the laws, get a job and pay our taxes. Society wants good citizens.
In other words, it wants dogs that enjoy their leashes.
But having an absurd worldview casts all of that in a laughably ridiculous light. Or as Camus put it, “after the absurd, everything is upset.” The absurd view, as we’ve pointed out, embraces the meaningless nature of our existence. It sees the futility of man’s struggle, which ends in death. Therefore, all of these ideals people hold as meaningful and important are seen as nothing more than fleeting shadows and vapors.
In this blog, we’ve tried to explore the ramifications of the absurd – how to live an absurd life in an absurd world. We’ve tried to recover this alternative tradition in literature and philosophy – one that sees the absurdity of the world and embraces it.
In politics, we see another area where the absurd clashes with mainstream thinking. We are told to vote and participate in our democracy. It is a point of pride for those who do. People wear little stickers saying “I voted.” If you don’t vote, people give you disproving glances and “tsk, tsk.”
We find it all amusing. Voting is as meaningless as anything else we do. It simply doesn’t matter one way or the other. An absurd man may vote, we suppose, just because he can. But we find good reasons not to vote.
Supposedly, our government is built on the consent of the governed. Think how silly this is. Did we ever consent? And if we did, can we not withdraw that consent? Why is it that we are ever slaves to the promises made by dead men? Did we participate in drawing up the US Constitution? Did we sign it? How are we bound by these laws?
Our non-voting is our way of saying we withdraw. There was a brilliant 19th century fellow, a lawyer and entrepreneur, named Lysander Spooner. He made the argument, convincingly, that people who voted for the government delegated their rights to it, and those who did not vote for it were free from its jurisdiction. Legally and morally, Spooner has the high ground in our view.
We suppose the absurd man can enjoy the whole spectacle of politics as entertainment, but it is a mistake to impute any importance whatsoever to government and its doings. It is among the most anti-absurd of our institutions – full of self-importance and bluster, and on top of it all, it is lethal too!
Our view is to skip the whole thing. And there are benefits to not voting. As you no longer have a horse in that race, you will look at it more objectively, in a more detached way. It is freeing in its own way, we find.
It’s like C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe a man is happier and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the freeborn mind’ … and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of the government who can criticize its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology.”
The ideal absurd man depends on nothing external for his sense of equanimity. He is truly free because he realizes that nothing matters.
The gravity of the world is all in our heads. It is in how we look at the world. That’s the beauty of the absurd. It shows us that the chains we wear are of all of our own making. We can slip out of them whenever we choose.
Posted by Inigo Montoya at 11:15 AM