By Suzanne P. Kendall
I was recently asked, once again, “Why should I be involved in politics and government? It is all so hopeless.” and my reaction, as always, was such an incredible mix of emotion.
Initially, I was empathetic because I understood how it seems that we have no effect whatsoever. It is a huge country and one individual, by him or herself seems to have little real impact.
At the same time, I was disgusted. How can the apathetic not remember that they were given a gift by the many who have given their lives – their lives - so that we may remain free?
I thought about all the men and women who left all that they loved and travelled an ocean, in an attempt to escape domination by a monarchy.
I thought about those, in more recent generations, who felt threatened by the thought of losing the freedoms “guaranteed” by our democratic system; who lived in fear of total domination by governments that neither required, nor desired, citizen participation.
I reflected on the hundreds of thousands of our citizens who have died violent deaths in wars that they fought in to preserve our rights.
I then wondered what would happen to our country if all the disillusioned people decided to no longer be involved. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that difficult to imagine.
Our democracy would quickly unravel into a country without checks and balances; no longer in need of judicial or legislative branches. One individual would decide everything and the United States of America would no longer need the input and involvement of the people.
Don’t think that would happen? I do. In fact, I believe that it has already begun to happen; so few of us vote and are involved.
Thankfully, I am an optimist, and I won’t slip into depression over the reality that we are allowing a minority to control us. Instead, I dream about what we could be if every last one of us became actively involved.
One thing is for certain: it would be absolutely impossible for one percent of the people to maintain control.
Then, there is another point of view espoused by Stephen Mills on December 6, 2010:
This article is going to suggest that participating in politics at any level is generally not a good idea. Many, maybe even most of you are going to disagree with this. I also know that people will tend to take it as a categorical statement and offer counter-examples. You will notice that I said “generally” because I don’t mean it in a categorical way. I can think of scenarios or places where I would not apply my general advice, but those are increasingly rare.
I can’t help but absorb a little bit of what goes on in politics through the media (my wife watches the news and the morning shows) or through reading some political satire, but I treat it mostly as a little bit of entertainment. I’m not participating in any real way.
Here is the basic question you need to ask yourself. Is it worth your time, effort, money, and mental well-being to keep up with or participate in political issues? For me, the answer is unquestioned no. I’ve been there and done that and since I actually cared so much about the issues, it was a never-ending source of disappointment and frustration. All the time I spent reading, listening, following, debating, wishing, hoping, and voting resulted in exactly ZERO difference.
Unless you are entertained or enjoy the process itself, I suggest that any time you spend in politics can actually be spent better elsewhere helping either yourself or your fellow man.
The reasons I’ve mostly chosen to withdraw from politics in all its forms are the following:
- I personally can’t make a difference.
- Even when my side “won”, nothing fundamental ever changed.
- Since I actually cared about the issues, it was a source of endless stress and frustration for me. It made me ill.
- I decide I no longer want to lend “participation support” to the flawed process.
- I was wasting my life.
You will get a tremendous amount of advice this days about not fighting reality, accepting the things you can’t change, etc., but almost nobody applies that to politics and there is hardly anything that it is more appropriately applied to. I think the reason is because we’ve been socialized into believing it is some kind of duty of a good citizen to be politically aware and active. I used to buy that crap. It is also because people will cook up scenarios where you can make a difference like a really close election, or with platitudes like “what if everyone thought that way”. Well everyone doesn’t and even if they did I would no more be able to change their minds about that than I am about the issues themselves.
All this is just socialization and there is no real basis for it. In fact the politicians want you to participate in the long run even if you don’t support them. It gives legitimacy to the process. P.J. O’Rourke has a book called Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards. I haven’t read it, but I like the idea of the title. I suggest you spend your time gaining freedom, peace, well-being, or whatever else outside the arena of politics.
The amount of mass media content that is devoted to the government or politics is overwhelming. If you believe the media, the government and its activities must be the single most important area of all of our lives. But it is simply a myth. It’s just baloney that we’ve allowed ourselves to be caught up in. Just because the media prattles on endlessly about Paris Hilton or Tiger Woods doesn’t mean I think they are important to mine or anyone else’s lives.
If you live in the U.S., Canada, most of Europe and Asia, and probably many other places, it’s simply not worth your time to engage in political activity. The political environment is just a reality. You personally can’t do anything about it unless you can convince millions of people that we are in need of radical change. Good luck with that.
You can stop arguing with reality, stop trying to control that which you can’t control, and find freedom by taking actions you do control.
I look at the political environment like the sun. It’s a basic fact of reality. It comes up and it goes down. I love the sunlight, but I can’t do a damn thing about the fact that every night it drops below the horizon and disappears. What I can do is turn the lights on. That’s something in my direct control and I don’t lose one second of my life worrying about or trying to change the fact the sun goes down or the fact that I prefer natural sunlight to artificial lighting. I try to take the same attitude towards government and politics.
You have a choice and obviously it’s yours to make. I’ve got to believe that the amount of national resources spent playing the political game are better spent elsewhere. I’m not apathetic. In fact I’m just the opposite, but I’ve made a conscious, intentional, and intellectual decision that politics sucks and is a waste of my life.
If you can accept the fact that the government steals a portion of your income and just get on with living you own life, the impact of the government on you will mostly disappear. If on the other hand you constantly monitor, watch, participate in, or worry about what the politicians and the bureaucrats are up to, then the government is going to be a huge burden upon your life. The key point is that the choice is yours.
Once I freed myself from the need to be worried about what the government was doing, the government became an incredibly insignificant, almost invisible factor in my life. The same freedom is yours if you will simply make the choice to forget the government and be free.
Treat the government like the weather. If it’s raining, put up an umbrella or go inside. If it’s cold, put on a coat. If it’s warm, take off your coat. If it’s dark, turn on a light.