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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Tuesday, November 06, 2012

    An Analogy to Consider: Don't Vote

    Here’s a story. Arguments from analogy are dangerous things without thinking about whether the context applies. I’ll throw this out and suggest that the story is a fair analogy and let you all let me know where it went wrong.

    A prison guard comes to you and offers you a choice for dinner. Would you like a half-rotten hamburger or a garden salad for dinner? He offers you a choice; one is clear

    ly better than the other. The garden salad not only won’t make you sick, it’s likely to have some good vitamins and things that may promote your health in your cell. Of course, you saw that some of the inmates who faced the same choice didn’t always get the salad they asked for. In fact a minority of them even starved to death. Sometimes, they were served the rotten hamburger instead. Yet, a fair number also got the salad they ordered, even if sometimes the greens weren’t as fresh as one would like, or there was some of that hamburger mixed in.

    The choice seems clear, then. I might not get salad, but it’s surely healthier than a rotten hamburger, and so I should choose the salad the prison guard is offering me. What’s more, it seems that if people order the salad this year, they may get also to decide whether the cell gets some toilet paper, which has been in short supply. There is a referendum on that in your cell block; you may not care about salad or hamburger, but you definitely could use more toilet paper.

    Yet, strange as it may seem, in your cell, there is a door that you have been told not to open. You know only that it leads outside the prison. Yet, you have been warned that you will be killed if you open the door, or chased down. There are dangerous things, you are told, outside this door, and most of your cellmates have said very plainly that they will never follow you.

    It seems that the only real choice isn’t the salad or the half-rotten hamburger but whether you are going to go through that door or not. It isn’t even the consequences. You may or may not get salad if you stay; it may or may not be good. However, you may not survive leaving the prison. The question is whether life is worth living within the apparent range of choices given to us if we remain confined essentially to a prison. Voting represents those choices that have been selected for us – some better, some worse; none coming with any guarantees. Yet, staying and eating that prison dinner when there’s a door waiting to be opened that leads out of the prison strikes me as foolish. When you vote, you don’t walk through that door; you make sure that the prison remains until the next vote, and those arguments repeat themselves over and over again. Your voting choice will always be real; it will always have real consequences – even in a prison environment – but why allow ourselves to stay and hope for the best from our rulers when we can all break out?

    My vote is in the power of each of us to take action. How sad that we have to depend upon nine people to determine what “rights” people have or are going to lose. How sad that people will kill and die going to wars no matter who gets chosen because one man essentially has that power to do so. We could stop this; their power rests in us. But we don’t; we abdicate. We neuter our action and our voice by accepting that these choices have any vitality. We postpone action and repeat the charade every election. Yet, they don’t really have the power to keep us imprisoned; we simply give it to them. How novel that they restrict voting from certain groups and make it harder; this must be some prize. Wow, some people don’t get to choose rotten hamburger or salad. Not all prisoners are equal; let’s make them all equal and assimilate them to prison life. Let’s make soldiers out of gay people and let them marry. Let’s not restrict early voting; let’s not make people have ids. Yet, all these things are meant to give more vitality to a choice that is still essentially a prisoner’s choice.

    The door is waiting for us to go through. Don’t vote.