|Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.|
IN So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, the fourth book in the late Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, there is a brief , but illuminating, conversation between Arthur Dent, the last surviving man after Earth is demolished to make way for a space bypass, and Ford Prefect, an alien writer for a galactic travel guide, who rescues him. It goes like this:
“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."
"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"
"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"
Of course, Adams is obviously commenting on the failure of representative democracy: it doesn't matter who you vote for, the bastards still win. But he is also having a crack at the madness of 'lesser evilism' when Ford suggests that its important to vote to stop the 'wrong lizard' winning.
I've referred to this passage many posts ago, but, in an election year, its worth mentioning again. Unfortunately nothing has changed since the last election. Again we are being asked by the political establishment to vote for political parties and candidates that are depressingly similar in their beliefs and their allegiances. They all believe in 'the market' and they all pledge their allegiance to protecting the interests of 'the market'.
You can't even vote for an individual progressive candidate because the Labour and Green leaderships ensure that only candidates they approve of get on to the ballot paper. I didn't see any public rallies demanding that Labour choose Willie Jackson and Greg O'Connor as candidates. I didn't read any newspaper letters arguing that Willie Jackson and Greg O'Connor were Labour's kind of people. But Andrew Little wanted then both on the ballot paper and that's what he got.
In short, the fix is in.
In the absence of a real progressive party to vote for, the only responsible and rational response is not to vote. To vote means sanctioning an election process that is a fraud. And the political parties and their cheerleaders want you to vote because without our sanction, the election process has no legitimacy.
Voting is not a celebration of democratic freedom but an act of deadening political conformity. By not voting you say loudly and clearly that the political system does not represent you and you do not recognise it.
Above all though, not voting means rejecting the 'lesser evil' argument. Voting for the 'right lizard' has done little more than prevent the development of a genuinely progressive political party in New Zealand. And it has also prevented any independent political organization emerging from various protest movements because that political activity is inevitably shunted towards the Labour Party.
A case in point is Joe Carolan who stood for Socialist Aotearoa in the recent Mt Albert by election. He only got 191 votes but any political value he got out of the campaign has now been thrown away by his declaration that we must vote out the 'wrong lizard' in September. In other words, vote for Labour or the Green's.