British comedian Russell Brand has the Twitterverse in an uproar following a BBC interview during which he stated that voting is a pointless exercise because the entire system is set up to to maintain corporations and power-mongers, not to help ordinary folks.
As we speak commentators from every political stripe are piling on to say how wrong he is, how ill-informed he is, and how everyone should, like, just ignore him.
Problem is, he’s right. The system is fixed, and there’s damn little likelihood that it will change.
There really is almost no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, or the Labour and Tory parties, or in Canada the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP. They will all tell you that they are different, but at the end of the day the big, rich guys get richer, the poor get poorer, and ordinary people get shafted. And it doesn’t matter which one of them you voted for.
The root of the whole thing is a system that requires insane amounts of money to be a contender for anything above dog-catcher. Phones, polls, TV ads, signs, newspaper ads, and volunteers all eat up a lot of cash, and the people who might be inclined to actually change anything aren’t the ones with big fat bank accounts to buy an elected position.
And of course, the Media, all of whom are owned by extremely rich guys, will continue to slant coverage in the ways that support the people that they trust. That swings enough votes to ensure that there’s no real change.
Or, to put it into a Canadian context:
- If you vote for a Conservative, Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
- If you vote for a Liberal, Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
- If you vote for an NDP, Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
Yes – a vote for the Greens is a waste. And spoiling your ballot is about the most pointless thing that you can do.
“Oh, but it’s a protest and will send a message to the people in power!” you say.
Guess what – it doesn’t. No politician cares in the slightest about spoiled ballots, or about people who don’t vote.
If you’ve ever worked on a campaign you’ll know that the entire population is divided into two groups that matter:
- People who you know will vote for you, and who you will work very hard to get to the polls.
- People who you know will vote for another party that might defeat you, and who you will work very hard to discourage from getting to the polls.
And that’s it. Anyone else does not matter.
As usual, Tommy Douglas had it right, way back in 1944.
“You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.”
MOUSELAND – A Political fable told by Tommy Douglas 1944
It’s the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.
They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.
Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.
Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws–that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds–so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.
All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.
Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouseholes.” And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.
And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.
You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.
Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?” “Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.
But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.