On Saturday October 13th a couple dozen people gathered at in front of the Post Office on Franklin St. with banners, signs, and literature to counter election year rhetoric. Several banners were tied up around the square, free literature and food tables set up, and hundreds of anti-elections anarchist pamphlets handed out.
On the coming anniversaries of Occupy Chapel Hill and later the Yates Building occupation, as well as leading up to the upcoming anarchist bookfair, we wanted to present a simple but visible and uncompromising critique of democracy and its role in capitalist society.
The text handed out to passersby is printed below, along with a couple pics. Enjoy.
DEMOCRACY: FOUR WOLVES AND THREE SHEEP DECIDING WHAT’S FOR DINNER
Why does half of the US voting-age population stay home on election day, year after year? Why is the battle for the presidency always waged between men whose greatest promise is that everything will stay the same — even when everyone knows that something must change? And in the face of these obvious facts, why are we incessantly told that voting is the most urgent, most powerful, most sacred and important political act we can take? Who profits from these contradictions?
Republicans and Democrats agree on almost everything. Every vote is a vote for war and sweatshops overseas, for surveillance and suppression here, for environmental degradation and corporate imperialism everywhere. It’s easy to see why, when every word spoken in Washington is backed by quantities of cash most of us can’t even imagine — from the fast-talking lobbyists to the media giants who manufacture public opinion.
Why do we keep playing our part in the joke, when we know the joke’s on us? When Bush left, the Obama generation imagined that a new personality in the White House could fix the problems the last politician caused, just as disillusioned people on the right now imagine that ousting the current president will fix today’s malaise. It’s natural to want someone to blame when we can’t afford the things we need, when opportunities we’ve learned to expect are unavailable to us, when the world around us seems increasingly unjust and alien. Politicians are a reasonable group to blame. But why would we believe other politicians when they promise they can make it better if we just put our faith in them? Obama’s hope and change never materialized, and neither will the promises of his opponents. Most of us know, even if we don’t want to admit it: the problem isn’t personal, it’s systemic.
The truth is, the society we live in is in the midst of a crisis no politician can fix. The middle class that every would-be president courts is disappearing, and it’s not coming back. The great peace-treaties that kept capitalism stable in the last century are broken; even capitalists lack the resources to mend them. Of course a new stabilization may be found to quell the uncertainty and upheaval of recent years; if so, it won’t be based on compromise, but on force. That’s what the politicians really mean when they promise a return to normalcy: not prosperity, but repression. If we want a different kind of future on the other side of the crisis, we have to accept that it won’t be a capitalist one. And we’ll have to make it for ourselves.
If the electoral promises all boil down to the same thing, what’s the real purpose of the election? Elections are a civic ritual to confirm the legitimacy and might of the government. Like all rituals, they draw their power from illusion — not just passive illusion, but participatory illusion. If enough people participate, the main purpose is achieved, whoever wins; political legitimacy remains the monopoly of politicians and bureaucrats, and whoever doesn’t vote is defined as apolitical.
The Occupy movement, for all its flaws, showed this illusion crumbling at its edges; across the country, people came together both physically and politically in a way that explicitly rejected electoral politics. One year later, when politicians are again on center stage, it is more important than ever to express the possibility of a political power that is truly our own, to remember that our disillusionment can be a rallying point for collective strength instead of isolated apathy. Our dreams are too big to fit in their ballot boxes. Instead of letting them define those dreams out of existence, we choose not to play their game.