Enfranchisement

I think and talk a lot about politics, as you all well know.

Even though I am technically taking a break from talking so much about politics, I have still been thinking and talking a lot about politics. I think about polity–as the Greeks understood it and then Romans and everyone who followed them, including us in the western world today.

At St. J’s, everyone is part of the polity whether they actively participate  or not. Even whether they really want to be or not. It’s partly the charming sort of way everyone refers to the Great Books there, like most of you say is a big inside joke. But it’s also an expression of a highly inclusive mindset. If you’re there, you belong.

We are part of other polities whether we mean to be or not. Society has expanded and it is an all-encompassing thing. I’m not sure I ever bought the notion that there was an outside to society anyway. Even in Frankenstein, which I’m thinking about quite a bit now, there seems to be no escaping people. Victor finds people practically at the ends of the Earth as he pursues his creation to their mutually assured destruction. The monster finds people wherever he turns, to his great pain and eventual rage.

Spoilers?

I don’t think Shelley was only taking potshots at Rousseau when she wrote her novel, although he was clearly on her mind. There’s a global mentality to her details that I had never noticed before. She notes the atrocities of war; she mentions the genocide in the Americas more than once. Shelley was aware. She knew the connections and the patterns and she seems to say, too, that these horrors are the product of a common way of thinking. A way of thinking that seems highly, grandiosely, destructively patriarchal.

It’s strange to think of a novel in which women speak so little as feminist, but I’m coming to that conclusion.

I’ve been thinking that society is unavoidable because humans are social creatures, even though we do each other harm. We are all part of a human polity. And we all belong to specific polities.

So denying your place in that polity seems to do very little good, especially when people have fought and struggled and, indeed, died for the right you ignore when you don’t participate. We are enfranchised with certain alienable rights, but for a lot of people–the majority of people even–those rights came to fruition much later in our history. They had to demand them. They still do.

To willingly disenfranchise yourself, then…seems totally insane. Why would you silence yourself? Why would you place so much power in the voices of other people instead of speaking up yourself?

Because whatever your objections, none of us get to opt out of the polity. Opting out of participation only gives the political machine further justification to ignore you. And it does make a difference, as I’ve said before and as we’ve all seen. That’s just math.

If this sounds like a lecture, I’m not sorry. The more I think about it, the more I find opting out inexcusable. Whether you share a political viewpoint with me or not, it’s hard to respect people who don’t enact their own rights.

So just…fucking vote.

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