Everything Will Be Fine if You Ignore the Election – Opting Out


Imagine that you’re reading an article about the presidential candidates.

It’s fractally infuriating. First of all, in the most recent debate, the candidates said hardly anything of substance. They offered nothing tangible on issues that directly affected your life. If they somehow covered the issue that was on your mind, it was covered superficially, and with bluster and insincerity.

The debate mostly consisted of bland allusions of caring more about certain demographics than the other candidates, cheap personal jibes, and canned slogans. The moderators asked no question that might actually spur these apparent robots to join one thought with another and produce an answer that could not have been predicted verbatim by discerning viewers. It was substanceless.

The article itself is brazenly biased, showing disrespect to unfashionable candidates. The uninitiated would be none-the-wiser as to what exactly went on in the debate, moreover, who these people are and why they’re there.

Worst of all, it accepted the premise of the political project wholesale: the idea that there are people out there that are more qualified to tell you how to live your life than you are, and that they, in turn, have the right to steal from and kill people for the good of the nation or such hogwash.

If it were honest, it would have interpreted the whole thing as a renovation job designed to veneer what is at its foundation a bloody, corrupt system with a sense of legitimacy. Yet it framed it as a bunch of well-meaning folks arguing about what’s best for the country.

You click off the article, close down your laptop, make yourself a cup of tea, sit down with your family and watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. The next day you do exactly as you would do, except you don’t read any more articles about the election. In fact, you’ve unfollowed all news accounts on social media. You’ve left the Facebook discussion groups. You decide to listen to music in the car instead.

And wouldn’t you know it, the world has not yet burned. Sure, you’re struggling with the same old problems — the dog is still misbehaving, the bathroom ceiling is still leaking, but there’s something different. Over time, you’ve lost that invisible nagging rash at the back of your neck that got inflamed every time you heard the voice of Elizabeth Warren. It’s like a weight that’s been lifted. It feels pretty good.

This is the life of the man or woman who has opted out. He or she is the avatar of a post-politics world, as close to utopia as this universe might grant us.

Of course, the first retort to this is going to be an accusation of not caring. Trust me, ignoring politics doesn’t come from insufficient care for the disadvantaged. The problem is we have outsourced our “care” to the government, which is the worst kind of virtue-signaling. It costs you literally nothing to say “the government should do something.” Why not? Some other guy will pay for it.

It’s something else to have some skin in the game and actually do something about the pet cause you’re Tweeting about. The state is almost certainly not the institution one would want to go about solving social problems, even if we do accept that it is a problem and not something manufactured by the propaganda networks paid for by that very same state.

If you recognize there’s something wrong with the world, there’s nothing stopping you from taking some step towards helping. Some problems are huge, but we can do what we can, and expand our ability to do what we can.

Have some humility, too, and realize that by simply striving to be a better husband, business partner, community member, you are being a social activist. Be a Nockian and understand that there is one thing you can do right this second to improve the lot of society — present it with one improved unit: yourself. Doing so might actually achieve something, and go some way to relieving the existential anxiety that comes from caring too much about politics.

Take it from me — stopping caring about politics makes you happier.

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James Smith

Writer and film-maker from the United Kingdom. Digital nomad. Author of 'The Shy Guy's Guide to Travelling'.