Voting for our own interests

This was written a few weeks before the General Election of May 2015.

A lot of people I talk to are worried about ‘letting the Tories back in’ by splitting the progressive vote. This loses sight of the bigger picture: that millions of people voted for them.

Even if you only consider narrow self interest, the vast majority of those millions voted against their own interests. Why?

It’s partly because the mainstream media dominate the flow of information. They don’t report real information and supply vast quantities of disinformation. But the mainstream media’s messages would be rejected if they didn’t fit into a world view that has been part of our culture for a long time.

The mainstream media are an essential part of an economic system that depends on promoting false divisions, for example by pitting the local British working class against working class immigrants.

But our economic system also depends on creating a false image of unity. Most of us think of ourselves as at least one of these: English, British, White or Middle Class. These identities all carry within them the myth that ‘we’ are part of a good, democratic project that we must defend against ‘our’ enemies.

The myth buried inside these identities, that ‘we are the good guys, citizens of the free world’, can make it harder to understand that we are part of a system that exploits us, and that also depends upon us exploiting others.

So, at this point in time a large percentage of our population are confused enough to be easily manipulated by the mainstream media. In this situation, trying to win the election can be a trap: in order to get elected, you have to get votes. To get votes you have to appeal to the majority of the people. But the majority of the people are misinformed.

To appeal quickly to a group of people who are misinformed you have to appeal to their misinformed reality. You have to elect leaders and spokespeople who appeal to this misinformed reality. You have to change your policies to suit it.

In order to become ‘electable’ the Labour Party diluted its principles. They did eventually win an election – but by then they weren’t the Labour Party any more.

So at this point in time I think the first goal has to be creating an informed population. Campaigning in an election is a great way to get people thinking by offering rational policies and the reasoning behind them.

If instead you try to become ‘electable’ you deprive people of a rare opportunity to gain information and learn about ideas they’ve never had contact with before. This keeps them vulnerable to manipulation, which maintains the pressure on progressive political parties to become ‘electable’, and so helps to lock the current political system in place.

This is a good article on a similar theme by Jonathan Cook: The real lessons of the Tory victory.

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