Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, May 17, 2015

To Whomever It May Concern

To those who declare participation in elections you are qualified to vote in and that have real consequences for better and for worse even when you fully approve of none of the candidates and, indeed, actively disapprove of all the candidates in some measure makes you a complicit celebrant in the worst evils in which these candidates take some part, even if you condemn these evils, even if you resist them, even when you struggle to rectify them, I must say three things. First: by such standards a person who accepts a summons to jury duty, pays taxes (including sales taxes, so it's shoplifting or bust I'm afraid), or even retains their citizenship in a nation-state complicit in such crimes is exactly equally complicit in such crimes as the everyday voting citizen presumably is and people in glass houses have no business throwing stones. Second, of course, I disagree that such standards make any kind of practical or even philosophical sense, indeed such a proposal confuses ethical (or possibly even aesthetic) values with political ones in my view and then proceeds from that error into the even larger and worse error of pretending that this mistake is some kind of sign of superiority rather than confusion and provides an occasion for stupid assholes making a self-righteous spectacle of themselves to no practical purpose, not least because treating everybody as guilty of great crimes is tantamount to treating nobody as guilty of them which is not in fact a way of demonstrating how much more seriously you take crimes than other people do but how you aren't really interested in crimes at all except to the extent that they provide excuses for ugly preening, which is not very nice when it comes to it. Third, apart from insisting that those who try in the heartbreaking compromised historical struggle toward social justice to do anything at all are essentially the worst of the worst for trying (since it would seem that not only voting in elections, but devoting one's adult life to teaching critical thinking and democratic politics as a precarious adjunct, advocating policies for sustainability and equity-in-diversity in writing and in public under one's name, engaging in actual civil rights and labor organizing and activism, and so on are all worthy of contempt and reveal one to be the worst of the worst), it is hard to see what positive contribution to the solution of problems of injustice and exploitation and violence those who rail against doing anything are actually managing in their doing nothing, indeed it is hard to see how these heroic revolutionaries are distinguishable in their actual conduct from the most uncritical complacent consumer reactionaries when all is said and done. If after a few joyless turns on the rhetorical merry-go-round with persons holding such views you find that you are still being denigrated as evasive and non-communicative, while war-crimes and genocide are being falsely and utterly irresponsibly attributed to you not even by convoluted inference (which would be bad enough) but directly and by name, and while cowardly pseudonymous commenters are applauded as they declare themselves (without proof or even plausibility) former students and give false testimony about your teaching practice and character and so on you should not really be surprised to discover that even the most patient and generous interlocutor may finally come to judge you to be little more than a troll and so call it a day.

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