The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

A duty as well as a task

Reading through some of the newsletters of the day I could see different approaches to invite people to go and cast their vote in an election. A dilemma they are touching upon is the one to see the impact a single vote can have when it is only one out of millions.

Thus the daily stoic’s newsletter points out that participating in elections is a duty as the Stoics have been clear about the fact that they, the philosopher, are obligated to contribute to the polis, and to participate in politics.

The point I found more interesting is the idea that voting simply also is a moment to remember the chosen way of being:

“Being good, like voting, is in our control. Whether it has a noticeable or significant impact on the world is not. But we do it anyway because it’s our duty. The same is true for voting—today, in the next election, in every election. Make your tiny contribution to the common good. Because it will make a difference, if not to the whole, it will to you.”

It’s impossible to only engage into acts within our control and only do those things for which our preferred outcome is guaranteed. Trying to do it even removes most of the opportunities we have in life.

Seth Godin brings a different angle to it by pointing out, that we live in an imperfect system that allows us being manipulated and pushed around but that trying to avoid this system by not voting leads into a downward cycle. The simple idea is, that by voting for the least-bad option we can turn the cycle around. Seeing this, each individual vote has an impact on the system.

Going beyond the idea that our vote has an impact and is a duty it seems that we also need to see it is a clearly delimited task. A vote serves to support the chosen option, it isn’t a message. Using a vote as “double transaction” with which we vote for someone and try to send a sublimely message to others at the same time will not work as planned as it is too fuzzy to be understood clearly. By remaining clear about who receives the vote and acting upon that we insure that we do what we mean.

In fact, if the message is “it’s the other one we are sending a message to” we are also saying “we don’t care about you and your work” which adds to the downward cycle.

By walking the talk and stick and understanding the task that comes along with the vote we stick to saying, that it is worth it to be less bad than the other guy. It’s a posture which leads into the right direction.


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