This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Voting as superstition

To approach the problem in another way, we can say that voting is a superstitious act.

A superstition can be described in a couple of ways:

  1. A) An unfounded belief that one thing causes another, when there is no real connection between the two.

Or:

  1. B) Continued belief in something that used to be true, but isn’t anymore. Etymologically the word means ‘to survive,’ and refers to the survival of an idea beyond its natural lifespan.

Regardless of which definition you prefer, voting fits the bill.

By definition A:

Voting implies the belief in a causal connection between the act of voting and the improved function of government. Since all actual evidence points in the opposite direction, and the more elections we have, the worse things get, it is safe to say that this causal connection does not exist. That is to say, voting is a superstition.

By definition B:

Voting may or may not have been effective at one time. We grant this, and it would be foolish not to. Nonetheless, it remains true that even if this was at one time the case, it is simply not true anymore. The belief in voting has outlived itself. Thus, again, voting is a superstition.

Having said that, we are left with a big question: “Why?” That is, “Why do people continue to cling so obstinately to a belief that disappoints them again and again and again?”

To answer that question, we should instead ask why people hold onto superstitions. The answer, in part, is fear. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. A desire for the security provided by a simple answer. If your friend dies, there is something perversely comforting about being able to say it was due to the black cat that crossed his path the day before. At least if that is true, then we know the causes of things. We understand. We have an answer for what would otherwise be a mystery, even if the answer is stupid.

What is perhaps more significant, however, is the sense of control this knowledge gives us. If you know anyone who actually carries around a rabbit’s foot every day, or uses any of the other tools of the superstitious trade, it is pretty clear what they want: control. If I know that my friend died because a black cat crossed his path, then I can prevent my own death, to at least some degree, by not letting cats cross my path.

This hints at the real foundation of superstition, which is the desire for control over one’s circumstances. That is the reason for the rabbit’s foot. That is also the reason for the vote. Even if it does nothing, it gives people who are otherwise frustrated, afraid, and confused, a sense of control over their destinies.

Modern man has good reason to be frustrated. I don’t blame him for that. The world we live in today is vastly more complex than it ever has been before. If, at some point in history, the average person ever did have a comprehensive understanding of all the things that affected his life, and if he ever did have some semblance of control over his affairs, that was centuries ago.

In today’s world people drive cars they cannot fix, live in houses they could not build, use cell phones and computers they barely understand; they undergo medical procedures they cannot fathom, they take strange medicines that control their emotions; they live in a world that is, more than at any other point in history, completely beyond their comprehension, and certainly beyond their control.

The point is that modern people need a sense of control, even if it isn’t real. Modern people need a superstition, and they need it far more than their ancestors. That superstition is the vote.

The act of voting reassures them that all this talk about freedom is true. They need to be reassured of this, because they cannot see it for themselves. It is not obvious to them that they are as free as everyone says they are. It is doubtful very many people really feel free. How could anyone feel liberated while being so utterly immersed in a supercomplex system of dependencies?

And then a savior comes. His name is Democracy. He holds out to them a piece of paper and says, “Your destiny is in your hands. All you need to do is fill in these dots and liberty shall be yours. Also, be sure to use a #2 pencil.”

The problem with superstitions, however real the need for them may be, is that they do not conform to reality. Those who believe in them wind up frustrated and lost, which is what they were trying to avoid in the first place. Superstitions are self-defeating, and reality always asserts itself in the end. The problem is that the deeper the person’s need for control, the more violently reality has to assert itself before it wins, before the superstitious person finally lets go of his charms.

That is why we, as a country, might have to continue on our course a little longer. But it can’t go on forever. Every election cycle, the candidates seem to be getting weirder. The spell will be broken, for the simple reason that the spell isn’t real.

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