If you could just, by spending an hour waiting in line and then voting for the candidate of your choice, make your life much better….wouldn’t you?
How to explain why so many people don’t vote, even when a vocal minority of Americans — joined by a raucous chorus of pundits and politicians — are begging them to?
Can anyone else truly affect your fate, bring prosperity and happiness? This is a provocative question. For those who believe that politics shape our world the answer is obvious. But buried within the breasts of many people is an old-fashioned cynicism, or perhaps something else — a knowledge that transformation only begins with the self. Only you can better your own circumstances, because….
no one can but yourself can master a new language (that is, no one can magically give you the ability to speak it; you have to do that on your own)
no one but yourself can create personal happiness (money helps, but the heavy lifting of self-knowledge can only come from you)
no one can create a connection to another person that is meaningful (the ability to see someone else, who they truly are, can only be done if your eyes are open, and no one but you can open those eyes)
So then it follows, mirabile dictu, that no measure passed in the legislature can have the impact on your life that is truly a game changer.
It’s great entertainment to pretend that social movements and political causes really transform lives and make things better. My goodness — if everyone stopped smoking we would all be so much healthier. If only everyone could vote same day with a polling place on every street corner, the will of the people would truly be known. If we could shut down all nuclear plants, or all fossil fuels, the environment would be saved. Or speaking of saving the environment, just stop Bolsonaro from burning the Amazon.
It is wonderful to get geared up for causes. People need reasons to live. If nothing else, the imperatives of a cause create a wonderful agitation in the bodily system, helping you get through the day, which otherwise might pose some uncomfortable challenges or demands.
But then, the old cynicisms or personal convictions referred to above re-assert themselves. There is a reluctance to get involved with causes because of the sneaking suspicion that this is not really what we are meant to do. Instead, we are called to something else — something much more intense, and much more personal — the path of self-facing, which comes first — and which dedication to a cause can grow out of — but only if the inward path is taken first.