Why I urged British voters to abstain

Voters

Protesters demonstrate against British Prime Minister Theresa May in London, 10 June 2017. (EPA/Andy Rain)

Earlier this month, on the day British voters went to the polls for a snap parliamentary election, one of our student writers, Arsentiy Novak, wrote an article urging voters to exercise their right to abstain. His article prompted considerable debate and some criticism. Below, Novak explains his reasoning, which he bases on “philosophical anarchism.”

By Arsentiy Novak

In my previous article, I made the following proposition: Do not vote, for in doing so you enslave yourself to an unworthy government. Surprisingly, this prompted some objections, so I’d like to set the record straight.

Here’s the first objection that arose: The system is set in place, and a single abstention will not see change. Why even try?

My reasoning is influenced by A. John Simmons’s “philosophical anarchism.” Its predominant claim is that the system — in our case, democracy — has no moral right to be there, no inherent legitimacy. It is grounded merely in pragmatism.

This is key. Philosophical anarchists do not advocate a radical attack against the state. Instead, we ask that the state, like anything worth questioning, should be looked upon with skepticism.

So what is my alternative? Nothing. Practically speaking, representative democracy is the best system known to man. It is sovereignty backed by popular will, not imperialistic acquisition. Complexity and nuance are handled by experts. Decisions are based on impartial values, not the preferences of the mob.

How pessimistic to think we are destined to be coerced.

This we ought to keep for a while.

Am I a hypocrite? Well, consider this: I do not believe representative democracy to be the final stage in our political evolution. How pessimistic it would be to say that the coercion inherent in the democratic rule of the majority is our highest purpose.

But I am also not so blind as to believe that here and now in Britain we can survive without a strong government. Nihilistic “martyrs” of Islam are roaming our cities: 13 dead in London, 22 in Manchester, 208 injured.

Meanwhile, there is prodigious screaming on the Left that we are to blame for this. Anyone who dares say otherwise is considered an ignorant Islamophobe. Ironically, the same leftists who are busy shrieking about tolerance keep their mouths shut on the issues of real importance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s messianic regime creeps further into Europe. Ukrainian borders are in tatters as the Russian military advances, and the United Nations reports that at least 10,090 have died in fighting there, with a further 23,966 injured and 1.6 million displaced by conflict.

North Korea. For nearly 70 years the necrocracy started by Kim Il-sung has guaranteed its serfs a chance to live out Orwell’s “1984.”

Abstain to promote real change.

Zionism in the holy land. A modern-day crusade is happening under our noses, yet all we do is look at Jeremy Corbyn memes. Or deify Theresa May. Why? Because we have become too comfortable, too dulled. This blindness is opening doors to alt-right nationalists like Nigel Farage, who recommends we make friends with President Putin, who benefits from our own hypocrisy.

How many have to be oppressed before we realize that these occurrences are at odds with humanism?

Why would anyone want a system that produces governments incapable of preserving its citizens’ empathy and courage? Why would you not abstain from this?

I do not say there should be no state. But I have yet to see a candidate worthy of being at its head. By abstaining, we let that view be known. We promote true change.

Philosophical anarchism demands that we must learn to doubt again. Being vigilant means that if you vote, you do so out of necessity rather than a whim. When you haggle with your freedom, at least make sure the master is worth it.


Arsentiy Novak was born in Ukraine and has lived the past 12 years in Britain. He is studying Philosophy at King’s College London and is particularly interested in religion, political theory and metaphysics. He hopes to pursue a career in theater and film.

What do you think?