Want to Work Within the System? Here's How

Want to Work Within the System? Here's How

There's a huge difference between reform and revolution; between tweaking the system and destroying it. This difference is never more evident than during a presidential (s)election season. At one end of the political spectrum, you have the rebellious, the radicals, my beloved brethren who refuse to offer any legitimacy to a decadent power structure that was never intended to improve the lives of working-class people. On the opposite side of the ideological table sit the compliant, the reformers, the voting cattle who insist that meaningful change requires not the destruction of the status quo, but just a periodic replacement of the Establishment's puppets. While many of the latter group will readily admit the futility of voting for capitalist politicians, for some reason they repeatedly flock to the polls, happily continuing the charade.

I think that reason can be summed up in a word: participation. While fewer and fewer proletarians are voting nowadays, it seems that more and more people are inclined to get active in society, politically or otherwise. Such a beautiful, if not necessary, development. Problem is that too many of us think that political activity begins and ends at the ballot box. And of course, our enemies within the Establishment would prefer it if that illusion remained intact. Or that any deviation from the voting booth is limited to other activities just as futile, such as signing a petition or emailing an elected official.

There are, however, some effective ways to make a tangible impact from within the system. For example. Voting by referendum; deciding on public policy in a direct democratic way instead of outsourcing one's political power to a so-called representative. This would seem like a no-brainer, given the abject failure of most office-holders to represent the interests of their constituents. Another example. Jury nullification; passing judgment on not only a criminal defendant, but also on the law itself, of which they stand accused. When said law criminalizes victimless behavior such as gambling or prostitution, jury nullification can prevent the horrific injustice of caging a nonviolent human. A tactic especially useful when capitalist lawmakers are beholden to corporations and thus refuse to correct failed policies.

Take a single issue; the drug war, for instance. Almost universally acknowledged as an utter disgrace, the US war on poor people [I mean drugs] continues to destroy the lives of millions of our fellow humans. Now, which is more effective at righting this wrong - voting for a person who promises the legal changes that, for some reason, just never seem to happen, or putting controlled substance decriminalization on the ballot so that the taxpayers themselves can weigh in? Is it more effective, as a juror, to defer to the legislature and imprison a peaceful person for possessing a plant, or to exercise jury nullification, ignore unjust laws and make a direct and compassionate impact on the life of one of their fellow citizens?

Anyone with even an inkling of doubt as to which course of action is more appropriate would be wise to rethink what motivates their political activity in the first place. Is it merely to feel a part of the process and absolve oneself of the criticism thrown their way by indoctrinated voters? Or is it to effect a fundamental change in society and the way it functions? Do we seek a pat on the back and a sticker on our cheek that says 'I voted'? Or are we striving to tangibly improve the conditions under which we live? Although it is revolution, and only revolution - only the complete replacement of the social, political and economic status quo - that can ultimately solve these man-made crises, there are plenty of opportunities for effective action from within the current paradigm. That includes not just jury nullification and direct democracy, but a whole host of other tactics that maybe you can brainstorm and share in the comments below. Peace.