Thursday, October 23, 2008

 

Voting Rites and Beltaine's Fire on Election 2008

A popular yard sign in my community says, "Change We Can Believe In--Obama '08." I want to take seriously this notion of the presidential election as an act of faith, as a sort of religious exercise.

Richard A. Horsley has written extensively about "imperial religion." That is, "the construction and cultivation of religion primarily as individualistic spirituality, identity, and meaning [that] tends to leave the operations of political-economic power uncontested and acquiesces in the commodification of religious expressions" (see Religion and Empire, p. 130). In this same vein, he talks about how Christmas "has become a central expression and embodiment of American imperial domination, an imperial religion" (see Religion and Empire, p. 109).

So, here we have the related ideas of religion being reduced to private expression and the public expression of a religious holiday being turned to imperial ends. What of our secular political acts? Can they take on the trappings of religion? In "To Vote or Not to Vote," I wrote, "Politicians see voting as a means of granting legitimacy to the government." If that is correct then it would make sense to construct voting as, in some sense, a religious rite. I think that's the case but I am not going to develop that argument, for the present moment at least. Instead, I want share some illuminating remarks of others.

The two quotes below come from comments to "Ten Reasons Why I’m Not Voting" on Jesusmanifesto.com.
Voting is more rite than right. I see it as a participation in the cult of the empire, a symbolic bowing to the State's claims of sovereignty over this land. --Sara Harding

Voting is the central liturgical ritual of the false and idolatrous religion known as liberal democratic governance. In fact, voting is sacramental. The purpose of voting is not to choose government or alter policy (in liberal/industrial democratic government, that has already been done), but to mystically link those governed to those who govern, to make them one body, the body of the nation-state. --Charles Featherstone
All right, there it is and I am going to just leave that hanging there. To close things out I want to share below "None of the Above," the recent video by the anarchist Celtic Hip Hop Fusion group, Beltaine's Fire with Emcee Lynx on lead vocals.


See also: Tilly on the Nation-State as Racketeer

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