They want stiffening, even if the process coarsens them.

Continuing a couple of themes from the previous post, I went to a fine talk today by the splendid David Moore. David bounced off the thoughts of E.M.Forster, from whose excellent What I believe the title of this post is taken, and which is well worth a read if you’ve not come across it. It’s the most eloquently qualified defence of democracy I’ve come across, smarter than it is objectionable.

Anyway, returning to today’s talk, David offered two and a half cheers for elections in Zimbabwe, by asking this important question : if the elections in Zimbabwe aren’t free and fair, and we can say now that they won’t be, can they serve a different purpose than that to which we’re accustomed? In other words, can voting be important even if the state pays no attention to your vote? David thinks yes, because in that tiny little cubicle where you cast your vote can come a moment of transformation, of realisation that you are a great deal more powerful than you think, that you can reject, that your consciousness of your relation to the state can be transformed there, and this can spur further and bolder action against the state.

I’m not sure this works. After all, think about the U.S. last year. Most people were voting in states where the return of their Electoral College was predicted months if not decades in advance. If the majority of U.S. citizens’ votes were forgone conclusions, perhaps consciousness was transformed? Write in if yours was, and what bold action you’ve taken recently.

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