Before the US election, I talked to some people who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hilary.
I asked them if they wanted Trump for President. They all said “God, no.”
So I asked them would they vote against Trump. They said “Hell yes, if I could.”
I said there was such a vote, it was called a vote for Hilary. They said “I’m not voting for Hilary.”
So I asked, in that case, how they were going to vote. They said “I probably won’t be voting.”
What they didn’t seem to understand was that not voting was still a vote. After the election was over, and the votes were counted, everyone could see Hilary lost by just 80,000 votes. But for some reason they couldn’t see that beforehand. They had it in their heads that they didn’t like either candidate, so they wouldn’t
vote for either. As if electing no-one was an option, but it wasn’t. The option was Trump or Hilary, but instead they chose to live in denial.
This is what Jean Paul Sartre called “living inauthentically”.
Lying to ourselves in order to avoid responsibility for our actions, and our inactions.
Because inactions count as much as actions.
Sartre said “We are condemned to be free”.
By refusing to vote for either Trump or Hilary many people believe they could avoid responsibility for whatever government got elected. But not voting against something has the same effect as voting for something. Therefore not voting for Hilary was a vote for Trump, like it or not.
That’s true for all of life.
In life we can’t avoid the consequences of our actions, or inactions. It’s an illusion that by avoiding choosing we can opt out. We will still take the consequences of whatever happened, we just gave away any say we had in that choice.
Because we did in fact make a choice. We chose to let other people choose for us.
That way we could pretend whatever happened wasn’t our fault.
And that’s the game most of us play: “Don’t blame me, I didn’t choose either.”
Imagine if we did our jobs that way.
Imagine we had a choice: to either make a lot of staff redundant now, or our company would be out of business in three months.
Supposing we said “We choose to do neither.”
In that situation we can clearly see that not choosing is the same as choosing: if we don’t lay anyone off we’ll be out of business. Therefore by choosing not to lay anyone off we’ve chosen to go out of business. Even if we pretend we haven’t.
When we are children, we believe choices are always pleasant: which of these things do we want more?
But as grownups, we learn choices aren’t always like that.
A lot of times, choices are: which of these things do we want less? And if we refuse to choose, if we live in denial, the choice gets made for us. And afterwards, when it’s too late, we wish we’d chosen the other way. That’s life: the choice gets made, with or without us.
As I heard it said about elections, the real choice is usually between ‘NO’ and ‘FUCK NO’.