When it’s unethical to vote your conscience

 

Imagine you are in 1930s Germany. There are two opposing candidates to Hitler, one you like very much and one you don’t like so much. The one you like is out of the race, so you have the option of voting for the one you like not as much (who is opposing Hitler) or not voting. You chose to not vote. Hitler wins. In hindsight, how does your decision look? Wise and mature, or short-sighted and even dangerous?

I know it’s somewhat unfair to compare Trump to Hitler, but sometimes it’s good to amplify a situation – in this case through a thought experiment – to make a point. The point here is that, in some situations, it can be unethical to vote (or, in this case, not to vote) your conscience.

Voting is not really about ideology or having the perfect candidate, it’s about having a practical effect on society. And in this case, the practical effect of not voting can harm other groups in society far more than your own. Most of the “Bernie or bust” people are white, educated, and privileged. And the ones who will be most hurt by his candidacy are non-whites, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities.

I understand it can feel good to take a “Bernie or bust” position. You may feel hurt by not being able to vote for your candidate, and sometimes it feels good to act reactively to hurt. If I can’t get what I want, I won’t participate at all, I won’t give you what you want. There may also be good reasons to justify such a position.

Still, reality is that voting or not voting has a very real and pragmatic effect on society. And in this case, if Trump is elected – perhaps partly due to people choosing to not vote – it will harm others far more than you. In this case, not voting is a lack of solidarity. It can even be dangerous.

Personally, I would have loved to see Bernie win. As it is now, I would vote for Clinton without hesitation, and mainly for the reasons above. Mainly out of solidarity with those who would be most harmed by a Trump presidency.

Note: I know that a big part of the problem in the US is the – quite undemocratic – two-party system. Germany in the early 1930s had a large number of parties so people could, in fact, vote their conscience. And a majority did vote for Hitler, largely out of fear and despair coming from their own personal situation.

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Deep wounds and deep caring

 

I am rewatching X-Men Days of Future Past, and it’s reminding me of what can happen when there is a combination of deep wounding and deep caring. It’s also easter, and that too is reminding me of this theme.

Raven, and to some extent Eric, both were deeply wounded, and deeply care. And it sometimes comes out in reactive ways. Ways that hurt themselves more, and hurt others too.

I see the same in Judas. There too, I imagine a deep caring, and deep wounds, combining to bring him to do what he did. To give the person he deeply loved to those who wanted to do away with him.

And I see the same in myself. I see what happens when there is deep caring, and deep wounding, and acting from reactiveness. It hurts me further, and it hurts those around me.

Sometimes, it’s not very obvious. Sometimes, it’s in what I am not doing rather than what I am doing. And yet, I see the same pattern there. A combination of deep caring, deep wounding, and acting from reactiveness rather than a more clear and kind intention.

Deep wounds come from deep caring. They are an expression of deep caring. And, as Xavier said, Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we all need a little help.

Beliefs and emotions

 

How are beliefs and reactive emotions connected?

It seems that it all starts with a belief.

There is identification with the story being a separate I, and then a me with a fleshed out and particular identity.

All this creates a series of shoulds. I should stay alive. My life should be supported. I should be or remain this and not that.

And when my stories of what is and what should be clashes, reactive emotions come up.

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Exploring the chains

 

It can be very helpful to explore the chains leading up to reactive emotions, rigid views, and desires.

One at a time, asking the question and waiting for an answer to come up.

When I do this, I find that whatever beliefs are there, whatever stories I am identified with, go back to the central belief, or sense of, a separate I, an I with an Other.

I find that whatever reactive emotions are there lead back to fear. Fear for the survival of this human self. Fear for pain and suffering.

I find that whatever surface desire is there leads back to a desire for happiness, and freedom from suffering.

And I find that all of this goes back to love. Love for this human self and whatever is within its circle of us.

And I see that all of this is pure innocence. An innocence in adopting beliefs from my surroundings. An innocence in the fear that is there naturally when there is a sense of a separate I. An innocence in the desire for happiness and freedom from suffering. An innocence in the love we already are, filtered through the boundary of us. And an innocence in where this boundary of us is placed, coming from culture and maturity.

The risk in writing this is that this too becomes another belief. Another place we go in our stories to create a sense of security, of having figured it all out.

And one remedy is in taking the time for the questions to sink in and the answers to surface. Going through one at a time, not knowing where it will lead. Trusting what comes up.

Sincerely exploring this for ourselves, inviting in curiosity and receptivity. Inviting in an open heart. Inviting in a bodily felt sense of the questions and the answers that surface. Allowing experience in a wholehearted way.

Seeing that any answer is really a question, even if the question mark initially seemed to be left out.

And also investigating our beliefs around all this, including the belief of I know, through The Work or another form of inquiry.

The nigredo, albedo and rubedo of no defense

 

Any framework (model, theory, map, perspective) is a filter for exploring the world, and each one brings certain aspects out (and is blind to other aspects.)

So here is a basic alchemical take on defense and no defense, of that feeling of having to defend (or not) a particular identity.

Nigredo: the misery

Whenever there is this sense of having to defend a particular identity, role, belief, view, perspective, there is also a certain amount of misery. Will do they attack me? What types of attacks can I expect in this situation? What if they are right? How can I fight back most effectively? How can I shoot down their perspective? It is endless.

Even when there is a certain enjoyment in the battle, of maybe feeling more alive, of the possibility of winning or the appearance of winning, of strengthening and supporting a habitual or desired identity, even then, there is a certain amount of misery there.

A lot of energy goes into preparing for battle, strategizing, fighting the battle, and licking the wounds afterwards. There is reactivity, which a part of us is not comfortable with. We may feel stuck in old and sometimes unwanted patterns. And there is a basic sense of a split here between myself and others, which is only reinforced by the battle, and this too gives a sense of misery.

In alchemical terms, this is the nigredo, the misery that nudges us to look for a resolution, and this time not (only) by changing the rest of the world, but changing something in ourselves.

Albedo: the work

The albedo, the whitening, the clarification, is the work we do on ourselves.

In terms of having an identity to defend, we can work on it in many different ways. The Work is one, allowing us to release our grip on a particular belief, view and identity. The 3-2-1 Shadow Process is another, where we also find in ourselves what we initially only saw in the other. We can simply be with our experiences, which similarly tends to loosen any grip we have on anything arising, including our beliefs, fixed views, and identities. We can use active imagination, other forms of self-inquiry, or anything else. And we can use any combinations of whatever is available to us.

This is a process of bringing attention to our habitual patterns (calcinatio), of differentiation (separatio), of dissolution of rigid and habitual patterns and views (solutio), and of shifting into and becoming familiar with new patterns (coagulatio), which together and over time brings a clarification (sublimatio.)

Rubedo: the resolution

Eventually, after some work, there may be a release of defensiveness in certain areas, and then other areas, and ultimately, if we keep going, in all areas and situations in our life. Instead of feeling that we need to defend certain identities, we welcome whatever comes our way as a reminder that yes, I am that too, and that, and that.

Somebody tells me, one way or another, that I am stupid, and yes, I can find that in myself. That is part of my identity. Or that I am wrong, and yes, that too is there. Or that I am arrogant, yes, that too. Or insensitive, yes. Or boring, yes, absolutely. Or fun, yes, that too. Or a bad friend, yes. Or a good friend, yes… Or smart, yes. Or right, yes. Or sincere, yes.

It is all there. I am familiar with all of this, and it is all right here. And if someone says something that I haven’t explored yet, then I can find that too.

There is nothing to defend. Just ease, clarity, simplicity.

Woven together and in cycles

Over time, we may be able to see this general pattern, from nigredo (that was the time I didn’t see this at all, and also all the times I fall into defense in general), to albedo (that was when I started becoming conscious of all of this and started working on it), and rubedo (that is the general sense of ease that came out of all the work, and also all the glimpses of release and peace throughout the process.)

But they are all also woven together, especially clearly so in the middle of the overall process. There is defensiveness and misery, then some work on it, then some release, then back to defensiveness, work, release, over and over, within the same issue, and across different issues.

Nothing to defend, yet also taking care of myself and others

Eventually there is a general sense of nothing to defend, of ease, peace, even in the midst of daily life and interactions with others. There is no particular identity, or viewpoint, or belief to defend. Only a fluidity among numerous views, perspectives, identities, theories, maps. Whatever works in the situation is what comes up and is used, without any need to hold onto it.

At the same time, there is the ordinary taking care of myself and others. If a cougar attacks me, I’ll try to defend myself. And I’ll take care of my own health and well being. And I’ll defend others if they are in need of it, including defending their identity if it is attacked and they feel hurt.

There is no fixed identity to defend, and also the ordinary taking care of myself and others. And the fluidity of identities, views and perspectives is what allows me to take care of myself and others with more ease, and in more effective and effortless ways.