How Are You Really Voting?

Published on 2020-11-02 on Sebastian Mellen's Blog

Please note: I write these posts more for myself than anyone else. I’m no preacher.

As the (as of yet unknown) outcome of the 2020 US Presidential Election looms large, I think it’s high time to reflect on all the ways in which we vote, and not just in governmental elections. In fact, the non-political votes you cast are probably more important, given that you cast these votes nearly every waking minute of your life. I’m talking about your real votes for the future — the decisions you’re making on everything from what you eat to what you think, starting the moment you wake up, every day.

You vote on the future in all sorts of ways you might not realize. Consider, for instance, the next time you purchase something, “Why did I choose to purchase this? What are the effects of my purchase? Could I have purchased something else?”. Asked even of the most benign purchase, these questions will reveal an immense stack of unconscious thought — even prejudice — that underlies your every decision. You may realize, for example, why you bought the cheapest product possible: although it was less environmentally friendly and probably less effective, it seemed a better bargain, and your mother (who grew up in war times) always emphasized the importance of saving resources. You may also realize something quite the opposite, or something completely different. But whatever you realize, you will surely discover that your thoughts are molded by a vast number of influences you were unaware of.

Even the most unassuming inquiries will prompt revealing answers. Why do or don’t you take risks? Why do you eat the foods you do? Why do you read the books you do? Delve deep into yourself, and you’ll find that your personality is less “you”, and more a random sampling of the environments of your past and present. The invention of your personality began early, probably when you were a baby, and you’ve been living life as “you” ever since, picking up pieces of your personality like a snowball picks up twigs and pebbles as it rolls along. This randomness is a part of you, even if you have informed opinions and make rational decisions (unlike those… throngs of human meat sticks who go about life unthinkingly, guided by impulse and advertisement, manipulated by corporate propaganda and political brainwashing, never questioning themselves or their beliefs)…

xkcd comic 610, see for expanded alt

Taken from

But whether you’re an unthinking automaton or an enlightened manifestation of consciousness, you’ve got a personality, and it’s built on a base of entropy. The way you became who you are today (or who you think yourself to be), is that you were born where you were, with your genetics, and socialized and educated to be you.

Who you are changes how the world works — both how it objectively functions and how it subjectively appears to you. Your personality determines where you go, which people you meet, what career path you choose, what ideologies you spread, what you consume, what you do with your free time, and so on. Basically, your “you-ness” is part of what gives reality its “that-ness”. And that means every part of you — your private thoughts and preferences impact the future as well. Take your sexual preferences, for example: How many children you’ll have (if any) and what types of people you’ll reproduce with (if at all) are trends that directly shape the future of humanity.

You know this already. You’re aware of the impact of your choices. You’re probably not as healthy as you could be, or you’d like a better job, or you have some core frustration with yourself. You’d like to be better. So why aren’t you? Maybe it’s a lack of motivation or courage, or maybe it’s that you’ve never realized how important your role is. Every day, you’re maintaining reality: building in patches, refactoring it, improving it where you see fit. But if you think bigger, you’ll realize that you’re not just a maintainer of a buggy and flawed project called “reality”. You’re a creator, and the more you think about and work towards the future you’d like to have, the more likely it is to come about. And, if you don’t do this work, the future will look a lot different — probably worse.

At the risk of this coming off as the clichéd ramblings of a motivational speaker or hackneyed self-help blogger, I’ll give you a quote to contemplate:

When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

~ Steve Jobs

Take all the reasons you may participate in politics, or even hold a political opinion, and multiply their importance a thousandfold. Now, imagine that you have a dictatorial ability to determine the outcome of elections held on these issues. Imagine that one of these elections is being held every minute. Now, take a look in your mirror (or selfie camera), and observe your face. That creature you’re staring at is holding 10,080 of these elections a week. It’s time you start taking the power of that thing you’re looking at seriously, and start participating in the electoral process. Every choice you make is a vote for the future, and your vote matters.

Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to be a good voter:

  • Be mindful and consider the ramifications of the choices (votes) you make
  • Avoid, where possible, letting overly partisan or dogmatic thought influence your decision-making process
  • Don’t be too anxious about casting the wrong vote. The next election is coming up right away

But most importantly, think big. You can afford to take risks, because there will always be another referendum. You don’t have to vote for the lesser evil. And you’re a legislator — you can add a proposition to the ballot!

  • Proposition 1: Gain 20 lbs of muscle over the next year
  • Proposition 2: Buy morning coffee from a local coffee shop instead of Starbucks
  • Proposition 3: Start a company that builds software for small farmers practicing regenerative agriculture
  • Proposition 4: Go one month without eating any added sugar

Whatever you want, add it to the ballot, and vote on it every time you make a related decision.

The most important thing is to remember that your life is under your control, and your votes on the future really do mean something.