You are not just yourself

Sometimes people feel powerless, like their individual action does not matter. That is not true, it matters tremendously and it is enormously powerful, I am going to explain one of the reasons why.

When you make a decision it is not just you making that decision, it is also people like you making the same decision for similar reasons. No one exists in isolation or acts alone, every individual is part of many overlapping, interconnected, and interdependent groups, most of which they are not even aware of. When you make a decision you make it based on how you think and what you know (consciously or not). Other people like you will be in similar situations and make the same decision, you make it together.

This means that every action you take does matter because it is not just you, it is people like you doing the same thing. Your individual action might be tiny, but your collective action might be huge. If the only thing stopping you is that you do not think it will make a difference because it is just you, then do it, if you do it then other people will too, if you do not then they will not. You have the responsibility to make the decision and to do the thing, but in doing it, you will not be alone.

There are lots of reasons to vote and this is only one of them, but you should.

There is a dark side to the fact that you are not just yourself, you are a community, and that is that if others control the inputs to your community and target them carefully for every group, then you are not yourself, you are theirs.

Think carefully, think twice, install an ad-blocker and make your decision.


Now that sounds horribly patronising, which it is, and so this academic is going to get off his ivory tower with his simplistic notions and go and do some work.

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4 Responses to “You are not just yourself”

  1. David Llewellyn-Jones Says:

    Although what you’ve written makes sense where incremental changes accumulate (e.g. when walking across the grass or making small contributions to charity), it’s much less convincing when applied to a first-past-the-post voting system that’s rigged to prevent small parties from ever gaining a foothold.

    In most constituencies, voting for anything other than two main parties will never be anything other than symbolic. In many cases it’s not even worth considering the top two: a vote for anyone other than the incumbent is a wasted vote.

    Given this, it’s hard to argue that an individual vote can make any difference at all. I would turn your argument around and say that there are lots of reasons not to vote. To make me feel like my vote isn’t wasted, the British voting system would need to support at least some of the following:

    1) Proportional representation.
    2) ‘None of the Above’ option.
    3) A free-text option (write in a name, even if they’re not standing).
    4) Separation of vote between government and parliament.

    An elected head of state would be neat too.

    This was different for the Brexit vote, where the outcome was uncertain and only two mutually-exclusive options were offered. The sad thing in my view is that the closeness of the outcome hasn’t been reflected in the stance taken by the negotiating government (although after the election this argument will no longer apply).

  2. Daniel Thomas Says:

    There is a free text option, you can write whatever you like on the ballot and a representative from each party will read it.

    While PR and RON would also be good improvements, it is still worth voting. My argument is partly that it is not just incremental accumulating changes but that big collective changes are also possible.

  3. David Llewellyn-Jones Says:

    To clarify about the Free Text option, it’s important that the result should be acted upon (e.g. it should be possible to write the name of someone who didn’t pay the deposit, with the possibility that this person could win). This makes it different from just spoiling your ballot (arguably a superset of RON).

    I’d like to believe you about big collective changes. Perhaps this evening we’ll find out that this is really possible (but I’m not putting any money on it!).

  4. Daniel Thomas Says:

    I don’t think I want voters to have the ability to make someone who didn’t want to be their MP their MP…

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