“Do you not maybe feel a responsibility to vote?”
“Not really, I feel like my opinion doesn’t really matter. Like it’s only one vote, so…”
A dialogue with a millennial in a recent Guardian video.(7:38-7:48)
When one sees oneself as only as an individual voter, a sole political agent amidst millions of other, different individuals, one is unable to grasp the power and potential of the collective. That is the loss of contemporary society. That we should not vote, not do anything political, because it means nothing. Of course, if everyone thinks like that any chance of a collective movement is destroyed. The reason #BlackLivesMatter gained attention is because of the mass reaction it provoked and the thousands of activists involved. In Postcapitalism, Paul Mason argues that the capitalism’s most effective opponent and scrutiniser was the trade unions- forcing capitalism to survive through innovation, not cutting wages (as would have benefited the factory owners). Marcuse lamented the situation of society, when people lost sight of themselves as a group and became “individuals” within a system that valued individuality and individual success above all else. For in abandoning the group to fulfil such an individual vision of success, workers lost their collective bargaining power. And thus they lost any power they really had, as financially disadvantaged or marginalised individuals in an unequal system.
Why else was Thatcher so eager to “atomise” society- to break it up into nothing more than mere individuals? Because the forming a political groups empowers the powerless through the sheer numerical strength and solidarity of a group, allowing it to challenge the privileged and powerful. It reminds us that discrimination and oppression exist in a systematic, pervasive and institutional way. That we are not alone. That these are not individual accidents or events. And that in seeing this pattern of inequality, we have the power to change it.
I am not saying that individuality is not important, I am saying it should not be the only mode of identification, nor the only way of thinking, especially when it comes to politics, where power is unequal yet the situation and cry for change is always paramount.