Utah Phillips Registers to Vote

You know things have gotten desperate when Utah Phillips registers to vote. Phillips is a folk singer, an anarchist, a tax resister, and has never voted before. He explains:

This is not easy for me. I’m an anarchist and I’ve been an anarchist many, many years. The anarchy that I’ve followed and practiced all of that time came to me through Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers, through Ammon Hennacy, the great Catholic anarchist and pacifist. Ammon taught me, as he did, to treat his body like a ballot. My body is my ballot. And he said, “Cast that body ballot on behalf of the people around you every day of your life, every day. And don’t let anybody ever tell you you haven’t voted.” You just didn’t assign responsibility to other people to do things. You accept responsibility and see to it that something gets done. That’s the way he lived and that’s the way the past forty, going on fifty, years that I have lived. It’s a way to vote without caving in to the civil authority I’m committed to dissolving.

But, we are in a desperate situation here. And it’s not just us in the United States. There are people all over the world who are affected by these people who have staged a coup on our government. I can see a shopkeeper in Damascus who’s threatened by being bombed out. I can see a schoolgirl who’s collaterally killed by the action of these people. There are millions of people in the world who are affected by the actions of this government, and they can’t vote in this election. I have no use for Kerry. I have no use for Bush. I don’t like either one of them, but these folks can’t vote in this election. They have to have people vote for them. And I intend to be one of those. What’s the best chance they’ve got to keep them from being bombed and killed? I don’t know. Kerry is an unknown quantity. Bush is a known quantity. A crapshoot, isn’t it? But I’m going to stand in for one of these people. And if I’m wrong, I’m wrong by myself.…

Now, I am not putting myself forth as an example. I’m not putting myself forth as a role model. Anarchists don’t make rules for other people. You make rules for yourself and then people have got to learn how to trust you. And if you blow it you have the courage to change, and you do change and an anarchist is always something you’re becoming. I don’t need any congratulations for what I’m doing at all. I feel lousy about it. I don’t feel good about it all. I’m simply going to do it. And if there are consequences of my act, than I harvest those consequences. That too, is anarchy.

Excerpts from another interview with Phillips:

The old peace movement tactics of sit-ins, vigils, civil disobedience are ineffective and predictable, according to Phillips. Advocating new strategies of organized war tax resistance, Phillips likes the idea of tax money paid to an “alternative fund” and assigned to community organizations.

“There’s no sense for me to go out and protest this war and pay for it at the same time.”

He alludes to photographs he’s saved in a scrapbook, “one of a woman in a refugee camp with her baby in southern Lebanon and she’s got pockmarks all over her face from shrapnel and her little baby is swathed in bandages.” Another is of two little boys “in front of an orphanage in Angola, on crutches, part of their limbs missing from stepping on landmines. I look at those pictures and I say, ‘I didn’t pay for that.’ ”

On the other hand…

, the overwhelming majority of the Bay Area’s anarchist and anti-authoritarian community will park their erstwhile convictions at the curb and run lemming-like into that Porta-Potty called the voting booth. Our dogma allows us to pose as the most intransigent of rebels. None of us has anything to gain in a contest between George Bush and John Kerry. But, on , without the slightest hint of external coercion, we’ll go out of our way to show our loyalty to the political process of capitalist America, and specifically to that faction of the elite that nuked Hiroshima, founded the CIA, accelerated US involvement in the Vietnam War, gutted the social welfare apparatus, and killed more than 600,000 children in Bill Clinton’s starvation blockade of Iraq in .

As anarchists, our votes for John Kerry will mean that we have effectively committed political suicide — so why not commit physical suicide as well? Unlike the majority of the populace, who have wised up and won’t be voting, we are virtual lemmings in the face of one of the most transparently bogus ideological hustles that the system has to offer. So let’s get in touch with Wild Nature, like real lemmings do, and follow our democratic impulses to their logical conclusion!

Albert Camus said that the only remaining question in philosophy is the question of suicide — this November we’ll be getting way-helluv-philosophical!

This tongue-in-cheek call for non-metaphorical mass suicide on is accompanied by a more down-to-earth plea that those who vote “spend the remainder of the election day in creative experiments in self-determination and cooperation. At the end of the day or in the weeks that follow, people can reconvene and compare which approach was more rewarding and empowering: ballot-box voting or direct engagement without representatives.”

Like they say — if voting could change anything, it would be illegal!
…and that goes for not voting, too.