Why You Should Ignore Politics and Politicians

by Stephen Mills on December 6, 2010

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This article is going to suggest that participating in politics at any level is generally not a good idea.  Many, maybe even most of you are going to disagree with this.  I also know that people will tend to take it as a categorical statement and offer counter-examples.  You will notice that I said “generally” because I don’t mean it in a categorical way.  I can think of scenarios or places where I would not apply my general advice, but those are increasingly rare.

I can’t help but absorb a little bit of what goes on in politics through the media (my wife watches the news and the morning shows) or through reading some political satire, but I treat it mostly as a little bit of entertainment.  I’m not participating in any real way.

Here is the basic question you need to ask yourself.  Is it worth your time, effort, money, and mental well-being to keep up with or participate in political issues?  For me, the answer is unquestioned no.  I’ve been there and done that and since I actually cared so much about the issues, it was a never-ending source of disappointment and frustration.  All the time I spent reading, listening, following, debating, wishing, hoping, and voting resulted in exactly ZERO difference.

Unless you are entertained or enjoy the process itself, I suggest that any time you spend in politics can actually be spent better elsewhere helping either yourself or your fellow man.

The reasons I’ve mostly chosen to withdraw from politics in all its forms are the following:

  • I personally can’t make a difference.
  • Even when my side “won”, nothing fundamental ever changed.
  • Since I actually cared about the issues, it was a source of endless stress and frustration for me.  It made me ill.
  • I decide I no longer want to lend “participation support” to the flawed process.
  • I was wasting my life.

You will get a tremendous amount of advice this days about not fighting reality, accepting the things you can’t change, etc., but almost nobody applies that to politics and there is hardly anything that it is more appropriately applied to.  I think the reason is because we’ve been socialized into believing it is some kind of duty of a good citizen to be politically aware and active.  I used to buy that crap.  It is also because people will cook up scenarios where you can make a difference like a really close election, or with platitudes like “what if everyone thought that way”.  Well everyone doesn’t and even if they did I would no more be able to change their minds about that than I am about the issues themselves.

All this is just socialization and there is no real basis for it.  In fact the politicians want you to participate in the long run even if you don’t support them.  It gives legitimacy to the process.  P.J. O’Rourke has a book called Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards.  I haven’t read it, but I like the idea of the title.  I suggest you spend your time gaining freedom, peace, well-being, or whatever else outside the arena of politics.

The amount of mass media content that is devoted to the government or politics is overwhelming.  If you believe the media, the government and its activities must be the single most important area of all of our lives.  But it is simply a myth.  It’s just baloney that we’ve allowed ourselves to be caught up in.  Just because the media prattles on endlessly about Paris Hilton or Tiger Woods doesn’t mean I think they are important to mine or anyone else’s lives.

If you live in the U.S., Canada, most of Europe and Asia, and probably many other places, it’s simply not worth your time to engage in political activity.  The political environment is just a reality.  You personally can’t do anything about it unless you can convince millions of people that we are in need of radical change.  Good luck with that.

You can stop arguing with reality, stop trying to control that which you can’t control, and find freedom by taking actions you do control.

I look at the political environment like the sun.  It’s a basic fact of reality.  It comes up and it goes down.  I love the sunlight, but I can’t do a damn thing about the fact that every night it drops below the horizon and disappears.  What I can do is turn the lights on.  That’s something in my direct control and I don’t lose one second of my life worrying about or trying to change the fact the sun goes down or the fact that I prefer natural sunlight to artificial lighting.  I try to take the same attitude towards government and politics.

You have a choice and obviously it’s yours to make.  I’ve got to believe that the amount of national resources spent playing the political game are better spent elsewhere.  I’m not apathetic.  In fact I’m just the opposite, but I’ve made a conscious, intentional, and intellectual decision that politics sucks and is a waste of my life.

If you can accept the fact that the government steals a portion of your income and just get on with living you own life, the impact of the government on you will mostly disappear.  If on the other hand you constantly monitor, watch, participate in, or worry about what the politicians and the bureaucrats are up to, then the government is going to be a huge burden upon your life.  The key point is that the choice is yours.

Once I freed myself from the need to be worried about what the government was doing, the government became an incredibly insignificant, almost invisible factor in my life.  The same freedom is yours if you will simply make the choice to forget the government and be free.

Treat the government like the weather.  If it’s raining, put up an umbrella or go inside.  If it’s cold, put on a coat.  If it’s warm, take off your coat.  If it’s dark, turn on a light.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Fionna December 6, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Amen!

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Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Hi Fionna and thanks!

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Stuart December 7, 2010 at 4:10 am

Interesting debate Stephen, one which I won’t go into in great length, but I’ll say that politicians are usually there to gain their own benefits as well as benefit the population. Or, are they really benefiting the population or just believing that their title will do all the work for them? Worth thinking on…
Stuart´s last blog post ..How To Improve Your Day Part 2

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Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Stuart, I think politicians are mostly there for their own benefit whether they realize it or not. I’m sure that power is intoxicating. I think there are people of good intent in politics, but the process itself is very corrupting. Thanks for commenting.

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innerbanks December 7, 2010 at 8:19 am

Thanks for articulating your thoughts. I’ve been in the ‘politics don’t matter’ camp for many years. It is a complex and corrupt game for the elite which the media translates into ‘circus’ for the rest of us. Life is too short; I’m not having any. My time is better spent on real life with real people.

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Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Hello innerbanks 🙂

I will offer an “Amen!” to this:

“My time is better spent on real life with real people.”

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Lyn December 7, 2010 at 8:26 am

What happens when both sides agree that they must make all of our decisions from cradle to grave? (totalitarian-communist idiology) Using deathly force for anyone who dares suggest there is another way? We are half way there now but I was hoping we could make a difference and vote the idiots out. Forget the government and be free? Free to use all of my earnings as I choose? Free to put what I choose into my body? Free to marry whom ever I choose? Free to engage in full property rights on my own behalf? Free to trade, share and sell healthy foods? We have to get licenses/approval/permits for just about everything. ie;to dig for a garden, use a wood burning stove, drill a well, have a pet, build a home, home school the kids, recieve medication prescribed by the family doctor and the list goes on. The irs is a disquise for social engineering. They have a huge amount of regulation indicating what we spend our money on, with thier approval of course. And if that doesn’t work out then they send gun toting agents to set the record straight. I do like the idea but I have a difficult time believing that if I forget the government I will be free. Less informed perhaps but still obligated behave the way they think I should do. I guess we have different definations of free. Or maybe I missing the point? It would not be the first time, hahaha……

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Carolyn December 7, 2010 at 8:42 am

I totally agree with Lyn. What happens when “good men do nothing?” I want to remain free. That’s why I believe it’s my obligation to know the issues and to be aware of the opinions of policy makers and politicians–and then to vote my conscience. Otherwise our freedom will be swallowed up by those who want to hold power over not only our money but also our abilities to choose. Thousands who preceded us gave their lives for the freedoms we now enjoy but which are slowly being eroded away by those who wish to make decisions for us. We can’t put our heads in the sand and expect to remain free.

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Jennifer December 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I concur. My political awareness has prompted me to look to study in animal law, because the standards for animal welfare in the state in which I live are sorely lacking. I would not have known that had I not taken an interest in politics. If I do end up in that field, I will aim to become a part of the political process in a different way (i.e. by helping shape the law, rather than, say, becoming a politician). There are a multitude of ways in which the average citizen can influence a change in the law, which increases as one gains more education. You are missing out on that chance to be politically active. It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means; being politically active does not mean either voting or running for a political position, as you and the commenters who agree seem to think. Those of us who live in democratic, first world states are lucky enough to have the privilege to be an active citizen, and thinking that being ignorant is superior is a slap in the face to residents of other countries who would die for those rights.

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Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Hi Jennifer. First of all I don’t think being ignorant is superior to anything, so you got that all wrong. In fact it is the higher knowing that allows one to draw conclusions such as I have. I seriously doubt very many people were more consumed by political philosophy than I once was so I’m not speaking from a position of ignorance. I spent a lot of time at it.

Secondly if you will read my article you will see that I did not make a categorical statement. In fact I specifically mentioned I can think of scenarios or places I would not apply my general advice. I’m speaking to the experience I have and to the places where the vast majority of my readers come from. I don’t know where you live or what your circumstances are and I’m not making recommendations to every living human on earth.

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Jennifer December 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm

I live in Australia, which has a similar representative democratic political system to that of the USA. Not entirely the same, but similar. So I’d suggest that your blog post did, in fact, address me.

I didn’t state that you were speaking from a position of ignorance, but you’re advocating willful ignorance in regards to the political process. So my comment still stands. You seem to be attempting to minimize my sentiment by arguing that it doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s clearly intended to address most of your readers, to whom I am also addressing (western citizens who are privileged enough to have internet access, and likely live in a democratic state). So, therefore, I stand by what I said, which I don’t believe you really countered at all.

Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Hi Carolyn, I understand your point but I think it is misguided. I consider myself a “good man” and I spent a lot of time doing exactly what you say for ZERO effect. Good men have many options of what to do with their time and they can’t do everything – our lives are limited.

You have to decide what is worth your precious minutes. If you spend time in politics you by definition forgo opportunities to do other things. It’s all about what you can best accomplish with the time and talents you have. In my experience, and I think an extremely good case can be made for it, that’s not being involved in political issues.

I am suggesting that if more good men and women spent their time on something besides politics we would be a lot better off. I’m all for good people doing good things. I just don’t think politics is one of them.

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Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Lyn, as someone who has a libertarian type philosophy about government I can agree with almost everything you say. The problem as I see it is that all my effort in that regard comes to ZERO results. By spending my time fighting a losing battle, the enormous amount of energy put into that, was wasted. I made myself a slave to those who want to enslave me. I was taking what is already a problem and making it 100 times worse.

I choose to spend my time enjoying my life in other ways and not giving it to those who are taking it away. I felt an enormous sense of freedom when I freed myself from that futile effort. I know people still in the get-myself-free-through-politics trap. It’s not a pretty sight. I see now in them what I used to be.

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Lyn December 7, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Bummer, it sounds like either way we are destined to become slaves………

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Henway December 7, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Count me in as a member of “don’t give a crap about politics” camp. Have been like this my entire life, and get some slack from some ppl here and there. You’re exactly right – what influence do we have? Concentrate on the essentials first. Find a good mate. Find a great job. Make sure your finances are secure. Get a residual source of income if necessary. Exercise. Get your check-ups. Optimize your sleep. Get a bigger house. Vacations.. go someplace cool! Politics? It’s for those that love to mentally masturbate!
Henway´s last blog post ..Medifast Recipes Group

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Stephen Mills December 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Hi Henway, and thanks for commenting. I think the best message we can send to the politicians and bureaucrats is to ignore them.

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Stephen Mills December 8, 2010 at 9:56 am

Jennifer, I was responding to your statement:

“thinking that being ignorant is superior is a slap in the face to residents of other countries who would die for those rights.”

Certainly you living in Australia, I was addressing you.

You seem to think I’m playing debating games here, when in fact it is you. That is exactly the kind of thing I don’t care to waste my time on. It’s a symptom of a political mindset.

And you are in fact entirely wrong if you interpret I advocate willful ignorance of the process. It is knowledge of that process that allows one to make the decision it is not worth your time. Being knowledgeable of how the process works and following the content of that process are not the same thing. No matter how many times you repeat it, doesn’t make it true.

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Mike King December 9, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Stephen, I always love your willingness to open a debate many dare not even participate in. I completely agree with your statements and thoughts about anything to do with politics is simply wasting life. It sounds harsh, its my choice and I truly belief it as well. I have several friends however that I disturb with that choice to the point of them being stressed about my decision along, let along the politics behind the issue.

I guess for me, I’ve seen the frustration and stress from people concerned and involved about politics as nothing more than a way to burden themselves. It seems to be as well, that most of the people I’ve encountered in life that are truly passionate about politics, also are very stressed out and easily disturbed people. It seems anything affects them and they do not have the ability others have to stand as an individual and create their own life, they believe their life is one of circumstance and so politics then impacts it. I think this is crazy and I’ve never really seen any reasonable examples of this.

Anyway, great comments, article and discussion. I’ve more than happy to raise the debate with colleagues at work or with friends and I’m usually the outsider, hating media coverage and politics in general. I purposely avoid it like the plague and care nothing about it as I can make my life myself, thank you. I like your point of treat it like the weather, deal with it as it comes, its unpredictable, uncontrollable and really quite meaningless as to overal happiness and fulfillment in life.
Mike King´s last blog post ..7 Quick Ways to Boost Your Creativity

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga December 10, 2010 at 10:47 am

Hi Stephen. I always admire your willingness to go against the status quo. You think outside of the box & the rebel in me loves you so much for that.

My view on this topic is slightly less radical, but still far from mainstream. I think people should participate in politics to the extent that they feel inspired to do so. I truly believe that there are those among us who can serve a great purpose in that area. They have the mental energy and the inspired desire to make some degree of change through their involvement with politics.

If we all gave up and sat around like sitting ducks while the governments do whatever they please, I’m pretty certain disaster would be inevitable. Politicians would take full advantage of any country where all people just said, “Oh well. I can’t change it, so I’ll ignore it all.” But it’s not for everyone. We are all called, or drawn, to something different.

Personally, I don’t take much interest in politics anymore. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t discourage the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony. In addition, I’d be willing to step up and support such a person to the extent that feels right for me.

I applaud those who push politicians to get laws passed that benefit the poor, underprivileged, elderly, endangered species, children, and even those among us who just want to maintain our most basic liberties without having to get our hands dirty.

Anytime you’re doing something that goes against your intuition and it makes you feel ill…I think it’s best not to do it (that goes for politics and everything else). But if it calls you, if it feels right, if you’re passionate about it–by all means don’t stop.
Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog post ..20 Awesome Quotes on Self Confidence

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Debbie @ Happy Maker December 11, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Hi Stephen,

I do agree with you in some ways, but at the same time would women have the right to vote if people hadn’t gotten involved? Sometimes we do need to pay a little attention, so we don’t loss our freedom. With all the laws that are being passed daily, this could be a problem.

No I am not going to follow everything and I only believe some of what the media tells me. I am just getting a little tired of the big boys and girls in Washinton acting like school kids fighting. You might notice this on my last blog post “Get Rid of all the Bull****.

I do have to say right now the greed is getting out of hand. We need some love, trust and honest.
Debbie

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Apple December 12, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I can see your points. That is what is so good about America, you can think and do just about anything that you want. I wish they would quit taking so much of my money and wasting it. I can see paying for the military but I do not know why the politicians make so much more money than I do for doing nothing but stirring up stuff. It is nice to read about what someone else thinks. So many people will not discuss their true feeling unless it is for their own gains. Nice article.

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Lionel Silberman December 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Hi Stephen,

I applaud your perspective of focusing on “what works” and what is effective. I share your perspective that is difficult to directly measure the effect your vote has. Yet, at 55, perhaps I’m a bit older than your average reader and offer the following for your consideration.

I think it was Charles de Gaulle who originally said “Politics is too important to be left to the politicians”. Many of the horrific crimes in history happened while people who couldn’t be concerned were asleep. Our institutions and their watch dog agencies need people watching them to make sure they are effective. Civic duty is a responsibility and bright people like yourself need to help make that responsibility not pro forma. Our form of govt is deliberately “slow”. That can make it seen ineffective. And, aside from abuse, there are issues on the local scale that affect people directly and are worth our engagement.

You, in other columns, have brought a better perspective to processes we all “must” engage in. I suggest this is too important a process for you to ignore, but to bring your creativity to finding a perspective that doesn’t make you “ill”.

I enjoy your thought provoking posts immensely.

best,
Lionel

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A woman October 6, 2011 at 11:39 am

I doubt there is anything as frightening or considered ‘suspicious’ as an individual acting of his or her own accord. At least that is true in my experience; we are, after all, social beings, and the lone voice is always suspect.

I am struggling to divorce myself from politics; local politics especially and crucially. For one, my involvement has caused physical distress. For another, I know so much of the story behind the community in which I live, that it is difficult to even go to a store, or even venture into the downtown area, a hotbed of politcal decisions, funded by citizens – taxpayers.

Of an age where time is foreshortened, I know one thing. Without balance, all involvement is bad. I ask myself if my involvement is but a ruse for “living,” an attempt to truly belong to “community,” or receive some kind of social sanction, or is it laziness because what is needed is to write a significant work on the subjects I believe are of concern to all? Sometimes, I am certain it is; sometimes I know it is not.

I know that the only things I have accomplished were those that were hands-on, and I mean that, figurately. (Fill in the pothole, etc.).

When I’ve had enough and I try to walk away from issues, I am always confronted by them even if I do not leave the house. More things come directly “at” us then ever before. The installation of “Smart Meters,” is an example. Just sittin’ here, minding my own business, and the guy shows up to install one of these things — I can’t only tell him that I refuse the meter, I then have to contact the utilities people, and probably the media, and talk to people about why I made that decision. I guess I consider my opinion of value; most of the time, I look at the “common good.” Sometimes, it’s self-serving. Well, it’s always self-serving if it’s for the common good, right?

Bottom line? I don’t want it, but I don’t know how to stop, or I choose not to stop because I delude myself that I have greater vision, or more common sense, (that’s the big one), than the handful of people in town who ever speak up?

I think moving would help. But, say, I went out to live in a field. Then, power lines and transmitters are introduced. Or, maybe, it turns out to be a “brown” field. Then what… feh.

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Andrew Swinnerton April 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Great post!A silly question maybe,but do you vote?

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Andrew Swinnerton April 7, 2012 at 8:06 am

Not making generalisations about non participation in politics seems sensible.Here in the UK usually we get to vote to elect our national government every 5 years.We don’t directly elect the Prime Minister, we elect MP’s.And the Leader of a political party with a majority(Not just the most) MP’s elected to parliament gets to form a government,at the Queen’s invitation,of course.How nice of her!
In the last general election(2010) I read that 2 million more people voted for the Conservative party than when Labour won the election in 2005.Yet they did not win the election outright(Due to peculiarities in the British parliamentary system) so they had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats,and lots of compromises and deals were struck so that both parties felt happy being in government together.But people who voted for the Liberal Democrats for example(Many university students included) were aghast when the Liberal Democrats backed the Conservatives in tripling the amount of tuition fees they had to pay at University,when before the election the Liberal Democrats promised if they got into government they would not raise tuition fees. I am not talking here about the rights and wrongs of raising tuition fees but making a point that ordinary people can put so much effort(physical and emotional) into getting involved in politics.Yet the politicians when they are in office can pretty much do what they damn well please.So on average,we get to select them every half a decade and off course they make promises about what they will do, or try and hide the things they will do if they are in office.It is totally anybodies choice if they are totally engaged or disengaged in politics,or somewhere between the two extremes but the end results apparently look pretty similar.

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Julianne October 23, 2012 at 9:41 am

I like this. I ignore politics as well, but come from a family who is heavily saturated in the whole silly game. For the most part, they just accept my refusal to participate and I do well to avoid having to make any comments to their annoying debates.

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

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Gina October 5, 2013 at 2:16 am

Here I am 3 years after you wrote this article. I was looking for a reason to stop following politics because it’s making me freakin miserable. Especially with this Republican shutdown of government. I will try to follow your advice.

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RGB February 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Don’t feel bad, Gina. Here I am almost 10 years after reading some silly book by David Icke and I haven’t had a moment’s rest trying to fix the world… only I am now making 20% of what I was earning then. When a life-changing event happened, nobody gave a shit about me any more than before. But that’s what happens apparently to those who care too much for the greater good but don’t have the right connections. And I mean all this disregarding what party one desires to be in. They are all looking for people with lots of money or time to waste on their movement. They have always been into the whole rock-star idol thing anyway, so if you are what they are pushing in the popularity polls momentarily, then maybe they might notice your big mouth flapping for a minute. Just think, if it weren’t for the political-industrial machine (made vastly greater with 24 hour news and social media cycle), what would we be doing at all these days? Yes, figure out what that other thing is and then do that instead.
RGB´s last blog post ..Roanoke’s Suck Factor Update – Roanoke Doesn’t Suck!

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