Thursday, November 09, 2006

Voting for Nothing

[A recent commentary on NPR (I can remember none of the details) inspired the following observations.]

Americans are obsessed with voting. I don't mean voting for insignificant things like Senators, Congresspeople, Presidents, Governors, and so on--less than half eligible voters usually do vote, I hear. I refer to another kind of voting. America On Line wants me to vote now for President. In fact, it wants me to vote for all manner of things all the time--as do any number of other web pages. What do all these appeals for votes mean?

They mean nothing; they keystrokes in the wind. They are empty amusements that deceive us into thinking that our opinions (rendered into votes) mean something simply by being asserted. I heard that TV zombies vote for the "American Idol." That has quite a payoff for the idol, but what bearing does it have on actual taste, aesthetic quality, or virtue of any kind? A vote is not an argument. Most voting on line, moreover, has no outcome whatsoever. Nothing is changed by this voting. (What if I were voted the world's greatest philosopher? I still wouldn't give the Gifford Lectures next year or get hired by Harvard, Yale, Princeton...)

Further yet, why assume that bare assertions Yea or Nay have any purchase on reality? All flies vote for excrement. Well, they vote with their wings, so to speak. The excremental Kenny G sells more units than the excellent John Coltrane... You get the (ugly) picture, by now, I hope.

I suggest we stop this meaningless and vane voting and try to learn what opinions are worth holding. This requires study and the pursuit of knowledge, not opinion slinging through vaporous voting.


yossman said...

Did you ever read Pat Metheny's comments on Kenny G's album where he mixes his sound with that of Louis Armstrong? About the only time I saw Metheny mad. Votes mean something however. In the recently failed European Constitution it would have meant that Europe has no Judeo-Christian heritage. Online votes mean that pollers get to know their consumer's preferences. This in turn leads to more efficient nonsense for greater market share. Polls are control. Truth is the majority.

Timo_the_Osprey said...

"Keystrokes in the wind..."

What a powerful turn of phrase.

Douglas Groothuis said...


Yes, I know of that Metheny essay. I heard the G - Armstrong abomination while swimming here in Sun City West, AZ. It was against my will. Pat called it "musical necrophilia." Quite.

By the way, Pat's new release with Brad Meldaeu is superb.

Small Group Guy said...

Coltrane and Kenny...No comparison what so ever. Each are masters of their own spheres of music.

yossman said...

What is worse: hearing Kenny G's Christmas album being repeated over and over in a Malaysian hotel resort during a summer vacation or hearing Pat Metheny's Off Ramp as muzak in a mall near Birmingham, UK? The funny thing is that my wife started liking Kenny G as a result in an attempt to understand my liking for jazz. Was I to be grateful? The solution came when I started listening to hard grooving salsa dura from the 70s in New York. Now that upset her and she lamented that I should go back to Metheny, which I did recently. It has benefited our relationship :-).