The Pander Journal: Littering and Voting
This “article” is part of a “series” we’re calling The Pander Journal, which will be “following” the presidential election of November 2012.
Being a Millennial isn’t easy. Unemployment is high, your friends take photos of food and upload them to the internet, and people are always trying to force you into voting. I don’t believe in voting, but I do believe in littering. I come to both of these conclusions through the exact same reasoning.
I have a bad habit of confessing this in small social gatherings, where I always get two reactions. The first reaction is simple dismissal, something like “there he goes again.” Fine, whatever. But the second reaction is far more interesting: horror, disappointment, and finally, disdain. Those exhibiting the latter reaction are generally female, several years younger than I am, pretty, and socially conscious. In other words, the exact audience I’m trying to impress. Never do I encounter eager agreement; this is probably a good thing.
The following is fairly typical:
“I’m not sure I see the merit in voting anymore,” I say.
“What?” says the young, pretty, socially conscious girl. She was already deeply conflicted about talking to me in the first place. I am not helping myself out.
“Yeah, I mean, my voting literally doesn’t matter. Pick any given state or national election, heck, throw in local elections too. How often are they decided by one vote?” I say.
“Are you kidding me?” she responds. “What if everyone thought that way?”
“Well,” I say, one finger in the air in my best pose of erudition, “my voting or not voting doesn’t change what other people do.”
“But you have the power to influence people,” she insists. “What if they stop voting, and then get others to stop voting, and so on?”
“It’s not the swine flu,” I counter. “I don’t think my behavior multiplies to others at an exponential rate.” At this point, several of the young, pretty, socially conscious girl’s friends have gathered around, and most of them are looking at me as if I were canvassing the bar collecting signatures for a petition to award tax money toward the construction of meth labs adjacent to elementary schools. “Look,” I say, “all I’m arguing is that a) elections are rarely, if ever, decided by one vote and b) my behavior isn’t influential to a degree where my actions make a dent in the outcome.”
Granted, my fictional rhetorical nemesis is right. If everyone thought like I did, the consequences for our democracy would be dire. But I’m also unimpeachably right. I’m the exception. My singular behavior rarely changes things at large. For instance, I don’t support littering in theory, but if the options are hanging on to my trash until I get to an acceptable repository for waste or subtly dropping candy wrappers on the sidewalk, I choose the latter at least seven times out of ten. I don’t know that I notice my neighborhood has changed in any meaningful way by my drop-in-the-ocean contribution to the disgusting societal blight of litter. In such cases, I find pro-social behavior can be very draining.
That said, I really hope you don’t change your behavior. If you did, I might have to stop littering. Don’t ruin that for me.