This applies both in the regular sense of casting your vote in a political election, but also in the wider sphere of how you allocate your resources of energy, time and money, to create the world you want to see.
Going back a couple of posts, a conversation developed between me and a very good US friend of many years, about the place for voting with a single issue in mind — abortion, in this case, and that's a very clear example but there are others.
When somebody holds strong principles over a single issue in this way, they may cast their vote in favour of that issue specifically and in isolation, without consideration for the effect of their vote on the wider picture. This can have the unobvious outcome of getting the opposite result to what they wanted.
Mentioning matters of deep and strong principle always triggers connected reactions, so I'd like to lift this right out of our actual social and political sphere into calmer waters (I hope) to try and demonstrate what I mean.
Imagine a scenario where 11 people are going to vote on their menu for the next three weeks. They'll all be eating the same thing every day, and once the menu is selected they have to eat it whether they like it or not.
The two main options are dressed crab or cheese omelette.
Of our diners, three have serious shellfish allergies and may die if they eat shellfish, five don't care what happens to anyone else, like shellfish and just use their vote to get what they want, and three are opposed to the taking of life to produce food.
So, when the votes are cast, you get three who vote for the cheese omelette because they don't want to die, and five who vote for the dressed crab because they care only about themselves. That makes up eight of the eleven votes.
Everything hinges on the remaining three votes.
There are actually no options available that allow the diners to not kill in order to eat, because dairy farming inevitably implies the slaughter of male calves, and egg farming the mass gassing of male chicks; that's how it works.
Our three outstanding diners (those opposed to taking life) might cast their votes as follows:
One votes for the cheese omelette option, on the grounds that doing so will stop crabs being slaughtered and also save the lives of three of the other diners. This voter knows that you don't actually have to gas male chicks or take calves from their mothers and slaughter them as babies; it is possible to work towards a kinder world.
The other two voters say their principles about taking life matter so much to them that they are going to cast their votes for the vegan option. There isn't one, so their votes are in effect lost.
The outcome is that you get five diners voting for crab, four for omelette, and two whose votes go for nothing.
The result of this is that everyone has to eat crab for three weeks, three of the diners die, and so do a great many crabs.
But there was another way, as follows:
The five shellfish voters choose crab, because that's what they want.
The three diners with the allergy vote for omelette so they will live.
The three opposed to taking life all vote for the omelette because, although vegetarianism involves a certain proportion of taking life, it has wiggle room for compassion and at least will save the lives of the crabs and the three allergic diners.
The outcome is that you get five diners voting for crab, and six voting for cheese omelette. The allergic diners and the crabs are saved.
Two days into the experiment, the diners discover that the dressing on the crab includes chopped egg and cream, so if they'd voted for that they would have lost the crabs, the other diners, and the calves and the chicks.
This is not a perfect world. You have to vote strategically.
Here in the UK, at the last election I cast my vote for Jeremy Corbyn and to remain in the EU. I lost. We have Brexit and a government that includes Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove. As a result, we have the highest Covid death rate in the world (partly driven by poverty), thousands of hungry children, refugees kept in the most appallingly inhumane conditions, corruption and misuse of public funds on a breathtaking scale, and every week the rich are making a killing while the poor sink into destitution.
Meanwhile Keir Starmer has taken over as leader of the Labour Party. I have a very low opinion of the way Keir Starmer was willing without scruple to throw Jeremy Corbyn under the bus in our UK political in-fighting. Corbyn is a principled man and Starmer let him down. I don't admire it. But if, at the next election, Starmer still leads the Labour Party, then I'll vote for him. I won't forget what he did, but I will do everything in my power to stop the dressed crab going through, because I don't want any more diners to die.