By Carlos Gama/El Inde
Picture being a young kid in a car with a very religious parent. While you are listening to a point your mother or father is making about your need to follow their religion, you say something along the lines of ,“That is fine if you choose to believe that, but I believe differently.”
Ian Buelna’s mother heard similar words come out of her son’s mouth when he was only a young teen. Like many parents, she tried to keep her child in line with her beliefs, but Ian is a natural skeptic and his mother’s words did not confine what he believed in. This only led to more challenging thinking.
Election Day 2020 was the most recent example of this, when Ian refused to vote. His reasoning behind this choice: the voting process does not align with his viewpoint on how society should work. “I just don’t feel like I owe it to society to vote,” Buelna explained.
Although 26 year-old Buelna meets the prerequisites to vote—he is at least 18 years of age, is a United States citizen, meets Arizona’s residency requirements—Ian did not even register to vote in 2020. This was also the case in past election years: in 2012 and 2016.
Buelna considers himself as an anti-establishment or a peaceful anarchist; someone who does not respond to a higher authority in their life. This reluctance to follow government does inhibit him from voting, but there is more to it. Buelna is skeptical about the sustainability or accuracy of democracy in guiding a society.
This belief has been brewing and evolving within Buelna since he was 12 or 13 years-old. From an early age, Buelna was educated about Christianity, his family’s religion. However, around the time he was in middle school, he began to have conflicts with what he was learning in church and in school.
“I didn’t push [what was taught in school] aside, but I definitely questioned it,” Buelna said. “I definitely learned from it and that’s where I also saw the fallacies that history books have as well as the problems that had occurred throughout history.”
By “fallacies,” Buelna meant to express what he felt was a “convenience factor” that authors of history books used when composing them. To better illustrate this, he gave the example of the European expansion to the Americas. According to Ian, the story of the pilgrimage is a positive tale told to children through modern books. However, he feels that the opposite is true.
“It was a violent time,” Buelna said when mentioning the genocide of Native American with traditional and biological warfare (like the spread of smallpox). “[My skepticism] was based on those types of [events] where things get distorted or are biased to accommodate white settlers of the time,” said Buelna.
Another event that piqued Buelna’s curiosity and was cause for questioning was the Mexican Revolution, which started in 1910 to end Porfirio Diaz’s dictatorship over Mexico. According to history.org, an official constitution was drafted in 1917, after which Mexico became a constitutional republic. Buelna learned about this during a history class and could not help but think that some piece was missing; something that would explain that Mexico could become a better society. “In theory, it sounded like it was the right thing to do,” Buelna said. “But even with all of those constructs—constitution and updated reforms—[I still saw] society as incapable of what it could be or should be.”
This criticism was aimed not at the push to break a dictatorship, but rather at the failure to give more power to the Mexican people after Porfirio Diaz was toppled. He explained that not diversifying this power left a similar kind of people in charge of the nation, referring to Mexico’s wealthy elites.
If Buelna could design his own society, his utopia would include a mixture of peaceful anarchy, no monetary system, and a reformed educational system with one central government for the entire world population — or no government at all. The aspects of this ideal society represent fundamental issues that Buelna believes plague modern society.
Peaceful anarchy, a term Buelna coined himself, would be at the forefront of this utopia. When people think of anarchy, they always picture a lawless, violent society. However, this peaceful rendition emphasizes widespread peace among a sovereign society with no monetary system, he explains.
“It sounds primitive, but at the same time, I feel that mentally it is a very advanced concept,” Buelna said. Furthermore, the absence of money would reduce the power of the wealthy, creating a more even playing field for people. Buelna’s proposed reformed educational system would help students discover their passions early in their education and develop them fully by the end of their high school career.
Although this is the society Buelna would one day want to live in, he recognizes that anything like this is far from happening. “Do I think it’s possible?” Buelna said, “not in the near future.”
In the meantime, Buelna lives in a democracy and although he does not discredit the progress that has been made throughout history, he still sees many flaws. A main cause for concern with a democratic system of government comes from how easily divided people can become, specifically when scientific information is discovered. An example of this came recently with the spread of COVID-19, where the nation saw tension based on whether or not people believed in the legitimacy of the coronavirus. Another concern that democracy raises for Buelna is that it fails to address the issue of ignorance, which may explain why a reformed educational system is imperative for him.
These are just a few of the reasons why Buelna does not believe that a system based on voting is ideal. Although he’s not against voting, he is not behind the system (or any political system, for that matter) that is backed by a governmental body.
Buelna’s brother, Gerardo, or Jerry as he is more commonly called, does not completely agree with his brother’s point of view regarding politics. But he understands his beliefs.
Jerry, a 20year-old University of Arizona business student, is a supporter of democracy, but is often frustrated with how difficult and extensive it can be to pass or enact legislation. Nevertheless, Jerry voted in this year’s election. “[It was important for me to vote] because I knew the state of Arizona [is] a swing state, so our votes would actually be influential for this election,” Jerry said.
Buelna knows that his views will not be accepted or reciprocated by everyone, but he does not shy away from sharing his opinions with others when discussing politics. While he does not push his beliefs onto others, he believes that speaking with them is an important way to become more educated. “I feel like it’s good to have conversations so people can share their ideas [and] maybe change their mindset, if that’s what they’re inclined to,” he added.
While the American public set records for early voting and voting day, one thing was certain: Ian Buelna did not participate. Instead, he visited family in Nogales; he went on his daily evening run of the rocky hills by his apartment in Tucson, and battled it out in a game of “21” with his friends on a local basketball court. An “I Voted!” sticker did not and will not meet Buelna’s shirt anytime soon.
Ian Buelna poses atop a hill on Tucson’s Starr Pass Boulevard
on October 21, 2020. Photograph by Carlos Gama/El Inde.