Monday, February 11, 2008

A Little Thing Called Politics

Everyone in this mad and distracting world of ours chooses positions and perspectives with which to relate to their fellow man. Something as simple as a food preference, 'you like fried bananas too?!’ can lead to sharing and communication that opens the door to new perspectives and shared experience. Simple moments like this can also lead to perceived differences that generate gaping clefts and insurmountable roadblocks to interpersonal understanding.

In no aspect of society are petty grievances or misunderstandings more divisive than in politics. That in a supposedly 'enlightened' culture we debate the relative merits to voters of a y chromosome, or the color of someone’s skin, or their weight, or their youth or their age, leads me to feel as though I've missed something fundamental in my judgment and to lose that much more faith in humanity. A particularly apt quote from Robert Heinlein comes to mind, "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Or better yet, a quote from respected statesman and political figure Sir Winston Churchill, "The best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with the average voter."

How would you choose someone for an executive office of your company? Would you trust what they've written on their resume? Would you factor in their appearance or their strength in rhetoric? Would you not expect to receive evidence of their accomplishments and their character? Would you not question their motivation for becoming an executive officer? Would you take into account their previous work performance? Or would you be swayed by the fact that they eat the same food you do? Maybe that they play an instrument that you like? Perhaps the fact that they seem like someone you could be friends with? How then would you choose a President of your country? Should we hold our political leaders to a lesser standard and operate, as Stephen Colbert would describe, by our gut? A quote fitting this is from one of the greatest orators and politicians in recorded history. Cicero described this by saying, "Men decide far more problems by hate, love, lust, rage, sorrow, joy, hope, fear, illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality, authority, any legal standard, judicial precedent, or statute."

Some would likely think that there's no more unlikely source of apt and insightful political commentary than could be found in children's literature. A perfect counter argument to that notion is Theodor Seuss Geisel's The Butter Battle Book. Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote The Butter Battle Book in 1984. At the time the book was written as a cautionary tale regarding the cold war and the arms race that ensued between the United States and Russia. But there is a more fundamental message at the core of this tale about the Zooks and the Yooks. That message resonates today in the current United States elections for presidential candidates. And it is quite simply this; people, at the most fundamental level, are petty. We are willing to find the smallest, most inconsequential detail about someone and make an empirical conclusion regarding their character or their worth, while at the same time completely disregarding any and all evidence to the contrary. Where so many people would agree that there is a creator who influenced or brought about the existence of all living things, and would even agree on many if not all of the fundamental aspects of that divinity, they instead choose to draw lines in the sand about menial and torturous details to the point of hatred and bloodshed. Where so many people would agree that there are problems that need addressed, and that those problems may have more than one solution, they would instead prefer to trade invective and bile regarding strict ideological approaches to them.

We have had, as a race, over two thousand years to read, digest, and ultimately grow from the teachings of such great philosophers and political and legal minds as Marcus Tullius Cicero, who has such wisdom attributed to him as "He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason", and " I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity." Yet as if a culture in it's infancy we act as though there is no historical precedent for the problems we face. We make decisions and judgments based not upon verifiable fact or reason, but upon emotionally biased contexts as how something makes us feel. And in no arena of human thought are we more impeded by this than in politics.

I am no exception. I am moved by speeches by powerful orators that manage to use a considerable amount of words to say nothing, and yet am cynical in the face of someone offering determinable solutions. I hold an innate personal bias against members or representatives of either political party or of any religious affiliation. I also truly and desperately want to believe that there are actual choices available to be made in this election that will have a noticeable and positive impact on the lives of every citizen of the United States and even the world.

And then I actually go to the effort of educating myself as to the positions and accomplishments of the candidates. Or I engage in conversation with an avid supporter of one candidate or another hoping to be convinced by virtue of the same reasoning that they have been. I want someone to follow; I want something to believe in. Sadly, once again, I cannot say that anyone offers the answers I seek. Not a single candidate has demonstrated that they have integrity, accomplishment, and economic or social understanding to inspire my support. And that's regardless of hairstyle, skin color, gender, age, religious affiliation, wit, conviction, or oration. I have chosen to educate myself. And so educated, find once again that Neverland is a fairytale. Santa Claus is a myth. The frog-prince is a folk-tale. And politicians are politicians are politicians. We all have to wake up some day.


Post a Comment

<< Home