Our political culture, for reasons of time and money, has been limited to shallow arguments and hyperbole. Have you ever noticed how every bill, politician, or scandal is either the worst thing since Satan, or the best thing since sliced bread? There is this pervasive notion in our culture that we the people are unwilling or lack the time to do real analysis of policy. I would point to the productive time lost to employers due to social networks and fantasy football, and conclude that time isn’t the problem. Our priorities are the reason America is falling short of our expectations.
This is, after all, a democracy. Our nation is proceeding more or less on the course we set for it, regardless of our protestations. There is no slippery slope on which we the people cannot find stability, and there is no grand enemy silently pulling our strings. I write this with the full knowledge that conspiracy theorists make more money selling their books…alas for the starving blogger. I can afford my principles, and they are all I can call my own. Despite the availability of the popular vote, and in spite of the easy access to good information, we the people are growing attached to our designated scapegoats. We have met our false villains, and they are our masters.
The first villain on the list is the stereotypical politician. I do feel a twinge of regret at the inclusion of this individual, as the notion of the “crooked pol” is one of the few ideas that can bring liberal and conservative Americans into agreement. We like to imagine that the lot of them are dirty, and that the whole bunch are wasteful fools. But those who get into politics remind me of little league coaches; simple folks who want to be involved. Just as all youth coaches are never as smart as the parents of their players, politicians can never do right by those that elected them. In a nation of 300 million souls and 120 million voters, the notion of representative government mandates that we each give up something to the whole. A land of liberty yes, but a community demanding shared sacrifice is a value too often set aside.
The second villain is a composite; the collaboration of big numbers and small words. It is far easier to minimize and attack “coked out monkeys” than it is to explain and place in context the actual project and its funding level. Our budgets, both in government and in corporations, are so large as to literally be beyond standard comprehension. Politicians themselves are often completely in the dark of the scale of numbers. I was recently sent the short version of a real Congressional proposal. The goal of the proposal was federal debt reduction, the value of the proposal was $500 million. Friends, as a blogger who begs for donations (at right if you are interested), $500 million is a huge number to me. But we must all understand the context in order to propose and act on good plans. That number in the context of the federal deficit, $500 million, is the rough equivalent of $15 to an individual making 50,000 per year.
Villain number three is the idea of globalization. A concept reviled by populist conservatives fearful of “one world government”, and populist liberals who think that free trade destroyed American jobs, globalization is poorly understood by the majority of our nation. Globalization is an outgrowth of our very human tendency to meet people. Humans extend, expand, and branch out. It isn’t immediately apparent why an arbitrary boundary line should prevent folks from doing business together. What is apparent, is that globalization, like so many other good ideas, has been executed in a vacuum. We the people love to support laws that fail to take note of the context and consequences, and so fail to prepare for both. The bulk of the negatives associated with globalization are easily dealt with via thoughtful and holistic planning.
Villain number four is corporations. Big, greedy, tyrannical conglomerates searching for the key to world domination is a script for bad Hollywood drama. The culture, mindset, and behavior of any corporation is a reflection of market forces (consumers, competitors, governments, resource availability) and the company’s leadership. There is no predetermined evil in the corporate entity, there are just humans acting in concert to achieve a set of goals. Firms like the Body Shop and Ben and Jerry’s, along with thousands of others, show what positive leadership can do for a corporation. We the people can hold them to account through two different market forces; we can act as consumers and as the government.
The final false villain in today’s rogue’s gallery is they/them. They/them are the ultimate default sinner to blame for any crisis that comes up. Typically poor, working class, or just plane different, they/them are the cause of crime, instability, a decline in values, even budgetary shortfalls. Lately, they/them have graduated from the poor to the working middle class; anyone working a job with a pension, decent salary, and good benefits who is not a Wall Street trader or captain of industry is now a part of they/them. The key here friends, is that they/them should never have what we have, and that they/them never earn what we earn. This demographic is the key to most elections, because it is so easy to manipulate. If you tweek they/them just so, you can get they/them to vote against their best interests.
All of these villains allow us to conveniently avoid our democratic responsibilities. We are able to blame enough of our problems on these entities, that we conveniently forget about our own hands on destiny’s controls. We live in a free nation, blessed with a government of of the people, by the people, and for the people. If we the people don’t do the intellectual work to maintain that government, then someone else will. Perhaps they/them would like a shot? Nature, after all, abhors a vacuum.
The Rational Middle is listening…