One prominent theme came out of the 2016 election – voters are ready for change. A near majority was excited enough by the idea to actually vote for a narcissist with no rational plan at all. Are voters simply stupid?
In a democracy, you always get the government you deserve. No matter how you may feel about that, it remains true that Vox Populi, Vox Dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God, a sentiment first developed by radical Whig reformers in Scotland 300 years ago.
For those of you who favor the short version, skipping a journey through history, voters aren’t stupid. They may be badly informed and even more badly led, but they are onto something. America is clearly adrift. The essential guiding philosophy is obvious, given a little distance provided by history and the experience of hungrier developing nations. But in the bizzy here and now, what does that mean in terms of politics?
For a decade, the main raison d’etre of Barataria has been simple – that the world has lost its mind from believing its own bullshit and is in desperate need of someone to watch out for it. The framework for this is Don Quixote, a novel written 400 years ago with the capacity to ring a little more true every day. We’ve seen this movie before, and not necessarily the version with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren. History is full of craziness as the march of technology and social change causes every generation to wake up one day just beyond when youth has faded in a world they simply do not understand.
This feeling is hardly unique. Nor is the desire to exploit it.
The first thing for useful current politics is a call for everyone to calm the eff down. If you have to hear that in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson for it to sink in, please do. The world may seem crazy, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. There are no dragons, only windmills sitting there doing useful work that would be sorely missed if they were somehow vanquished.
Many people I know who have passed this threshold have taken the radical step of unplugging from media, junking their television, and using facebook largely for the purpose of posting videos of otters playing. This is not only a very rational thing to do, it almost certainly leaves them better informed than most people. The exploitation of anxiety, anxploitation if you want, has created a massive industry for the sole purpose of filling people’s heads with nonsense to them jumpier, angrier, and ultimately stupider. Once utterly senseless, these victims have been gaslit to the point where they will buy nearly anything.
Unplugging from this noise and nonsense is a great start.
As useful as inner peace is, however, it can’t be the end of it. Those who have managed to get away from the crazy are indeed the only truly wise people capable of doing the many social things which simply need to be done. This includes helping those in need, protecting the vulnerable, rebuilding cities, and eventually providing genuine leadership to put a stop to the crazy once and for all.
The greatest problem of our time is this: only those who are disconnected are truly able to connect.
What must come next, somehow, is a quiet place for them to gather and sort things out. The only useful politics of a time like this has to be a politics based on getting around to the work that needs to be done and developing a solid strategy for genuine reform. Not a “drain the swamp” or “burn it down” revolution, but the vision of a new world based on what only becomes obvious on those sleepless nights when the silence of 3AM becomes deafening.
The politics of today is not left versus right. It is not progressive versus conservative. It is not urban versus rural, nor is it old versus young or any of other 320 million ways a nation this size can be divided up.
The only meaningful political division is Reality versus Nonsense.
In a normal time, the give and take of a representative democracy would require us all to win what we can, take our losses well, and keep moving forward. We simply do not have that luxury today. Certainly, every elected representative has an obligation to protect the vulnerable to the best of their ability and has to fight senseless battles against dragons which they know aren’t actually real in the first place. Yet for all of smokey breath and deafening roar such battle produce, the real politics must start from a quieter place.
Call it the Taking Care of Business Party if you want. Or the Forest Party, to distinguish it from the trees. It has to represent a coming together of diverse people who don’t even necessarily even like each to practice the most fundamental lesson taught by our Founding Fathers – consensus. When the situation was even more dire than it is today, the eminently wise Benjamin Franklin made the only way forward clear – “If we do not hang together we shall surely hang separately.”
Take his gaze from the $100 bill as an inspiration. Rather than talk about the 1%, let’s talk about the 100%. Let’s talk about 100% keeping it real.
In an even more dangerous time the only real vision for a decent world was outlined very clearly. It is the secular trinity of freedom, unity, and equality – translated loosely from French. This is the basis of our world and it remains the only useful slogan for getting beyond the crazy. The three go together in ways that only those who have experienced genuine tyranny can understand. A key part of that, without any doubt, is unity.
The real power of consensus isn’t that everyone agrees. It is an acceptance that we are all in this together and that much of our anxiety comes from living closer together. The informal nature of a culture which easily uses first names and shares just about everything on facebook is a culture lacking even the most basic firewalls to protect the individualism it otherwise cherishes to the point of being a fetish. Consensus is nothing more than acknowledging that public and private are not the same thing.
The thing about our world is that for every problem we might face someone, somewhere has at least part of the solution. Complex solutions to complex problems can only come from this. We must listen to the small voices and embrace the obviously increasing unity of a world drawn closer together. We must genuinely see equality as a moral commitment, not a threat.
This is what freedom itself comes from. Without these basic values we have a world bent on hurting each other and literally begging for more and harsher laws. Thus the trinity is complete, each leg of the triangle crucially supporting the other.
There is little doubt that “politics”, or the art and science of human interaction, is taking quite a beating these daze. It seems more irrelevant every day for one simple reason – as we know it, it is irrelevant. Everything we know about politics has to stop and the questions we insist on asking have to be unasked.
If you want to unplug for your own sanity, by all means do. But keep in mind that if you keep yourself away you’re only turning over the keys to society to the genuine crazies who steadfastly remain “into it.” When you are ready, please join up with everyone who isn’t like you in any way at all except for that desire for sanity and please help us all make something good.
Nothing important will change until this starts happening.
For those who are disconnected are often the only ones who can see the forest for the trees. It takes some distance — invested and interested, mind you — to be able to see the patterns for what they are. That, and the ability to see these patterns favors those who keep their minds open and move through the world sideways — oftentimes at the expense of focusing on society’s favored pursuits (Get a career! Get a house! Get some debt!), which more often than not favor (and even require!) lifestyles and mindsets set in one way: unerringly forward.
At least in my experience, the ones on the fringe ask the most interesting questions and see the overlooked paths — because who thinks creatively and expansively when you are working in the trenches, caught within the constraints of one’s many connections and obligations, of doubts and limitations? As much as we think we are capable of, our personal context can only see so much, can only imagine so big.
So let us combine our contexts, and imagine a world together.
Yes, all around. It’s been noted many times that the economy does better in Democratic administrations. Since correlation does not imply causality (see the story of the Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem) we have to be skeptical. I believe that in good times people are more receptive, expansive, and generous – and elect Democrats.
My goal is always “A strong half-step back” which I describe as “Far enough back to have some perspective, but close enough to keep my hands dirty.” I think Mike Rowe is precisely correct in that hard work is always the goal when up close, as opposed to whining, but it is the step back which often eludes us all. Especially in hard times.
Leadership is always the key. People have to be coaxed back and given a strong vision. The entire developed world lacks clear vision right now, and it shows. Leadership is scared and unsure, but largely unwilling to admit it – because it’s their job to lead into the future, yes?
Brilliant! I too have been trying to understand my more republican minded friends and people I work for. There are two types for sure, those who want to get things done & think smaller government is important, and sometimes they have a point. Then there are the crazy people who don’t make any sense & just want to burn it all down. I agree that we can and should try to work with those who want to make it work because they are responsible and the other people scare them too.
I think you are right, and there are indeed Republicans who are objectively good people no matter how you look at it. We just disagree on details, is all.
The good people, the sane people, the thinking people need to unite. We have to say, “Enough!” and start working things out to the best of our ability. That will take leadership, and that is indeed the hard part. But it has to happen – or we will decline into a third-rate nation very quickly.
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