Democrats & Liberals Archives

Tumblers in the Lock of Time, Part Seven

Politics
The end has come. The point is here!

After six entries, people must be wondering when they will see a normal article from me. Have no fear, this will be the last!

In the end, they were all about the way politics collides with the complexities of the real world, and the foolishness of ignoring the consequences of that.

Power tells us that if we only concentrate our will and our efforts, we can make the world do what we want it to do. These past entries have been about the distance between a what we want and expect of the world, and what actually works to our benefit.

Politics has a way of seducing us to process, having us throw aside the moral and practical decisions in favor of the expedient ones.

With the economy, we rationalize that if we let folks get away with looser accounting and establish relationships fraught with conflicts of interest, that our economy will prosper better. But if we let the information the market depends upon to work efficiently become muddled and compromise, aren't we just buying future economic havoc for apparent prosperity here and now?

With our infrastructure, we make similar lazy excuses on behalf of those who make their profit and/or take their power from the current arrangements of the system, forgoing a new system that could improve things, if not eliminate some kind of misery from our lives. Do we stand still and let the present pass us by into the future, or do we face our fears and progress onwards?

With science and technology, we disregard the troublesome, inconvenient discipline that makes science work so well, even as we grab for the power and authority that depends on that care and precision of work. Political power is all well, but do we really profit all that much when we make real world decisions without real world truth at it's heart?

With evolution, a well-proven theory is distorted, turned into a straw man for its detractors, or a means of justifying immoral behavior or maintained status. But does anybody count the cost of misleading folks on the science, or engage the reality of how selective forces really work in a society?

With war, a dangerous solution is chosen without care, without honesty between our leaders and our citizens about what is necessary to do the job right, or the reasons for going to war in the first place. How can we defend ourselves against the right threats, when we have shackled ourselves to facing a false one for political reasons?

With culture, we fight a war to preserve a past long dead, and perhaps never alive, and cloud our own eyes to the underlying unity of our society. What good does it do us to avenge the sins of the past, only to miss and even feed the the sins of the present?

These questions, these problems come down to this: the complexity of our world, of ourselves, and of our society makes the ancient problem of the difference between illusion and reality that much more acute. Ignorance, deception, and uncertainty are stronger in our society than ever before, and politicians and powermongers all around take advantage of that. We make many decisions in fear and under a darkness of the mind.

That way lies decadence. That way lies hypocrisy. That way lies confusion and ruin. We can no longer afford to have a large section of the population ignorant. We can no longer afford a media that patronizes us by deciding what we're capable of handling. We sure as hell don't need that from our elected officials.

The systems around us, our government, our economy, our culture, our sciences, and whatever else exist to serve our purposes, our needs. But the complexity of the world often let these things gain a life of their own, and their influence overtakes our good sense and our free will.

It is a common nightmare to have the systems around us enslave or destroy us as they get out of hand, and for good reason- we sense that we exist on an edge between self-preservation, and self-destruction. We are pulled this way and that in this world, and in our hearts, we want freedom from being so torn.

The politicians offer us that, but it's not theirs to give. In the end, it's ours to discover for ourselves. First we must acknowledge that what we does has results, and be mindful of those. Second we must acknowledge that the world is not and will never be under our complete control. Third, we must acknowledge that an utter resignation to the way things are is not a viable option.

We must be humble, but mindful of our needs and necessities. We must interfere from time to time, but time it right for maximum effect, and minimum damage. We must be willing to compromise our control over the world, so we don't compromise ourselves, and we must be willing to acknowledge that one choice can deprive us of another. We must educate ourselves so our concerns arise more from what we know and can deal with, rather than what we don't know and are incompetent to handle.

We must realize that America has always been at its best when it is an empire by example, rather than an empire by force. We must realize that politics is of no use to us when its sole purpose is the perpetuation of the rule of one party or another. At some point, if a party has not met the needs of the public that swept it into power, it will lose that power. America is not the land of permanent majorities.

For our leaders to truly deserve that label, the must not simply be followers of consultants and crowds, but folks who have an intellectual life beyond that of their politics alone. We need leaders now who are smart enough to understand the society they've been asked to lead, and smart enough to acknowledge where their knowledge has limitations, and their preconcieved notions are insufficient. Otherwise we will only see the tiring cycle of revelation, scandal and spin perpetuate itself, and America will despair of finding leaders worthy of the meaning of that word.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at May 16, 2005 7:28 PM