Listen, you might find the sitting president to be a repugnant, appalling, knuckle-dragging buffoon making up for what can only be a clinical case of inferiority complex.
You’ll get no argument from me.
But he is just a symptom.
Cut him out and you still have the disease. And it has metastasized.
Some other crackpot lunatic will grow in his place. And that person will inherit all the same problems: the same bubble economy that’s about to burst (again), the same nearly-insolvent banking system (again), the same insurmountable debt, the same poverty, the same foreign policy of perpetual war, the same unsustainable (née suicidal) monetary policy, the same all-powerful surveillance/police state, the same bubbling hatred between various groups.
These things don’t go away just because we elect someone new. The president has little to no control over them.
They are, since we’re freely borrowing medical terms here, endemic to the system.
It’s the body that’s sick. The person sitting in the Oval is only the most visible manifestation.
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.
This is how you get elected to office: become a master at holding up a mirror to society. That’s it. If you angle it just right, so that enough people can see themselves in that mirror, they will vote for you.
You see, the office-holders don’t innovate. They don’t bring any new ideas to the table. They do not “steer” a society. They possess no special wisdom or insights about the world, except maybe the insight that people will put aside their intelligence and reasoning minds and behave like reptiles if they hear all the right keywords in a carefully-prepared speech.
The only special skill that office-holders really do posses is the art of reflection. They are masters at reflecting the ideas already out there in the culture.
So who, then, is responsible for the state of the world?
Hate to say it, bub, but look in that mirror.
It’s always been true, hasn’t it? You and I have always been responsible. Even when we were ruled by chieftains and kings and dictators. We wanted them there, ruling us.
Blaming a given administration (or even more ludicrously, that administration’s chosen figurehead) for all the world’s ills is nothing but a giant evasion of a glaring fact: that administration is just filling your demand.
We make the world what it is every day, by giving our consent to it.
Sometimes we consent for things by voting for them. Sometimes by paying for them (even when we know we shouldn’t) also known as “voting with your dollar”. (Ever known someone to complain loudly and often about Big Pharma, or food corporations, or corporations in general, and come home every week with a minivan-full of shopping bags containing all their products? Hmm.)
More often than not, though, we consent to things simply by looking the other way.
You and I put Trump where he is. If not directly, then by our silence.
Ideas are what make the world, for good or for ill. If you hear someone spouting ideas that you disagree with and you say nothing, those ideas are emboldened. Things become “true” to a culture when they are repeated enough. When you say nothing to stop them, you are creating the next elected official.
Go to a bar tonight and just sit and listen. Pick up on some conversation threads. What are people talking about? Make some notes. Pull those notes out in eight years time and I guarantee you, you will hear the exact same things coming out of the mouth of some contender for office, pretending that God implanted those special insights in their head that morning while they brushed their teeth. And millions will cry and cheer along, because, wouldn’t you know it… those are the ideas in their heads, too!
And so the world limps along, diseased by bad ideas passed along like any common infection.
It’s not all bad, of course. We have an immune system; there are still good and brave people who just get up every day and do right and try to make the world better. I really believe we’re still here because those people exist and believe what they do.
But the sicker we get, the harder it is for the immune system to fight, and I think we all know it’s getting harder.
Hopes and fears. That’s really what we’re talking about here, isn’t it?
We’ve gotten so accustomed to the story where we’re supposed to place all our hopes and fears into one person that we don’t even question it anymore. It’s like the kiddy play where we’re supposed to cheer the good guy and boo for the bad guy. Every four years, if we just cheer loud enough, the Good Guy will win the day and lead us to paradise, or else the Bad Guy is going to ride us like pack animals right through the gates of Hell. To be followed by the next one leading us to paradise, or riding us into Hell, to be followed by the next…
Listen, we can go on telling that bedtime story forever.
Instead, let’s try this: decide, here and now, what we will and will not tolerate in our lives. What we will and will not be silent about. Decide how we will do good in our lives, contribute to others, and leave the world better than we found it.
And decide to never, ever put our hope or blame on elected officials again. Decide we’re a little too old for that story now. A little too smart. Too grownup. Too non-reptilian.
In Illusions, Richard Bach said: “Within each of us lies our consent to sickness or health, to riches or poverty, to freedom or slavery. It is we who control these, and no one else.”
No one wants to hear that, do they?
That means they just might be responsible for their own sickness, poverty, and slavery.
Listen, I get it. A message of self-responsibility sucks. We’re too tired. We’re fed up. In addition to everything else, we’re supposed to fix the world, too? Christing Hell. Why is it my responsibility and not someone else’s? Why can’t we just blame someone else, like the President, or the other party, or the corporations, or the bankers, or the Illuminati, or some other group of people we don’t particularly like? Better yet, why can’t we just hire a really special somebody for the job, our “representative”, and let them handle it?
Never mind all that immune-strengthening, just give me a new pill to swallow!
Yep. Looking in that mirror is a bitch.
But, if you read that Illusions quote again, isn’t there also a kernel of hope in there? It means: we need not be at the mercy of forces beyond us. “Within each of us lies our consent” could also read: within each of us lies the possibility.
Listen, much as we may want someone else fix the world for us, it’s just not gonna happen, and if you’re a thinking person, I think you already know that.
A new pill won’t help.
Like or not, friends, the cure lies within us.
You and I make the world what it is.
If you think about it, we’ve been given a valuable, life-saving piece of information. If elections just show us how healthy or sick we are, then we’ve been handed an MRI scan that paints a grim picture. We could despair. Or we could use this information to change what we’ve been doing.
So, instead of endlessly despairing about one symptom (as goofy and infuriating by turns as that symptom might be) I invite you to think on this, and try to be as honest as you can: in what way is that person staring back at me from my bathroom mirror contributing to the disease?
Even better, in what way might the immune system fight back?
Images: Copyright: shakzu / 123RF Stock Photo