TOBY: I think anything tactical makes us look bad.
SAM: Well, we should get used to it. We go on TV, we do a better job at selling it then the other guy. And we win the bigger argument… I also think it’s the right thing to do.
–The West Wing, Season 3, Ep. 64: “We Killed Yamamoto”
This article asked: How can any American not care?
Well, I’ll tell you. Do you know why people (even intelligent, thinking people) show apathy toward politics and elections?
Because the thinking mind shrinks from absurdity.
Absurdity is silencing. To devote one’s mind to unraveling what is true and right takes enormous effort and commitment. But truth and rightness are the last thing we will see in an election campaign. Truth and rightness, after all, are the least of a politician’s concerns. These are terms so irrelevant to politics that they are likely laughed out of the conference room. I can imagine some junior intern being shown the door for even uttering them.
Message, on the other hand… ah, now there is a holy word, treated with the reverence of Incans bowing to the Sun.
The Business of Seeming
Take a given political party in any country at any time. Do they really care about doing what is right (i.e., what is truly best) for their constituents? You and I both know this is ludicrous. Their primary concern is appearing right, and making their opponent appear villainous. This is why spin and vilification comprise 90% of what all politicians – both in power and in opposition – do. (Watch The West Wing for a vivid, frustrating and unfailingly amusing portrayal of this).
Furthermore, we all know that doing what is right and true are the least of a politician’s concerns. This is precisely why many people, even intelligent people, throw up their hands in apathy when it comes to politics. It appears, to anyone with half a brain, like a sitcom or a cartoon. A not-so-convincing portrayal of people who care about the truth.
One feels choked by the absurdity.
Voting seems like an exercise in futility.
Voting is Not the Panacea
There, I said it. I insulted the Sacred Calf of Western politics. As if the world can go sliding down the tubes of Hell, but we’ll be shouting “Hey, at least we can vote on the way down!”.
To anyone with a brain even partly turned on, voting seems to do little, except exchange one villain for another.
The reason it does this is that villainy is rampant. It is omnipresent, in all walks of society. That it is omnipresent in government barely needs acknowledging; a child old enough to know what government is knows this. But it is also in our businesses, our education, our entertainment, and in our homes, in the way we treat our families.
It is in our minds, to the degree we accept villainy as normal. Or, in our darkest moments, even desirable.
The real work is not done by electing this or that official to office. It is done by you and I. We do more to stop villainy in its tracks by living well, and not putting up with bullshit when we encounter it, than twenty back-to-back elected Congresses. In fact, when you think about it, isn’t putting our hopes in elected officials passing the buck? Isn’t villainy is the responsibility of everyone?
(That means You, bub.)
Withdraw Your Consent
The people really to blame are the quiet seethers. Those who put up with, or turn a blind eye, or who give up opposing villainy as “futile”. Villainy cannot persist – not in politics, not in business, not in your personal life – without your consent.
So if you encounter villainy, damn the torpedoes. Oppose It. Shout your opposition from the rooftops. (Today we use Twitter or start a blog. Too many people falling off roofs, I guess.)
Do you have a boss who’s business practices you consider unethical? You are feeding his villainy as long as you go on working for him.
Do you work in government and see fraud, waste and corruption all around you? You are the fraud and the corruption as long as you are part of the scheme and say nothing.
Do you hate what is happening to your kids’ education? If you seethe and rage but do nothing, what are you teaching your kids? Get off your ass and go kick some doors down. It’s your job.
Which is the point. It’s all of our jobs. Not some vetted TV personality who wins the popularity contest we call “electing an official”.
Politicians are not the hope of any society. They are only its most visible bottom-feeders. And they have an abundant and endlessly renewable food supply: people’s hopes and fears. They cannot save a country. But neither can they destroy it. Only you and I can do that, by what we put up with and what we oppose.
So yes, vote your opposition in the upcoming presidential election. Heck, if its going to be a villain, at least make it the lesser. But then get back to the important work of living your life with standards which you will not allow to be violated.
That, not elections, is what makes a difference.