12 October 2007

Illusory Games in the Political Theater

Political disourse today is incorrectly perceived as an absolutist zero-sum game in which the various actors tend to sustain a belief that it's possible for one political philosophy to contain all the answers to the challenges that face a wide-ranging, constantly changing, heterogeneous polity. The truth is that the very nature of politics in a free society requires constant conflict, disagreement, and experimentation to derive results. That is the design of our system, yet we have in our midst always a contingent of authoritarian/totalitarian brothers and sisters for whom there is no room for any political instruments that violate the spirit of the Market's invisible hand, that dignify the sensitivities of any other than Judeo-Christian practices, that respect the concerns of poor Americans domestically or of developing nations abroad, or violate any other sacred principle of governance - according to the Correct System .
It's wrong to think that one party, faction, or person is going to have all the solutions to political problems or social concerns. Our adversarial process of selecting members of government is a form of theater in which each side's Unified Theory of Everything Political is only a script. It is useful fiction presented to voters for the purpose of signaling what kind of person the candidate is. The picture that is revealed can provide needed clues about leadership style, decision-making processes, the kinds of people that will work in the staff, moral compasses, etc.
But in reality - offstage, after the show - the office-holder should look at any available option and be ready to junk the script and improvise.


M Roehr said...

Good to see you back Gordon!

All politicians play a sophisticated game of winking to their audience/constituents in which everyone is encouraged to believe the wink was meant for them. We all interpret the winking (it is of the essence of a wink that it be open to interpretation, and worthless without it...) and project upon it the things we hope or expect to see. So while our candidates wink is meant for "us", our adversary's wink is meant for "them" (fill in the blank). We all see what we want to see, and are reinforced in out preconceptions. The wink represents a slight break in the fourth wall, to the effect that it acknowledges the theater of it all, and asks indulgence of it's excesses and simplifications. While we blow a lot of hot air about wanting politicians to be honest and authentic, we are really most reassured when our guy acknowledges the artifice of it all. The scary guys are the honest, authentic ones who seem to believe it all and can't ever break character. That's what always frightened me about Reagan, and now unbelievably more so about Bush. I'm afraid they're not just posturing, but they really do believe the simplistic world-view they profess to -- that Bush really does go to bed each night at 9:30 satisfied that with the guidance of his faith in God he's doing all the right things, has no nagging doubts, and really does sleep soundly -- that truly frightens me.

11 October 2007

The Greedy Soul

The Iraq occupation/counter-insurgency stands as one manifestation of our nation's Greedy Soul.

The poet Robert Bly talked about "The Greedy Soul" a few weeks ago on Bill Moyers' Journal (PBS). The Greedy Soul is that dark insistent thing inside each of us that makes us dissatisfied with what we already have, that makes us envious of others, that whispers in our ear "you're not good enough," that makes us fly too close to the sun, that makes us play God. The Greedy Soul can drive us to destroy ourselves and others while we blindly pursue ephemeral treasures like "security" or "sustained economic growth."
The Greedy Soul is the self's attempt to salve personal insecurity with the accumulation of more power, more wealth, more distance from the inevitable pain of being mortal, fallible, and vulnerable.


M Roehr said...

And what could be greedier than the desire for eternal life? The Greedy Soul becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as one becomes ever more the shell of one's inadequacies. Such a condition tends to generate a great deal of resentment, which will ultimately seek an outlet -- no doubt in some inapproriate, irrational, disproportionate, indiscriminate outburst of violence and revenge. Post 9-11 anybody?