Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Great Underlying Truth of Politics: Abrogation, Surrender, Pedestaling and Cynicism Unbound

We live in a society of genuflection. 

We've slowly created a 'cult of personality'. 

It's most often found in how we regard 'those who are not us'. (Though it can also be seen in materialism, in our consuming, consumer-based world; we genuflect not only at a person's altar, but also at the altar of the 'thing'. The Next New Thing.)

Celebrities. Movers-and-shakers. Royalty. And, I feel compelled to insist, by the measuring tape of the very shows themselves as well as the follow-up dreck of 'entertainment magazines' on the tube, reality-show stars.

Now, I'm old enough to remember 'gossip rags'. Outside of tv fare such as 'The Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson and daytime interview shows such as 'The Mike Douglas Show' and 'The Virginia Graham Show', they were the only real opportunity for those so inclined to get their fix. My, how times have changed. So I get that curiosity is natural. I get that to varying degrees, people are endemically fascinated by the lives of 'others'. This is why gossip and rumour set the tone in the work environment...and why Facebook and Twitter and YouTube possess such cachet; they're massive extensions of the water cooler. Or the hairdressing salon. Or the street corner.

But we've taken this natural inclination, crammed it with HGH and created an easily-identifiable strain of modern Life. 

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that we've made this 'cult of personality' such a pervasive element of our society that it actually predominates

It is the very basis of most aspects of moving through the world on a daily basis. It affects almost every facet. 

Think about it. 

Consider how this 'cult of personality' has managed to co-opt Life in North America. 

The United States has just seen almost a decade of (insert your own descriptive) revolving around Osama bin Laden. In the end, a personality

Its political system is dominated by celebrity, legislators who seem more motivated to focus on the person than the issues. (The issues get shoved into the background almost ritually.) By coverage of candidates who would have, in a more realistic and humane world, no opportunity to besmirch the process with their self-referential, self-aggrandizing ways. (Palin. Bachmann. Gingrich. Trump.) 

Even media coverage of all this is injected with another layer of this cult of personality by those who deliver it. Glenn Beck, anyone?

(Canada has had its own taste of this recently with Michael Ignatieff, a 'celebrity' in his own right. Has anyone less appropriate to a political situation ever been 'parachuted' in?)

Through my jaundiced lenses, people seem to have traded energies previously directed towards their own lives, their families, their relationships, for energies devoted to the -seemingly harmless- spectating the lives of others. Is it really necessary for so much participation in the-unfolding-trainwreck-that-is-Charlie Sheen? While I'm a sucker for romance in this impersonal world of ours, two billion people watching a wedding? Are we that bored?!?

I maintain that were you to remove all instances of celebrity attention, of worship, of fixation in our media, a) people would go into shock, and b) there'd be surprisingly little left on the screen, the page or the airwaves. 

OK; what's this got to do with 'politics'?

This article on Raise the Hammer by Undustrial nudged me big-time. Not so much in what the author presents (read the piece; it's good, it's a little provocative, it's thoughtful, and it certainly touches on some fundamental beliefs of mine), but in what it prompted me to reconsider and readdress regarding 'How We Got Here'. Even if my extrapolations are admittedly somewhat unorthodox. And somewhat tangental.

I believe that part of the reason that people are so removed from the mechanisms of governance is this innate need to elevate others attached to the 'cult of personality'. 

That even if it's not a conscious act, people tend to at least want to elevate those they put into office. This is how deeply engrained the process that we see most visibly in 'celebrity worship' is. (Especially combined with a universal, timeless desire to be authentically, charasmatically led.)

And when you combine this with what amounts to either apathy or a long-established hands-off attitude towards 'politics'?

You get the process of abrogation of responsibilities by citizens towards their own governance. 

You get the process of surrender of authority, of independence, of individuality in their own governance. 

You get the process of putting someone on a pedestal in their own governance...regardless of how much cynicism is at play. (Because the cynicism the average voter feels is, let's face it, astounding. As I've suggested elsewhere, imagining this amount of cynicism in any other area of Life...towards our families, our partners, our impossible. We simply wouldn't allow it to continue...or we'd have winked-out as a civilization by now.) 

When you elevate someone (such as in active celebrity worship such as on Internet message boards, or even passively, by watching 'Entertainment Tonight' or any of that ilk) you lower yourself.
You lose a piece of yourself when you genuflect at some actor's or singer's or athlete's altar. 
It's a process of 'detachment from self'.
(For the record, there's nothing wrong with 'admiring' someone's talents. But it makes me sad to realize how this 'admiration' has become part of the very fabric of our lives. Something valuable has been lost, and people are so far gone that they don't seem to have any perspective.)
Granted, people don't by-and-large genuflect at the altar of the least not in Canada so much and certainly not at the local level...but I believe there's an aspect of this at play in how we tend to see our governance. 
If only in how the average resident, in invoking a 'hands-off' attitude towards their governance, elevate their putative 'employee', the Councillor or MPP or MP to 'celebrity'. Someone with whom they have little in common, and someone for whom they have a twisted kind of obeisance going on, a strange 'deferential/dismissive' construct.
Yes, it is kinda perverse. 

I believe that people do want 'change'. 
They want representatives they can count on to voice their concerns, to champion their needs. 
They want leaders who take their own natural abilities to come up with brilliant solutions to vexing problems, and combine them with the talents of others and strive towards brilliance. To make the best living conditions possible, given all the variables. 
They want to feel less cynicism about 'the political process', they want to feel more confidence in the 'political system', they want to feel their faith in those who are put into power to govern isn't ill-placed. 
People want to feel hope
I guess where I disagree with almost everyone, especially those who, inadvertently or not, cheerlead at the endless 'Us vs Them' rally, who place enormous intellectual store in their party's better capabilities and far more enlightened approaches, is that I don't believe that we're going to get anywhere substantially better by looking anywhere for the answers other than to ourselves. 
As residents. 
As citizens. 
As voters. 
And recognizing that the detachment we put into constant play...both in the 'cult of personality' and in the consistent apathy towards our something we desperately need to move away from. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's most wrong with this picture?

It ain't what Ruth Ellen Brosseau did.

It's what the voters did. 

It's called abrogating your civic responsibilities. 

Here's a news report, and here...and here's what Wikipedia has to say. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To paraphrase Scrooge...

"Labels, labels, labels, labelslabelslabelslabelslabels!"


I'm *so* fed up with them. 

I understand and appreciate that in this world we've created, we need reference points. Otherwise-
Otherwise, how can discerning thinking take place?
(Damn; my tongue is now lodged -embedded- in my cheek. HELP!)

The truth as I've come to see it, is that people don't need labels in order to process information in a responsible, informed way. 
They need labels in order for it to be a 'one and done' situation. 
You see, it's all a question of 'discrimination by way of mnemonics'. 
Or maybe I'm misusing that word. 
Perhaps I should be expressing it 'discrimination by way of a Pavlovian response'. 
So a label triggers a response. 
There's little discernment going on. 
There's little actual 'thinking' going on. 
Don't they refer to this process as 'the lizard brain'...?

As I've been visiting relatives south of the border, I've been all the more aware of how labels dominate life here. 
In the Sandra Bullock film 'The Blind Side', there's a hoot of a scene where Kathy Bates is being interviewed to be a tutor. And Bates suddenly confesses what she knows might be a deal-breaker: "I'm a Democrat."
With the Canadian election done-and-dusted, I've been reading online comments at a broad range of sites, and it's been depressing/stunning/shocking/disillusioning to see just how entrenched so many people's 'value systems' are in their labels. 
Specifically Americans in wanting to transfer their perceptions of 'conservative' and 'liberal' to Canadian politics, how much fervour they clearly feel, how much vehemence they're compelled to express...even though they just as clearly haven't a clue as to the subject matter. (Not that they probably have much more a clue as their own political system; the amount of misinformation, the extent to which people are misinformed about their own particulars is truly bewildering.)

I know there's nothing new here. 
'Us vs Them' has been around since time immemorial. 
It's one of the prime motivating factors of what's pushed civilization forward, the basis of, at the very least, competition. 
But people have become so lazy, so unwilling to actually use their grey matter to differentiate, to discern, to form qualified opinions, that instead, they resort to labels and whatever qualities they've attached to them. 
(And then, so often in the case within the US, wrap it all up in the flag. 'Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy'.) 

So I've come to hate labels. Especially in the realm of 'politics'. 
I want good governance. 
I want good policies. 
I want sound reasoning, with a little bit of visionary thinking combined with some pragmatism, some faith...and maybe a dollop or two of creativity that occasionally brushes up against pure genius
I want engagement, I want discourse, discussion, dialogue...
What I don't want is self-serving, self-aggrandizing, obfuscating rhetoric. 
I don't want close-minded, addle-brained partisan politics that has little to do with the betterment of our human condition.
I don't want 'Us vs Them'. 
And I sure as Hell don't want labels.