Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"The Myth Of Unanimity"

You’re in the park and you’re touched by a spontaneous impulse to pick one of the pretty flowers. You reach down to pick one when someone (invariably a loved one) says,

“Don’t do that.”

“Why not?” you reply. “It’s only one flower.”

To which the “someone” inevitably replies,

“What if everybody wanted to do that?”

There’s an answer to that question, an answer that’s unquestionably true, but you don’t pull it out, because you’re in enough trouble for merely thinking about picking a flower. The answer to the question, “What if everybody wanted to do that?” is this:

“They don’t.”

My extended inhabitance on this planet has led me to a conclusion that comes very close to being a rule:

Everybody never wants to do anything.

It is my view that, in virtually any situation you can think of, some people want to do something, and some people don’t. Everybody never wants to do anything.

A non-“flower in the park” example:

Today’s Voting Day. Voting Day sends me back to Tenth Grade at my high school, Bathurst Heights Collegiate and Vocational School. (I’ll tell you about the school another time. They tried to intermix academic students with vocational school students in a single facility. It didn’t work. The “academics” were picked on for four years.)

Before our first class, our Home Room teacher, Mr. Payton (“Pay attention or you’ll get a detention”) announces the opening of nominations for Class President, who will serve on the school’s student council. Some wiseass nominates me. I immediately decline. The wiseass’s sidekick nominates me again. I decline again.

I know what’s going on. It’s a practical joke to get me elected, so I’ll have to attend meetings in the mornings before classes begin, and have to walk to school in the dark. Not to mention being stuck having to do things, like plan for a prom I had no intention of attending.

I can’t put a positive spin on this. I have a miniscule impulse in the direction of service. The closest I come to even leaning in that direction is the service I provide in this blog with the recurring message: ”You’re not alone. I’m messed up too.”

I have to believe that’s at least partially what I’m doing here. Otherwise, it’s simply an exercise in ego with borders.

There is no election I can ever imagine running for. Which leads to the same question as the “flower picking” question, but with negative trajectory.

“What if nobody wanted to run for election?”

The answer is the same. Only backwards.

Nobody never wants to do anything.

Could you put that in English, please?

Somebody always wants to run.

I don’t understand why. I don’t want to run. But that’s me (and my friend, Paul, among, I imagine, others.) Another group of people clearly feel otherwise. Everyone running today, and everyone they defeated in the primaries desperately – or passionately – your choice – wanted to run for office. My explanation for this is the same reason I have finally concluded as to why people go into show business. The reason is:

There are lots of reasons.

Some people run for office because they want to serve their country. Hats off to them. (Not sarcastic. I mean it.)

Some people are inveterate problem solvers. Thank goodness for them. We need problem solvers. Which is good, because problem solvers need problems to solve. And what bigger problems are there to solve than the problems facing our country today (or any day)? So, “Vote for me. I’ll solve your problems.” You know what? Sometimes they actually do.

Some people are drawn to the action in politics, the slash and parry of furious debate. (I hate that. I can’t understand why everybody doesn’t agree with me.) For those with a taste for combat, politics, at least to some degree, is essentially a competition, a sport, maybe even a blood sport. The combatants are never more alive than when they’re whacking away at each other, knee deep in the fray. At some point, the stakes become secondary. The battle becomes primal. You’re simply driven to win.

Some people go into politics because they like wielding power. “Look what I can do? Ooh, and look what I can make other people do. And on top of everything, people keep giving me stuff.” Finally, as Henry Kissinger, not the most attractive of men, candidly opined: “Power is an aphrodisiac.”

So there’s that.

It may be instructive in assessing a candidate’s motives to take note of the way they run their campaigns. Yes, there’s the undeniable reality: You can’t govern if you don’t win. We got that. The question becomes, with that understanding, “What is it that you will you do and what is it that you won’t do in order to win?”

It is my opinion that every time a candidate opens their mouth to make a pronouncement, they’re delivering two messages. The first message involves the content of that pronouncement, for example, “My opponent is Un-American.” The second message involves A) the candidate’s willingness to express that pronouncement and B) their willingness to express that pronouncement in the particular manner in which they express it.

Many of the issues are pretty clear-cut. “My opponent believes in getting out of Iraq as soon as possible. I believe in staying in Iraq as long as is necessary.” “My opponent would cut taxes for the middle class but raise them for the wealthy. I want to cut everybody’s taxes.” The choices are simple. Two positions. Take your pick.

It appears, however, that a lot candidates don’t trust that their positions are persuasive enough to carry the day. They seem unwilling to allow the clearly articulated contrasting views to simply stand there and duke it out. Instead, we get “campaigning.”


Distortion. Exaggeration. Sarcasm. Innuendo. Name-calling. Deliberate lying.

“Attack” politics. Demonizing the opponent. Disrespect bordering on contempt.

On the other hand, is the candidate who eschews such odiferous strategies really being more truthful? Or are they merely subscribing to an alternate, but equally calculating, set of tactics?

Which seems to lead here:

“All politicians are self-serving crooks.”

I don’t, however, believe that. Not because my experience tells me otherwise. I have no experience with politicians. (I knew Al Franken, but before he decided to run.) I don’t believe all politicians are self-serving crooks because of my rule. Reformulated in the following sentence:

No everybodies are ever anything.

Now that I’ve confused you sufficiently…

Enjoy your vote.


OJ (not that one) said...

I am reminded of the old Internet adage that all generalizations are always wrong.

zaddik2004 said...

Enjoy reading about your thoughts as much as when we hung out 40 years ago. Strange, I was blogging at 4 am in the last few days too.

Lorne Salutin

PS - i will be in LA from Wednesday Nov. 5 to Saturday Nov. 8 2008. If you see this,before then or after contact me at salchootchkin@gmail.com if you want to chat or have coffee.