Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Washington Politicians out of Touch

I have been thinking about the real reason Washington Politicians are way out of touch with the rest of us. Its simple tribe logic. People are tribal. I don't know why I never thought of it this way before. Many many cultures rely on the local people they interact with to set the standard for their lives. DC Pols are no different. Think about it. Congressman Kennedy & Congressman Frist are at complete opposite ends of our established political spectrum (which I think should be a lot broader - but that's for another discussion), but, at the end of the day, they have more in common with each other than they do with you or me. Think tribal. Their lives are similar. Both have specific, specialized scenarios that you really don't find anywhere else amongst Americans. These are:
1) They need to get re-elected. Their livelihoods, cultural connections, lifestyles, hopes and dreams are all dependent on their ability to get re-elected. How do you survive in a corporate world? You go to work and make sure everyone around you knows that you are valuable to the company. How do you survive in a blue collar world? You show up everyday (even if there is nothing to do), you keep yourself busy, you are eager to do whatever work shows up, you never complain about the pay or the conditions. The end result is the same, you tap into the vast resources of the economy and bring some of it home to take care of your family and your wants/needs. Totally different from someone who needs to get re-elected. They are constantly campaigning, making promises & compromises of their personal ethics to try to reach out to the voters. Often their might be other dirty little tasks that need to get done to make sure the end result of the election gives them the numbers they need to win. They have to suck up to anyone who has power over public opinion - even if they don't like them. If you or I don't like Oprah, we can tell our bosses that we don't like Oprah and that would not affect our ability to get a promotion (in most cases). Not so for Frist or Kennedy - don't like Oprah? Don't get re-elected.
2) They have to put up with powerful people trying to change their minds about issues, or bid for their support of certain issues over what they might think to be something more important. Probably threats too. 'If you don't support the ANWR drilling, we will become a third world country in 12 years, etc.' What powerful people are trying to get my support for ANWR? Nobody. There's no one asking me to meet their friends for a round of golf and implying that if I don't, they will pull all their companies out of the state and move to Mexico....
3) They have the power to change the USA and also (indirectly) the world. Wow. That's a lot of pressure. Do you have that kind of pressure on you ? Will history teach that because Jack Schmidt forgot to cap off the oil well last night, WWIII was started? Or because John forgot to specify a paint color that we were unable to keep the aliens from invading earth and enslaving us all?
My point is not at all to offer the DC Pols forgiveness or an excuse to hide behind, because lately (the last generation or so) they have not lived up to any standard of responsibility (personal or professional). My point is these people are not like us. There is no way for most of them to understand what I need or what you need. They have a totally different lifestyle than any other American who ever lived. DC Pols are a specialized group of people who have a specialized function and are trapped in that culture on the hill. We are all this way. We rely and depend on each other and naturally flock to other people who have similar needs and are surviving similar situations. Mostly for support. After the work is done on Capitol Hill, the Congressmen and women don't go back to their homes and talk to their neighbors about the weather. They can't. They have no common experiences with the rest of us. Anyway, they need to talk to other people who have their same experience. That's just what Human beings do. That's how we cope. I imagine that they feel ostracized by society anyway. There is no way for a person to serve the country like Ted Kennedy has and not have some cynicism and disdain for the rest of us.
Its not rocket science why DC Pols aren't actually able to do anything that effectively helps the rest of society. Its simple. They do not know what kind of help we need.
Ok, so how to fix the dilemma? To my first two points, I think there is a way to help keep these things from happening. Point number one (re-election)
- term limits. This is the way to make sure that the term they are in office, they focus on the task at hand and not get involved in campaigning. No future election to go to, no campaigning, no wasting of my time. The second point (government lobbyists) make this kind of thing illegal. Punish the lobbyists and encourage the Congresspeople to rat them out by making some kind of bonus or reward for each scumbag caught trying to influence the law making process. This would ostracize them even more, but with the term limits, it would only be for a little while. Basically turn the offices into more of a public servant position. For the third point, there is no real way to take away this responsibility and awesome power. But, we can limit access to the power.
To be true to the ideals which have revolutionized human interactions, forged our Constitution and other documents/laws directed by our founding fathers, we need to limit any single person's access to raw power. That's why democracy works so well, even when it is perverted into a republic such as ours. With more power, we need to institute more limitation with regards to any single person's access to this power. We have to do this because we are all human and none of us can control ourselves in the face of raw power, and we know what happens when someone abuses power. The idea of reducing the concentration of power (true socialism/communism) is a real fantasy. It makes a false assumption that people can work together for mutual benefit. We are not capable of that. It has actually been proven many times over the last half century. The only time people work together is to repel a common threat. That's it. Otherwise, we might form up into groups and work with each other for short periods of time, but each of us still has our own individual goals and agendas.
On to how this applies to terrorism. Ok, so I am on a roll here, but this is also a simple thing. Who can disagree that terrorism is an insane, desperate, horrible, and disturbing form of social dissent? No one. This is a simple truth. Should we waste a bunch of time trying to understand terrorists? Absolutely not. Total waste of time. Terrorism is a reaction of a small minority of people with limited resources and undeveloped beliefs who have given up hope in a situation and come to the conclusion that the situation would be better off if they killed or damaged others. When human beings have done a poor job of managing power, terrorism begins to emerge (there are many, many other signs of poor management before terrorism emerges, if we just want to look, but that's another story). Simple. This is repeated throughout history and is also a Human trait. It is in our programming to ask the questions who what why how and when. It is also in our programming to act before examining the consequences - most of us outgrow this programming, but some whackos are determined to ignore reality. When the people who are managing power become unable (or refuse) to have any meaningful conversation with the rest of us, some whackos will eventually turn to terrorism (of course the dichotomy of terrorism is that it is a non-communicative form of expression that results in a lot of damage and death). Do you think Radical Muslim Leaders are just sitting around thinking 'How can we kill Christians?' If that was the main goal, there would be a lot more dead Christians. There are many ways to kill Christians without bombs and air planes and subways and IEDs, etc. Many ways which would cause much worse terror - like poisoning the water supply or disabling the power grid or dirty bombs, etc. I am not sure what the radical Muslim leaders are thinking, but it is more complicated than 'Lets go kill Christians'. The thing to recognize is that having a healthy awareness/fear of terrorism and developing a strong resistance to and protection from terrorism is not going to solve the issues. The issues are not bigger or smaller than terrorism, but they are important and revolve around making sure people properly manage power or at least are creating the illusion that they are properly managing power. I have always postulated that if we could solve the gang problem in East LA, we could solve the terrorist problem in the world. Even if we figured out a magic way to protect everyone's life from any harm, terrorism would still exist in situations where the management of power becomes abuse of power. Our value system would shift and whackos would attack whatever we value most. Should we monitor all the whackos to see if we are managing power properly? Absolutely not. No reason to give the psychos any more power than they already have. The psychos won't organize, band together and start killing random people just because they are psycho. Typically, the whackos will kill each other and leave the rest of us alone (Re: Mobsters). Its when the whackos join together under a common thread to commit organized acts of violence on random innocents that you know the power has been mismanaged and something is really wrong with the direction of your culture. Remember, our culture no longer extends to the borders of the continental US, it extends all over the world and to the stratosphere. We are responsible to get the management of that power back under control just as much as we are responsible for protecting ourselves and our allies from terrorism.

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