I have a confession to make; several of them actually, and not all of them will occur here. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out on the forums of Dan Carlin’s website (newly renovated) largely because I tended to agree with his political arguments and loved his history show. Since I first signed on those forums I’ve abandoned them several times because of various hostile posters, only to be drawn back again because of some inane argument presented in of his Common Sense podcasts.
The latest Common Sense (titled Kickstarting the Revolution) is a nice illustration of why I have stopped spending time arguing with devotees of Carlin’s on his website, and why I contemplate abandoning his political podcast altogether. Starting from the false attribution to Churchill which he repeats and is debunked on Churchill’s website like so;
“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35! And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”
Never mind that I personally can disassemble the assertion by simply observing that I have never been an ideologue, and it is not solely the realm of the young as he insists when he brings up that misquote (ideologues making up the bulk of liberalism in his argument) since there are any number of hidebound hoary old ideologues out there insisting that their ideology must be followed, and that make up the bulk of the Conservative wing of the Republican party.
But that’s just where he starts to go off the rails.
I don’t think a lot of you have perhaps considered that we are a month away from the 2016 election kickoff, and I know what you are thinking because I always think the same thing; already?!? Yeah, the midterm elections are a month away. If you’ve got some fancy-schmancy wise interesting outside the box idea for impacting the 2016 Presidential elections for all our good, you need to start it now.
No Dan, that isn’t what I’m thinking. What I’m thinking is that you (and the vast majority of the electorate apparently) are once again mistaking authority for ability. Attributing to the President more power than he actually has, and holding him accountable for actions beyond the powers of his office (on the one hand) and expecting the next President will be able to exercise powers he doesn’t have in order to fix things which aren’t under his control in the office of President (on the other) What this podcast represents, at the end of another long and winding hour and a half, is one more episode chalked up in support of the dictator theme; the false dream that electing the one right person will fix things, skipping over the very obvious fact that what is important right here and right now is that people go vote in the midterms.
The lackadaisical way that US Americans approach the obligation to participate in government both highlights the need for a requirement that people participate in their government; while at the same time reinforcing the observation that we get the government we deserve.
This reliance on the President, this common belief that this one person can fix the ills of an increasingly complex system inhabited by hundreds of millions of people who are all going about their merry way living their own lives, is the worst kind of naivete. Couple that with the blind insistence that the calcifying remnants of the two party system are no different from each other, in the face of the popular takeover of the Republican party by the Religious Right in the form of the Tea Party, evidence that the revolution that you agitate for is already occurring, has been occurring since 2008…
…Well, it boggles the mind, the lack of understanding of the system itself that these views now represent. I’m more than a little mortified. The reference link for this podcast points toward Lawrence Lessig’s site. I agitated for Dan to interview Prof. Lessig for ages on the show, and now that he’s done that and promotes him, he links the Prof. to the completely dysfunctional idea that 2016 is somehow more important than the day to day operations of party machinery, or the impending disaster that will be handing the Senate over to the hidebound Republicans if only their Ebola-fearing voter base goes out and votes this month.
That isn’t how the world really works. Yes, the individual can matter, does matter. Yes, authority grants a certain amount of power, but that power is limited by design and by the reality of there only being so much one person can do.
The fallacy here, as I so often come up against, is the externalizing of purpose. The false idea that your purpose in life can be satisfied by some external agent, can be defined by someone else than yourself. That voting actually does something aside from (as I’ve alluded to many times) seal the deal that you make when you set out to support a candidate or a position and then work to see the goal come to pass.
You have to decide what is important, you have to do the work to see it successful. You cannot simply go vote and expect others to carry your goals forward with them while you deal with things you deem are more important. They will do what they think is important. Either you accept that their goals are at variance with yours, or you don’t and are never (and will never be) satisfied with any outcome no matter how much better it may make your actual conditions in life.
…in that vein, the Democratic party and the Republican party are simply tools to be used, just like any other social structure. They are no more and no less good or evil (or monolithic) than the individuals who work in those groups to advance the goals they set for themselves.
So go vote this month! But not just vote, go scope out your local party, see how the sausage is made in the hands of the people who currently hold power; and if you want wild ideas about how the internet can fix the problems of aging structures in or government, maybe you should take a look at this;
Pia Mancini and her colleagues want to upgrade democracy in Argentina and beyond. Through their open-source mobile platform they want to bring citizens inside the legislative process, and run candidates who will listen to what they say.
If we want to get away from the kind of world that Noam Chomsky outlined in Manufacturing Consent, or the kind of world where the wealthy buy the votes of or representatives as described by Professor Lessig in Republic, Lost; How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It then we should listen to people like Pia Mancini, or dedicate ourselves to one of the many groups who are working daily to modify the system so that is is more responsive to the voting population of the US.
The Wolf-pac – We must reverse Citizens United, Restore our Democracy, and Save the Republic. Join the Fight for Free and Fair Elections in America! That has had success in at least one state house.
Move to Amend – which has been trying to get legislation through congress; and not having much luck at it.
Lessig’s own Rootstrikers.org – which is the third iteration of his groups attempts to form a movement behind the ideas he has put forward again and again.
Or maybe even a group like Represent.us that is facing pushback on the local level in Tallahassee right now while trying to make inroads on the problem of corruption in or governments.
Governments. Plural. More than one. Local, County, State & Federal; not just the President. So go vote, because that’s all that is left to do right now with one short month left in this election cycle. But don’t allow yourself to sit back after voting and expect the problems to be solved, or (even worse) wait for a President to be elected who will fix the problems we face, that will do so in a way that you approve of (which is a pipe dream) go out and change the system by participating in it. At least then you will have earned the right to bitch about how things turned out, rather than just pretending you have that right because you have a right to free speech.