Monday, September 14, 2009

"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"

I've really become bored with the tired political theater that passes for debate in this country. Or really disillusioned is a better word.

'Intellectual' has rarely been a word to describe political debate in America, but facts, principles and critical thinking should occasionally make an appearance.

Theater is an inherent part of politics. So are emotions. A system driven exclusively by facts with no regard to the non-quantifiable gives us things like eugenics and "scientific socialism," where human life is reduced to a series of mathematical calculations. As often happens in the health insurance industry. Even social Darwinism of the type advocated by Ronald Reagan and his followers spat on the idea that humanity should be a factor in public policy decision. "There is no such thing as society," sniffed Reagan's erstwhile ally Mrs. Thatcher.

But these days, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Theater and unreasoned emotion has come to suffocate politics. No, it's not at all unique in our nation's history. These things tend to ebb and flow. Probably the nastiest election in our nation's history was in 1800, a contest between several of our sainted Founding Fathers. Still, we're at low tide in terms of intelligent national discourse.

People who consider themselves serious tend to take a very self-aggrandizing view of politics. Political junkies stuffily regard themselves as far superior to the ignorant rednecks who like Jerry Springer or the testosterone-driven teenage boys who follow professional wrestling. But is the political mentality really any different than trash TV or the soap opera WWE?

Political "debate" is all about cheap points, about transient "winners" and "losers," rather than affecting people's lives. It's about entertaining rather than enlightening. It's about appealing to their emotions rather than their brains.

The horse race aspect of politics, this little parlor game, has nothing to do with the real lives of real people. Political yap shows, pro wrestling and Jerry Springer really are three different versions of the same thing.

The main difference is that pro wrestling and Jerry Springer have no pretense to a higher sophistication.

Take this week's edition of "Figuring out what molehill can be made into Mount Everest for no other purpose than scoring cheap points in the little parlor game people with comfortable lives and internet/cable access like to engage in."

There are important things the country ought to be obsessing about. The little temper tantrum of some nitwit Congressman from South Carolina is not one of them.

The Congressman apologized for his classless outburst and the president wisely accepted his apology. Yet, defenders of the Congressman and of the president refuse to let this non-issue die.

Hypocrisy abound is why I've tuned out of most political discussion.

If a Democrat had yelled out "You lie" during a Bush address to Congress, the right would've demanded he be sent to Guantanamo for "enhanced interrogation."

By contrast, the Iraqi journalist who called Bush a pig and threw a shoe at him was virtually canonized by the US anti-Bush movement.

The interests of ordinary people seems be absent from political discourse. Even when ordinary people engage in that discourse, they blindly follow the talking points handed down to them by the liberal and conservative establishment, talking points designed solely to distract the masses from what's really important. And it's not just the ignorant and poorly educated folks who allow themselves to be distracted by this nothingness.


"A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." -From Macbeth.

1 comment:

PlanetAlbany said...

Good post, but of course I have an objection. I do not believe it to be true that Ronald Reagan and his supporters advocated social darwinism.