I came across, this morning, an interesting work of theory surrounding the idea that our culture has gone so far as to consider polling to be an impetus for political action. Leonard Pitts Jr. over at the Miami Herald writes in regard to the recent Washington Post/ABC News polling on public support for marriage equality:
But lurking at the edge of celebration there is, for me, at least, a nagging, impatient vexation. That vexation is based in what is arguably an esoteric question: In extolling the fact that the majority now approves same sex marriage, do we not also tacitly accept the notion that the majority has the right to judge?
It’s a pretty simple question, really, and one that gets lost in our greater drive toward… well, something.
I’m no big fan of American Democracy, and this sort of observation makes my brain turn on. It seems very, very clear that after ten years of a 50/50 public opinion split between two moderate political parties we now see justification of a majority as some sort of policy decision. Indeed, when the GOP recaptured the house last cycle they spoke of their “mandate”. Gov. Walker is now “losing” because polling numbers show a binary split with his approval rating on the lower-side. Numbers numbers numbers, and always binary.
Pitts goes on to look, shallowly, at the issue,
But still, one draws up short at the idea that human rights are subject to a popularity contest. One shudders to think what sort of nation this would be if Lyndon Johnson, before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, had first taken a poll of the American people.
I think that the article, itself, misses the point.
It isn’t that our rights are “inherent” or even that we’re born with them. It’s the fact that we have elevated the surface, jerk-reactions of the american populous and created a system of governance where we have two choice put forth by a poll or other concept of “public opinion”. This is circular. Political agenda is set by politicians, who then craft careful messages and rhetoric to bolster their position. The two parties create their own binary solutions and then bring that to the public, who are polled, in order to further justify the political agenda.
What’s missing is courage and change. We could ensure the safety and fitness of every needy family if we wished. If we were to do so it would inherently shift the binary questions. The base culture and actual environment shapes the framework. This is bullshit.
Compassion isn’t popular. Neither is helping out minorities. Really, I wish we would just do the right thing and then allow the public to smolder with some sort of entitlement that they know best. Frankly, I’m scared of our system now that we’re cutting more and more funding from education. Of course, an uneducated public would just play further into the hands of the pollsters and parties who are so generous that they give us the impression of participation.
So, unless you’ve been in a cave out meditating (or plotting the overthrow of the US Government), you’ve most likely been bombarded by how we all have to make “shared sacrifice” in order to “balance the budget”. I put those in quotations because they’re both stupid statements.
Perhaps we’re discussing taxation as some sort of Teahead “theft” or perhaps we’re looking blindly at the idea that what elected legislators and governors do is somehow with our unanimous consent.
Oh, right. The thesis here is simple: States and the Federal government have a revenue problem.
This is business101. And it disturbs me that we’re so easy to laud political figures for having “business experience” when they can’t seem to understand that we’re in a revenue crisis. You know, prices have to increase for inflation, and they also need to increase when the service-costs rise. What is so difficult about this? If these were Oreos, you’d be certain we’d see an increase in price to match an increase in service-cost.
There’s no sacrifice. We have, simply, the culling of a product line of the subsidiary (US Government) for the benefit of the parent company (corporations and industry controlling elected officials). There is no sacrifice anywhere. Instead we have the equivalent of plant-closings and consolidation of service-lines.
So it seems there’s been some hubbub around the world recently surrounding a sixteen year old Australian student who, in the face of bullying, stood up for himself and fought back.
Good for him. I know.
Up until the age of about sixteen I dealt with a slew of “bullying”. Mostly this came from a group of pretty hateful skinhead-types who were all planning on entering the military (this was before 9/11, even). I spent the greater part of my freshman year of high school getting teased for my silly desire to dress “punk rock” and be far-left politically active. Of course, I went to a very good suburban high school which, like all schools, had a zero-tolerance policy concerning violence.
One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I was being followed by two of my tormentors in the hall, walking past other kids and even a few adults who seemed to want to just look right through the whole thing. This was after months and months of torment and bullying. I lost it. It wasn’t really a choice. I turned, quickly, caught one of the kids off guard and punched him in the face.
I was given an in-school suspension for a day.
That event was also the turning point toward what would eventually find me as one of the “alternate-but-popular” kids at school.
You see, I’ve run that event through my head so many times now that “bullying” is at the forefront of national discourse. I’m glad I did it, because after that I was afforded a sneering sort of half-respect from the kids who tormented me, and while I spent my suspension writing, reading Kant and doing token amounts of schoolwork, I also reflected upon my own self and self-presentation.
Casey Haynes got so fed up with being harassed that he bodyslammed his tormentor onto the concrete sidewalk. Way to go, Casey.
I’m sure some of you are looking at me with disgust, right now, but I think that should be evidence for the double-standard our culture provokes on issues such as this. You see, I’m not exactly a supporter of non-violence. I certainly believe that rational, face-to-face conversation and understanding are more effective and useful, but I also believe that you can’t simply ignore the fact that humans are animals of violence. Now, I want to be clear that when I use the term “violence” I’m not speaking strictly of physical violence, and that this is an immensely important distinction to make.
We are violent in that we employ force to coerce, shame, hurt or otherwise reinforce our position in a polemic. Every time you raise your voice, you’re employing violence via attempting to overwhelm and scare. Every time you steal your co-worker’s pen, your acting in violence to deprive them of resources. When our government cuts assistance to the poor, it’s an act of violence.
Physical violence is the tip of the iceberg, so we concern ourselves with it. When you chop off that tip the rest of the ice still sinks the Titanic, and this time it’s even harder to see coming.
In any case, this post has been sitting in my draft folder for too many days, now. Time to publish.
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1, 156-158
Because you are of two minds, both capricious and deadly.
Because we know neither why you were confined, nor how you come to value your freedom once granted.
Because you are but a figment of our dreaming.
Because you are but the stuff of this world.
Because you walk without stepping foot; speak without moving air.
Because you are of two minds, both cautious and careless.
Because you recognize your enemies.
Because you recognize your fear.
Because you carefully accost your charges; you charge your subjects with sleep.
Because all things are either existent or not.
Because all things are neither existent nor not.
Because you are an actor upon a stage.
Because you are but a stage upon which an audience becomes lost.
Because you cast out Caliban.
Because Caliban casts you out.
Because all the winds seem to speak your name.
Because your name speaks with the force of a gale.
Because you are in love with the world.
Because you find love in others, but do not understand love.
Because you pretend to understand pain.
Because you are nothing but pain.
Because you walk into pain as a mist brushed aside.
Because your dress is bathed in warm light.
Because you are immersed but never baptized in salt-water.
Because you count hours as a pauper counts pennies.
If you were whole you would be invisible.
If you were unconflicted, you would disappear.
If you understood freedom, you would not appear.
If you are illusion you are of nothingness.
If you are of dream, you would be of shape.
If you knew yourself you would be cautious.
When you swim you become the sea.
When you fly you become the air.
When you burrow you become the earth.
When you speak you cease to see.
When you see you cease to speak.