Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Interlinked Group Navel Gazing: Or Why I’m Tired of Political Blogging

This post on whether or not Laura Bush called critics of Miers sexist to me exemplifies the state of much of today’s political discourse: intelligent citizens passionately engaged in politics and ideas (a good thing) while at the same time being myopic and self indulgent in scope (a bad thing, yet something most of us, including myself, are sometimes guilty of).

There seems to be a paranoid group mentality in Big Lizards post, characterized by such statements as:

“We know the MSM lie and distort, particularly when transcribing oral statements that have a chance of fanning the flames.”

This could have been written by a leftie or a rightie (both think the MSM is biased against them), but in this case a rightie wrote it. I find it odd that a group who prides itself on fighting the “victim mentality” so often whines that it is a victim of the media (which for the most part is owned by fellow Republicans). Are individual members of the press liberal and biased? Of course. My wife is a lawyer who does work for “evil” corporations, and it is interesting to see how biased toward planitffs news reports on major ligation can be, but some of that is also driven by poor reporting and a misunderstanding of the legal issues. Of course, lenghty detailed balanced reports on tort ligation would probably bore most readers (or so the CFO and market researchers would probably say) and lead to declining readership/viewership, which in turn leads to less advertising dollars, which leads to less profits for stockholders…well you get the idea…the media is in it for the money and sensationalist stories are what corporate execs (read editors) think drive profits. (Though this is preferable to the state running the media – you can’t have freedom of the press unless the press is free to market.)

The point wasn’t to give my opinion on the media, but to suggest that this myopic viewpoint slices away the complexities to create a neat little “Us vs. Them” package. We end up clinging to white washed bones instead of examining fleshed out reality. Or staring at our compatriots navels hoping they look just like ours.

People should be passionately enaged in ideas and their pratical application (in the end, for government it is results that matter, or at least should – something ideologues often lose sight of). The challenge is knowing when you have subsituted ideaology* for ideas, when politics has become more about the points than the polis.

I think what people need to do is look up from their navels, take a deep breath, take in the expansive blue sky, and then ask their neighbor, “What’s your vision of an ideal society?” We are doing things ass backwards. Instead trying to hogtie each other over the color of your state, we should be looking for common goals and working toward them. I’m friends with both conservatives and liberals and when push comes to shove they often want similar things – less poverty, good schools, protection of freedoms, etc. The real questions, and these I grant you are hard questions with no easy answers, are how to achieve those goals. But if you keep the goals at the forefront instead of tucked in a back pocket as an afterthought you are more likely to reach a civil compromise, and leave the party with your throat in tack. At least that’s what I’ve found.

I know this may sound a little too naïve, a little too starry eyed and romanatic (just what you’d expect form someone writing about poetry, right?), but I realize that us humans have been at this for awhile and the results have often been pretty messy and bloody. Many of the current political battles aren’t that differenet than they were a 100 year ago, or 2000 years ago for that matter, but it’s a sweeping view of history that also shows that there has been some progress, and how useless and silly plucking navel hair is when compared to looking your neighbor in the eye and saying, “I agree with you on that, disaggree with you there, maybe we can do this instead.”

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Side Note:

* When did ideology take on such negative connotations? As defined by Merriam-Webster:

1 : visionary theorizing
2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

That sounds pretty damn good to me.

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