Build This Ship to Wreck

Yesterday I was stuck in traffic on the same stretch of road for the umpteenth time on my way to work. I have this problem every day that I have to use this way to get out of town and onto the freeway at this particular time. This time I felt more put upon than most because I realized that this is the doing of people who could change this, but have absolutely no inclination to do so. The problem isn’t necessarily the amount of traffic as much as it is the timing of the lights, and that is down to politics. There is also no other good way to go, and that is also down to politics.

When I got to work I spoke about this to some people who were around. I referenced it like this, that in this world we are at the mercy of systems that grind on and which pay no real attention to us. I said that the problem can get particularly bad when people whose job it is to manage these system don’t really know how to manage them. That is to say, when they cannot understand what the purpose of the system is, that it exists to do something for us and not to merely exist in and of itself. This lack of understanding causes those who are in a position to observe not to observe. They don’t see us because they don’t see our importance. Instead the things that make up the political framework within which their particular system operates occupy our place. This means that instead of our interests feeding into the decision making process those of this or that interest group take our place.

When we need statesmen we often get politicians instead. This seems to be a general rule. The reason for this is simple, politicians are the ones we elect to those positions in which we really need statesmen to preside. But how are we to pick statesmen? In light of the democratic process is it even wise to expect them?

The truth is that for the entire history of man we have had politicians. They are chameleons who are really after a career that relies on getting re-elected. For them the boots on the ground reality is not us, but whether or not we will renew their stay in office next time around. They are good at it. It’s what kind of people they are. They are professionals.

As I spoke to a particular co-worker about this I could sense her drifting toward a different interpretation. She’s actually not alone in this assessment, but I told her I don’t think she is right. There aren’t any evil cabals per se. In fact, I said to her, we ought to be very happy we don’t live in Russia, for instance, where corruption is a much more prevalent aspect of society. We aren’t ruled by the world’s richest man, a 300 billion dollar billionaire who is essentially the logical extension of their process, masquerading as somebody who really cares about them. We don’t have to go around wondering if we will be killed for our opinions should they pit us against him.

Then I realized that even Vladimir Putin has to answer to his people. Even he couldn’t stay in power without their consent. He gets around that by propagandizing to an extent that would make Fox News blush, but he has to do something or they might turn on him. The real problem is that people are born ignorant. Without the kind of education that not only informs us, but makes us into cultured people all of us are bound to become our own society’s version of a hick or an oaf. Our innate propensity to judge others won’t save us from that. The best it will do is place us into a particular category of hick which is more suited to our personality, one which comes with enough personal reassurance to convince us we are not hicks when there is no better term to describe who we actually are.

In light of this what we really need is more and better participation by us in the process. Yes, but even if everybody voted every time we might get the same result. It isn’t enough to educate ourselves, therefore, merely into participation. We need culture. We need to make the effort to understand each other, and to respect who and what each one of us is. There may be no better way to do this than to step out of the place that we ought to be giving to God anyway, that of judgment, and give other people the grace to move around us without criticizing them. We also need a way to form a better collective memory of what has transpired over a particular person’s stay in an office, whether they have also understood this and acted accordingly, or simply appealed once again to the hicks they expect us to be.

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