Something has bugged me for the last month. A nagging in the back of my mind. I reread my posts and most of the time I still agree with them, but I feel as though I may be representing myself incorrectly. By not falling into the usual rhetoric, I think I'm painting myself as a uber-conservative to the left and a damn liberal to the right.
Which is kind-of funny.
The problem, I think, is because a lot of my thoughts aren't about absolutes. I never have a hard and fastened opinion on anything. At least not an opinion that I completely trust. And beyond that, the solutions I believe to be true are dependent on the timeframe.
For instance - the occupy movement. I write a lot about the people needing to become better critical thinkers. They need to become smarter consumers. This sounds like the usual BS that I have been reading on the forums that suggest the OWS folks are lazy losers who need to find a job. That's not my opinion at all. In fact, I visited the OWS in Manhattan and enjoyed it immensely. I have also been cheering since the movements inception.
I guess the problem is I'm looking too far ahead. The first steps are for the people to rise up and become aware. They need to point at those who have let them down and demand change. The discussion has changed, and it was OWS that did it. Now we have awkward moments where Cantor is making strange speeches about the middle class. This is good news. Because it is strong enough (I hope) to allow a majority of folks to give a second look at the policies that are being thrown together.
Ultimately, in the short term the answer is to get money out. Out of the process altogether. When money and politics dictate policy instead of reason, logic, and compromise, nobody wins in the long run.
But the market doesn't look in the long run. It looks for the short gain. It always has. I have said it time and time again in discussions over the years, but particularly in the last few years. How could the automobile industry fail so miserably? How could the banks? The CxOs are paid big bucks to look five, ten years down the line. They set the long term course and rely on the directors to handle day to day. Sure, sometimes the reality of the world makes it impossible to succeed, but not THAT badly? Especially when its clear that a lot of the policies that have lead to these disasters were of a direct result of lobbying from the very same companies.
That's why the bonuses made me mad. I didn't think that money could have went to better use… a million is a drop in the bucket when you are talking about trillions. And I am not a big fan of the whole "it doesn't affect me, but I am mad that someone got something and I didn't" mentality. But the fact that these guys still got their bonuses after they failed to avoid calamity. Bonuses are for when you succeed above and beyond. Somehow this general attitude of rewarding mediocrity is across the board (no pun intended) and these folks expect a bonus even when they did not act for the company's best interest in the long term.
Short gains is where they focus. Short gains is what politicians focus on. And short gains is what resonates with the people.
So when I say things like, "We the people need to start taking responsibility for the fact that we gave our power away." Some take that as advice on what we need to do tomorrow to fix this problem. It is not. It is what we need to do so that in the long term we can avoid this situation again. It is my thoughts on the cause of the symptoms, not the symptoms themselves.
Right now, we need more government regulations. Right now, we need higher, progressive taxes (for the middle class too, in my humble opinion).
However, if we do not start to honestly discuss the reason (fair individual rights versus the prosperity of a society) then we will end up in the same position eventually. Either there will be back lash through very expensive marketing that allows the GOP to roll back these changes, or the pendulum will swing the other way and politicians will start to advance the regulatory powers and control over information so that they can start to make the government more powerful at a great expense to its people.
I feel as though I need to say this because I read extreme views in forums everyday. The black and white opinions - the with-me-or-against-me thoughts that require one to make a very specific stance.
Some say that we no longer have a government that represents us. I think they do, but we don't see it because we don't want to admit that the mandates given are what was pushed after election. However, the alarm is real. Because in the end, we want the government to represent our best interests… and that is, for sure, not happening.
The anti-big government, tea party, defeat Obama Foxinites out there are a whole other story. They represent an even deeper level of ignorance. I think that is why I sound so conservative to some folks in my posts… or at least anti-OWS. because I feel the need to discuss and break down an agenda that actually makes sense - which doesn't leave much room to respond to the garbage that comes from the arrogance of the right wing presently.
I am friends with many who are that way. I am tired of telling them that their opinion is the same as mine just on the other side of the coin.
It is not.
While I may have some view points that I hold to strongly based purely on a belief derived from a biased source, I do not completely disregard critical thought so I can ignore the fact that our system is broke.
Sadly, the breaking started with these folks. Many of whom I have a great deal of love for. But we don't talk politics, because when I try to explain a point that takes more than a sentence, I get interrupted so they can have 'Fox Turrets ', spewing claims that are neither fact based or realistic. Mostly they are delivered with a mixture of anger, arrogance, and pride. A deadly mix that usually means the discussion isn't suppose to be a dialogue, but rather a patronizing exercise where I am to be educated.
I find this attitude similar in so-called religious advocates. I adore true Christianity, though I myself am agnostic. But what really disappoints me is the technique of 'religious experience' to sway public opinion. In history we can see this. You take music, symbols, and ceremony and mix it with unfalsifiable facts like "Jesus is the son of God" and viola you have a prepped listener.
Prepped for what? Well ancient China used it to attack Japan. Hitler used it to persuade a nation to loath an entire subset of people and allow horrendous things to transpire.
It is very powerful.
And it is no different here. It doesn't have to be a specific religion. It’s the approach. The arrogance that the speaker was once lost like the listener, but now has come to a revelation. The romantic notions of freedom. Fanfare and symbolism. All emotional facts that really cannot be proven untrue, because none of them are literal enough to nail down. And then hatred and fear pointed to whatever you need it to point at… socialism, the middle east, Muslims, regulations, planned parenthood, taxes, Obama… on and on. Finally, with this all done, you can make the people believe whatever you want.
It is easy, also, because human beings want to group themselves together. Hell, people actually argue with me that being agnostic isn't a belief and that I am either atheist or believe in God. I can't say, "I don't know." Requiring me to answer yes or no to such an abstract, philosophical question is arrogant and shameless. But we instinctively hide behind social normalizations to make it acceptable.
I don't know if there is a God or not. And further more, if there is a God, I am not sure if it is self-aware or is omniscient purely because it isn't. I believe that the truth is probably beyond our comprehension because of things like "infinity" being an idea that our brains simply can't handle.
If you want to assign names and symbols to that unknown and construct a belief around it so that in your day to day you have some guide, that is fine. And actually welcomed. Science continues to explain more and more, revealing to me more of "God" each day. And what it doesn't explain, religion does. And I'm cool with that.
If you are not cool with me going to Church, enjoying the teachings of Christianity (and many other religions for that matter) and the communal feeling of sharing a spiritual sense with those around me, while not participating in the straight up "call and response monotone chanting" and still remaining firm that I am not firm on the whole believe in God issue, then - respectfully - fuck you.
Maybe it’s the definition of God that is the problem. You define your God for me and perhaps I can answer whether I believe or not. A guy in a beard who can walk and talk - no. Love the idea in fictional stories. I also love magic and vampires.
That's really the problem, isn't it? That we have our own definition of things and easily slip into the idea that it is common sense. But there is no such thing as common sense. There are societal trends for a particular time period - but I have seen best friends hit upon something they thought they agreed on and it completely shattered there perspectives on each other when they realized they didn't.
And this belief that it is common sense allows us to say that it is absolutely true.
Most of the time, the most violent altercations I get into do not involve me trying to make someone else believe my ideas on something, but rather asking someone to, for a minute, consider they may be wrong. Wow, people don't like that. Sure, they are trying to force their beliefs down my throat, but when I respond that I might be wrong, but they could be too, its like I shoved someone in the lunch line.
You combine that with the subconscious truths we hold so close to our hearts and you have the means to start wars. What are subconscious truths? Well they are the things that you believe in because they were taught to you when you were young, or through some secondary means, and you never actually had to say it out loud and defend it. And when you do, you realize how crazy it is.
That happens to me all the time. The GOP is really good at handling this. They 'double down'. They refuse to admit they were wrong. Thanks to Fox news, most folks are handed talking points to help them through this troubling moment.
The other thing that happens to me is realizing, even after saying things out loud, researching, and forming a very certain opinion, that I was wrong.
I can be so sure of myself. I can believe that there is no way possible that I am wrong. But then I realize I'm wrong.
What's the lesson from this? To realize that you can be almost absolutely sure on something, but you can never rule out the idea that you were wrong. This is why I don't believe in the death penalty. We do it in God's name, while preaching that man is fallible and God is the only judge. We have a system that is based on the idea that "truth" is an ideal that you strive for but never completely obtain. So you have two sides arguing and an outside group of people decide. This is as close to true as we can come.
So why is it that we can say, after all that, that there are circumstances where we can proceed with a punishment that is permanent as long as we are sure "beyond a shadow of a doubt" when inherent to our major beliefs suggests that there is never a time that we are beyond a shadow of a doubt?
People always suggest that there are times when you can be sure. That you can have the guy admit that he did it, or you can catch it on camera, or you could have seen it yourself. I don't buy it. Doesn't matter how much evidence you have, there is always a chance you are wrong. Always.
When I realized I was wrong after being absolutely positive on something, I took it as a lesson learned. I proceed now with the idea that I could be wrong and that no-one can be absolutely right. All we can hope for is to choose the best likely answer, take small steps, and adjust frequently.
So why is it the majority doesn't? I have seen folks come to the realization that something they were sure about was incorrect, shrug their shoulders and say "Oops", and then turn around and run with another thing they are "absolutely sure" on. Back to back like that. It amazes me.
That is why its hard for me to finally come around to the conclusion that those I discuss politics with who are adamantly tea-partiers are NOT the same as me just the other side of the coin. Could they be right? Sure. Could I be wrong? Definitely.
But, I have no problem thinking that the chance that they are wrong is incredibly steep, while the chance that I am at least in the right neighborhood is pretty good.
So when I watch shows like Rachel Maddow and she says, "I am a liberal." I am forced to think to myself how that can't be true. Sure she is biased to her opinion. But the discussion she brings to the table are brought with cited sources and accountability. And they contain a mixture of ideals that in my book constitute a painted mixture that cannot be grouped to one side or the other.
It just so happens that if you are not on the side of the GOP, then you are a liberal. Can't be agnostic. Can't be in the middle.
And the way I see it, those who call themselves "liberals" are more in the right neighborhood then those who call themselves "Independents". And those who truly believe the republican rhetoric today aren't even in the right stadium.
Which is why I can't help but to focus more on the fact that we need to be more critical in our thinking as a people and return to the original discussion again. So that we can all be neighbors again, and move forward - in whatever direction suits us for us.