Friday, June 29, 2012

Flies at the Wheel

Pieter van den Bosch:
"Old Woman Reading a Book "
If I am lucky, I have eighty-or-so years to live, in total. I choose not to live those that remain in either a state of delusion or as a slave to a popular, paradoxical notion that the freedoms I am afforded by the state make me a slave to the state. So, I am not going to sacrifice time during which I can really live in order to become either a servant of or a fighter against the state.

My life belongs to me and I am fully aware of the illusion that is created in a democracy (more specifically, a republic): that I, the common man, can live a common life and still have an impact or a "say" in the direction of governmental affairs.The position I am in (and that most of you are in) is this: If I want to make an impact on the mechanics of American government, I can give up my freedom to live life as I want in order to serve the state. Being common voters makes us into nothing more than the fly and the rat in these excerpts from Neil Peart's lyrics in "The Stars Look Down":

Like the fly on the wheel, who says,
"What a lot of dust we're raising,"
Are you under the illusion
That you're part of this scheme?

Like the rat in a maze who says
"Watch me choose my own direction."
Are you under the illusion
The path is winding your own way?

Take this whole health care reform thing. I see a lot of rats and flies flipping out on either side of the fence. I'm willing to bet that not one of them has studied and understood every element of the reform. Yet, each of these "involved citizens" has an opinion. A strong opinion. An opinion that involves the calling of names and the placing of labels.
The governmental system is bigger and more complex than we, the common people, are capable of understanding without dropping our lives in order to police the daily actions of our elected officials. Sure -- it's all there if we want to check it out. But, who will?
If we are going to vote, we should vote and then accept that things are out of our hands, really. We pick our mamas and poppas and we do what we are told, after. We have seen time and again that, in terms of the passing of laws, popular opinion means little, if anything.
Marcantonio Bassetti:
"Old Man with a Book"
Fortunately (at least in some historical periods), there are people willing to dedicate their lives to changing the political world. I am not one of them. I've decided to dedicate my life to inspiring thought, discourse and a love of artistic beauty in the people around me. Fortunately, there are those who are fascinated by the goings-on inWashington, like my talented and dedicated friend, Alec. But he and I are different in our interests but we each maintain (I'm sure he would agree) each other's right to use our pens as we see fit.
Is the piano teacher less laudable than the mayor? Is the carpenter less respectable because he dedicates his time to creating sturdy and beautiful things than is the Congressman? I don't think so. And I think both of these people has a right to live as far away from politics as he or she desires.
I just wish people would stop arguing over things they know nothing about.
As the Jerry Sandusky abuse trials began -- even before that -- people would say to me: "I hope the bastard rots in jail." I would get looked at as if I were a madman when I would respond:  "Me too -- if he is guilty." Last I checked, the man is only supposed to rot in jail if the jury and the judge, in possession of all of the facts, says he is. I'm glad he is being punished, now. Justice seems to have been served no that we have gotten over that pesky little judicial process.
We love to cry out for action in America. We just don't like to weigh the facts first; it's a lot more fun to cry out for action. We love to condemn governmental and Supreme Court decisions based on talk show sound bytes and on various other preconceptions rangin from prejudice to followers' mentalities.
You can be a fly on the wheel if you want. I'll walk the side of the road, on my own legs. I refuse to put on the yoke and pull rows because I was born within certain borders, but I promise to shut the hell up unless I know what is going on.
When it comes down to it, though, I'll read Sherwood Anderson in my free time. You can read up on health care reform. If you do that, I give you my blessing to go out there and fight the good fight. If you do that, I trust you. I won't complain, I promise, when the dust settles. And you will win a battle on policy and I will come one step closer to understanding the human heart before I die.
In the end, I think I win.


  1. For whatever my opinion may be worth, which may be nothing, since I'm one of those people who did in fact "give up her life" to the business of government as a civil servant, not an elected official, but:

    There was a time in which people elected other people to represent them because they felt they could trust those individuals to study the issues and make policy that would best serve the needs of the whole community.

    Sometimes that trust was misplaced, of course. But I think I prefer the risk of trust being misplaced sometimes to the micromanagerial style of modern voters, who think the government should blindly do whatever the voters think is best at the time because they "pay your salaries."

    The tyranny of the mob is also tyranny.

    1. 'nora -- I see why, based on what I know about your background and current work, I tend to touch a nerve with you when I voice my frustrations with war and government, but I do want to make it clear, if I haven't, already, that I voice only my personal opposition to dedicating myself to governmental concerns. I you believe in your job, then you are not giving up your life. If you hate your job, you are. I choose to pursue different ends and paths and I happen to be deeply opposed to war. It doesn't mean I have a lack of respect for those who feel otherwise. I even said here that it is a good thing that:

      "there are people willing to dedicate their lives to changing the political world. I am not one of them. I've decided to dedicate my life to inspiring thought, discourse and a love of artistic beauty in the people around me. Fortunately, there are those who are fascinated by the goings-on in Washington, like my talented and dedicated friend, Alec. But he and I are different in our interests but we each maintain (I'm sure he would agree) each other's right to use our pens as we see fit."

      I suppose I see it as a selflessness issue -- one of a certain expectation that leaders be motivated by selflessness. Politicians and founding fathers fought and worked so that I might be allowed to live my life in freedom. That's cool, but I also believe that the systems they establish(ed)are often ones that either exclude me or require me to sacrifice living my chosen life in order to understand them. I'm not willing to do that. And I don't believe that most politicians are in it for the general good of the American public.

      I also agreed in different words with your points about electing representatives -- even took care to distinguish republic from democracy. Modern voters do need to understand that they cannot be micro-managers in government, but it also doesn't mean that the majority of opinions should be ignored. On some level, of course, our leaders need to be able to diverge fro public opinion if public opinion is harmful or clearly destructive. No tyrrany is good, of course.

      That said, your writings and interest indicate a person -- at least to me -- who clearly lives a life outside of "work" and "responsibility." I respect that and I hope you don't feel otherwise.

  2. Hi Chris,

    Actually, I was sort of agreeing with you ... obliquely, I guess and thus maybe it looked like I wasn't.

    The one place where I might (gently) disagree is here: if we like this system whereby we get to live our lives in freedom, we do have an obligation to feed the system to keep it going. Which might mean doing our best to elect the people we trust to look at the big picture and act in everyone's best interests, as a sort of minimum.

    I actually think it might be better if more people stepped back to that minimum, and focused on electing good people and maybe following an issue or two, rather than treating "politics" as a sort of rotisserie baseball league. (I cringe every time I hear someone refer to our political parties as the "red team" and "blue team.")

    I was going to say I didn't quite agree with the assertion that it takes a lifetime to master the system, but it did take me about 3 years on the job to really get a handle on the regulatory process, so I may have to concede that point. *grins*

    With respect,

  3. Thanks, 'nora. I do enjoy our ability to hash these things out, however gently or ungently we may disagree and still remain on speaking terms! In the end, I'm just a dumb drummer trying to find his way through an intimidating and ridiculously complicated world...