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Monday, October 14, 2013

A Philophical Thought: Are Politics Adding to the Misery?

                       


 I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil,   and I believe that in the end good will triumph.
       – Margaret Thatcher

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 (DRAFT)                                           
                                                     Introductory Statement

Stories such as mine recently entered on my blog, and that of Sheila Ramos [http://www.propublica.org/article/the-great-american foreclosure-story-the-struggle-for-justice-and-a-place-to-call-home/] - which inspired me to write my own story  -  as well as the untold stories of millions of other men and woman undergoing the same experience - need to understand the dynamics that have been working against us for so long.  We all need to know for certain what our country's political philosophy is or should be with regard to the policies and beliefs of our elected leaders that affect our well-being, including in the area of housing and property rights.  We at least deserve an explanation - understood and accepted by all - as to who and what specifically is responsible for our societal woes, including the ongoing threat to the millions of us who are in jeopardy of losing our homes.   The answer isn't just one political party.   It is the system by which they arrive in their positions.

Although my corpus callosum is of average size and my IQ isn’t extraordinarily high, I still have strong opinions that I do not hesitate to share.  (This propensity for forthright bluntness doesn’t increase my popularity, but that doesn’t matter to me.  I’ve never been popular.)  So I am going to take a giant leap of faith and hope someone will agree with the idea and help generate more discussion:

I feel that someone (actually, a group of our country’s greatest minds) should get together and define the type of political philosophy that governs – or should govern - our policies that so greatly affect all of us.  This imaginary group would set out to define a set of principles and values as guidelines (not simply “conservative” or “liberal” beliefs in a general sense, but lay out specifics) that our leaders would use to govern their actions.  This (imaginary) document or “contract with America” should be viewed by everyone who cares to participate in our democracy; those who care about the direction our country is headed.  Then the contract - no longer imaginary - would be used as part of the electoral process: i.e., a political candidate either agrees with it, or part of it, or not.  But he or she would be able to assure the voters, in a concrete way (not abstract) that their values, articulated honestly, are in line with the majority populace or at least their individual constituencies. 
 
As a voter, I don't want to have someone representing me who doesn't represent my values.  Today as I try to articulate something way above my head, I can't help but question why we as a country should continue with a two-party system with ideological battles that result in obstruction and gamesmanship.  I'm referring of course to our current government shutdown, debt ceiling debate, and other crises (our bailout of corporations, as well as the auto industry; the high unemployment rate, and other structural elements that have so many of us in limbo).  There has to be change.  Why is the minority calling the shots?
To start the conversation as to whether this idea has merit, let’s talk a little about political philosophy.  Wikipedia’s definition of this particular discipline of social science is as follows:

Political philosophy is the study of such topics as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why (or even if) they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it should take and why, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever. In a vernacular sense, the term "political philosophy" often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, political belief or attitude, about politics that does not necessarily belong to the technical discipline of philosophy. In short, political philosophy is the activity, as with all philosophy, whereby the conceptual apparatus behind such concepts as aforementioned are analyzed, in their history, intent, evolution and the like.[1]
In the mid-1950s, I wasn’t even an adolescent, but I was already aware, in an unknown, inexplicable sense, that something wasn't quite right in my world  I suppose it was an acute awareness of my particular place in society (at the lower, working class end).  That “subtle awareness” became more prominent as I matured, of course, but I seldom felt empowered to do much about it.  Yet, I  tried to find that power.  I thought it would help if I worked as had as I could as a white collar wage earner.  I had other aspirations, too:  I wanted to go to college.  I wanted to be appreciated and respected.  

I fell for the myth that if you work hard you will succeed.  That only applies to some people and under the right circumstances.  By the way, I finally got that sought-after college degree – but not until I was sixty!  So far it hasn’t done much good.
 
As I sit here now in my "golden years" and as I read what I should  have read and studied decades ago, I marvel how a particular sociologist – the one I am about to quote – saw the truth of what was going on and how our society was failing so many of us.  He was able to see and articulate  this failure so clearly, and it still applies today - especially today, October 16, 2013.  Here is an excerpt of a speech that sociologist C. Wright Mills delivered in Canada in 1954. The passages have been taken from The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills, ed. by John Summers (Oxford University Press, 2008), pp.90-91.

 …between the state and the economy on the one hand, and the family and the small community on the other, we find no intermediate associations in which we feel secure and with which we feel powerful. There is little live political struggle. Instead, there is administration above, and the political vacuum below.
The effective units of power are now the huge corporation, the inaccessible government, the grim military establishment. These centers of power have become larger to the extent that they are effective; and to the extent that they are effective, they have become inaccessible to individuals like us, who would shape by discussion the policies of the organizations to which we belong.
 It is because of the ineffectiveness of the smaller human associations, that the classic liberal public has waned, and is in fact being replaced by a mass society. We feel that we do not belong because we are not – not yet at least, and not entirely – mass men.
 We are losing our sense of belonging because we think that the fabulous techniques of mass communication are not enlarging and animating face-to-face public discussion, but are helping to kill it off. These media – radio and mass magazines, television and the movies – as they now generally prevail, increasingly destroy the reasonable and leisurely human interchange of opinion. They do not often enable the listener or the viewer truly to connect his daily life with the larger realities of the world, nor do they often connect with his troubles. On the contrary, they distract and obscure his chance to understand himself or his world, by fastening his attention span upon artificial frenzies.
 We are losing our sense of belonging because more and more we live in metropolitan areas that are not communities in any real sense of the word, but unplanned monstrosities in which as men and women we are segregated into narrowed routines and mileux. We do not meet one another as persons in the several aspects of our total life, but know one another only fractionally, as the man who fixes the car, or as that girl who serves our lunch, or as the woman who takes care of our child at school. Pre-judgment and prejudice flourish when people meet people only in this segmental manner. The humanistic reality of others does not, cannot, come through.
 In this metropolitan society, we develop, in our defense, a blasé manner that reaches deeper than a manner. We do not, accordingly, experience genuine clash of viewpoint. And when we do, we tend to consider it merely rude. We are sunk in our routines, we do not transcend them, even in discussion, much less by action. We do not gain a view of the structure of our community as a whole and of our role within it. Our cities are composed of narrow slots, and we, as the people in these slots, are more and more confined to our own rather narrow ranges. As we reach for each other, we do so only by stereotype. Each is trapped by his confining circle, each is split from easily identifiable groups. It is for people in such narrow mileux that the mass media can create a pseudo-world beyond, and a pseudo-world within themselves as well. 1/
[Cited from www.philosophicalsociety.com/political philosophy.htm#polphil-def . . .  Retrieved Oct. 11, 2013]

Most of us don't feel secure and we don't  feel powerful.  The power remains in corporations (primarily banking, insurance, and other financial institutions), government, and the military establishment.  They are getting most of their money right out of our pockets.  And we feel powerless to change the system.  We feel alienated.

As Mills said almost 50 years go, we are losing our sense of belonging "because we think that the fabulous techniques of mass communication are not enlarging and animating face-to-face public discussion . . .", we do not meet each other as persons [but know one another only fractionally, as the man who fixes the car, or as that girl who serves our lunch, or as the woman who takes care of our child at school.]
(Of course back then we didn't even have the Internet.  Mills must be rolling over in his grave about now.)
 

 It is necessary that we achieve consensus.  We the people - not those who are appointed or elected to govern, set policy, and so forth - need to collaboratively delineate the values and goals we want to see in the behavior of our leaders.  This can be done, but not the way most elections are conducted (traveling all over the state or country, espousing general, nonspecific goals of bringing everyone together, having a true, working democracy, blah, blah, blah.  There needs to be a written contract, something in black and white, that our elected leaders agree to abide by once they are in power.  And this contract should be drafted by us - we the people.

Fifty years ago we didn’t have the World Wide Web.  Now we do.  Let’s use it for the good of everyone.   Do you have the courage to go to your legislative representatives, present them with a written set of values, goals, and standards you would want them to abide by while they are in office?  I don’t know whether I myself have enough courage to approach each one of my legislators – state and federal.  There is one in particular that I know would not even listen to me as he has refused in the past to engage in conversation with me in any form (but his staff knows me very well).  A little encouragement would help.  Who said it first - There's power in numbers!


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1/  By the early 1950s C. Wright Mills had given up hope that the labour movement ‘was capable of stemming the tide of almost complete corporate capitalist domination of economic, political and cultural life’ (Aronowitz 2003). He had turned more strongly to theories of mass culture and mass society, and became more pessimistic about the possibility of effecting significant political change. This judgement was strengthened by his analysis of the new middle class in White Collar (1951).
 [Cited from www.InFed.org; retrieved October 12, 2013.]