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October 16, 2013

A Couple of Comments

From "GWB:"

Ace, I disagree in one aspect - it wasn't mere apathy that helped to reduce political participation. It was primarily the elevation of so much to the national level, and the moving of so much power to the bureaucracy. If your city council wants to tear down a beloved building and put up a carpark, you can mobilize and get a few hundred people to stop it - at least get it on a ballot. If the folks in DC want to close a national monument in a fit of pique, you have to mobilize thousands or tens of thousands and get them all to go to DC and make their message visible and dramatic. That takes a LOT more effort and money. So, if you want to take over the society and the nation, you nationalize everything, and run a crisis-centered, vastly populist campaign based on feelings and "doing something!"

You also hand over as much rulemaking to the mandarin class as possible, so you can shrug your shoulders and say "nothing I can do." You absolve yourself of responsibility, while still maximizing your power, and reducing responsiveness to the hoi polloi.

It was not an accidental thing that the populace began to feel apathetic about just how much it could change in politics and governance. It was the design all along - and globalization is the next step. The higher the level of government, the more technocratic and authoritarian it can become. Then your life can be ruled from conception to decomposition - all for your good!

I can't express how much I believe in this. I believe the Socialist Party has a strong interest in infantilizing the public -- and when you take responsibility away from the public, you make them irresponsible.

150 years ago fifteen year old boys got married to 14 year old girls and they ran farms together, in between raising children. Why did they grow up so fast? Because they had to, or they'd die. Responsibility for one's decisions makes one responsible in one's decision, and vice versa.

I became sold on this point of view considering the problematic politics in the Muslim world. Where the people actually aren't responsible for anything -- and are not forced to be accountable for their decisions -- it breeds the circumstances for a Comic Book Fantasy Politics centered on the Cult of the Warrior Hero, and all the Jewish and American Villains who must be vanquished.

And that goes double for a population in which many males are simply not working at all. Idle hands are the Devil's playthings; idle minds -- those minds which are not preoccupied by typical human responsibilities like rent, work performance, household chores, and so on -- are the breeding ground for conspiracy, paranoia, terrorism and evil.

And I see Americans' minds becoming more idle by the day.

I do not think that 200 years ago the public's reaction to the fact we were in $17 trillion in debt and rising faster would be "Bored now! Let's talk about something easy like Being Nice to Each Other!"

I think they would have been a bit more serious about it, and willing to work with some numbers on paper.

And speaking of this tendency: I really hate this kind of comment, and I do think it illustrates my belief that freedom from responsibility creates an irresponsible sort of thinking. I won't quote the comment, but I'll note the general gist of it:

We were totally right about Christine O'Donnell and Todd Akin and we could have won these elections if we had not been stabbed-in-the-back by The Establishment that engineered their failure.

The Establishment did not engineer their failures. The Establishment predicted their failures, which is not the same thing as causing them.

This sort of thing strikes me as sort of thing the Establishment types talk about when they suggest some in the Tea Party have a "reality problem." It's this relentless doubling-down and never admitting an obvious mistake, always looking for a scapegoat to justify one's own errors.

This is related to, I suppose, the incorrect idea that staking out the Hardest-Core Most Maximalist position in political campaigns shifts the Overton Window in your direction. Oh, it shifts the window a little if you win.

If you lose, it shifts it the other way. It shifts it away from you. It demonstrates, with rock-solid evidence, that you have reached the farthest perimeter of politically-viable thought, and thus sets an absolute boundary on such thought.

Prior to the experiment, one could claim there was no outer boundary on how Conservative one could run, and yet still win; after the experiment, that boundary is located.

One cannot win statewide in Missouri while advocating that abortion should be outlawed (even in terms of the 36-hour-post-sex Morning After pill) in cases of rape. One can also not win statewide in Indiana while advocating the same position, albeit without as much Biology Means What I Want It To Mean absurdity such as bodies "shutting that down" when they detect they've been raped.

Some people want to stick to this claim that there is absolutely no outer boundary of how far you can go to the no-exceptions right and still win, so rather than admitting the plainly obvious that such boundaries do exist, they simply claim the only reason for Murdoch's, Akin's, and O'Donnell's losses was the very convenient Stabbed In The Back theory.

This sort of reality-denying -- for purposes of Never Having To Admit, Not Even Once, You Got A Minor Political Calculation Wrong -- suggests to people that the speaker is simply not to be taken seriously, which is quite the opposite of what the speaker intends.

And quite opposite of what I think would be useful for this country, for I do think the Tea Party would do the country a service by dragging it, kicking and screaming, towards a more representative and smaller-government politics.

But this kind of thing? People shrug and just decide "Write those people off; they're crazy in the first place."

Well I don't think they're crazy. But I do think they're defensive and have a bit too much Ego riding on this proposition that they're Always right.

No one's always right. Einstein wasn't always right. He was famously wrong (we think...) to deny the implications of Quantum Electrodynamics.

Isaac Asimov wasn't always right. Asimov quipped that he could explain all principles of airplane technology to you, but still he disbelieved that something heavier than air could fly.

I think different cultures celebrate different aspects of character. I think people in the Tea Party celebrate a certain Get Your Back Up/Never Back Down spirit a lot.

In a lot of ways, this is very useful and praiseworthy. I'm sick to death of the dreary gray fearful ghostly presence of most Americans, a soft wet phantasm that jumps at the drop of a pin and is always ready to prostate itself before the Herd in order to swear its fidelity to the principles of Conformity and Social Invisibility.

But this can be taken too far too.

Todd Aiken didn't just lose; he was creamed. He was destroyed. He was destroyed, moreover, in a Red State. Not the Reddest of Red States, but a Red one, one that casts its ballots for the GOP presidential candidate every four years.

He lost against a horrible opponent, widely despised in the state, even by her constituents.

This was not "engineered" by the Establishment. He lost for the exact reasons they said he'd lose. His position, and his bumbling stupidity, was indeed too extreme even for Red, Republican-tilting Missouri, and even up against a horrible, unpopular ObamaCare-fan by the name of Claire McCaskill.

If people want to continue indulging in Fantasy Politics to spare their egos of having to admit just once "I might have calculated Missouri's statewide political make-up a little wrong," and instead cling to the I Was Right But The Conspiracy To Make Me Wrong won out, that's fine, but don't expect people to take you very seriously.

You're self-marginalizing as a True Believer who is impervious to all fact and who therefore should be ignored.

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posted by Ace at 06:02 PM

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