I often puzzle over whether I should be concerned with our political situation and write about it or just get on with life. The situation often appears utterly hopeless, not because there’s nothing we can do but because there are so many choices and possibilities as well as too much information to process. Human beings are not meant to have so much stuff to think about which is why, as hard as we try, it feels like we are increasingly overloaded not just with things to do but also the knowledge that problems are multiplying faster than solutions. Any reasonable look at the current state of politics shows that every possible solutions to the critical short, medium and long term problems are just quick-fix-its that are designed to enrich some set of grandees. And knowing that, knowing that to put your faith in Obama or any conventional politician is a sure road to hell just plain hurts. We sit here at our screens and really we are in pain and if we are not in pain then we are largely unconscious or enlightened masters.
Information overload is the most direct cause of our political and social problems. The more intelligent and compassionate you are the worse it is. So how do we create a situation where expanding our knowledge can help us rather than weaken us and make us miserable. Other people just ignore stuff that is difficult or inconvenient to think about–why do we persist? Should we?
What we lack is a positive framework to put our insights and realizations into something we can build on. What that entails I’m not sure–but it’s worth thinking about.
But the first thing we need to do before we go any further is to have compassion for those that choose to hide and not think, yes even the yahoos who believe that the Bible is literally true. What if they didn’t? They don’t have the ability to navigate doubt and intellectual cross-currents–they would be swallowed up and driven mad so they survive by ignoring the blaringly obvious contradictions and clear fictions in the Bible (in fact few fundies actually read anything other than carefully selected passages of the Bible). Few of the people who actually vote for Republicans are bad people who are as glaringly selfish and destructive as the Republican public policy positions would indicate–they just want some sense of security and certainty and belongingness in a world that seems to have gone mad. That the people they are voting for actually seek to create a world filled with war, violence, pornography, materialism and hedonism and then blame others is to painful to look at. To seek alternatives that don’t offer them a place with dignity, that doesn’t offend their sense of public morality as abortion, gay rights and feminism as well as “patriotism” obviously is not going to happen easily. Most importantly these communities in the “red” areas of the country don’t want to move away from prejudices and traditions that make for a common sense of community. Generations ago it would have been far easier for them to stay in traditions because contrary information was not widely available–but today they must make a strong act of will to deliberately pull the wool over their own eyes (as the sub-genius movement suggests).
We may not “like” these people but we are required, if we truly believe in egalitarianism and democracy, to accept them and the fact they will not change sides easily or automatically believe in gay marriage or peace. Cooperation and compromise with them is required (and not with the Republican and some Democratic politicians that run confidence games on them).
Second thing we need to do is have compassion for ourselves and see how hard it is for us to swim against the current and acknowledge that just surviving without running screaming into the street (though some of us may do that from time to time) is quite an accomplishment. So we can pat ourselves on the back for a sec and then start looking for a way to use those muscles we have develop to start swimming with the stream creatively and get something done. With that in mind we must understand that inner and outer work is the same and that for that work to be effective we must, must, must be part of communities focuse on building something. Giving each other insights, keeping the information flowing as we have been doing is part of what we need to do but it is not enough because unless we build something with that information we will just get more and more frustrated–we build and create something. For example, building a wiki or database like this 9/11 timeline. There are other kinds of collective actions we could take as well–if anyone has any suggestions I’d like to hear them.