Reality Is So Much Better Than Politics

[Note: I wrote this back in 2008, when I was terribly disillusioned about politics and ultimately couldn’t bring myself to vote for either the Republican or Democrat. It is interesting to see how the eye-opener of what Obama was willing to force through and the rise of the Tea Party Movement has helped refresh my interest in politics. In many ways, because I have found more people awakened to what I describe below as approaching political questions non-ideologically. In any event, I thought …

  1. River

    You have a good point, Jack, but only up to a point. All of us have filters, protective buffers, and armor to protect us from the massive quantities of data that flow through our senses and compete for attention in our consciousness. What I perceive as reality is almost certainly different in many ways from what you perceive as reality.

    We are all forced to judge which is more important, or less; which is true, or an illusion. It’s up to us to refine our judgments and live with the consequences of our errors.

    A simple example: Ron Paul makes his case for reality. It may seem obvious to me that he’s lying, on purpose or without knowing he’s lying. The same goes for Giuliani.

    Have you seen Rod Blagoiavich defend himself? He’s extremely persuasive. He’s convinced he’s innocent. Patrick Fitzgerald, who’s prosecuting him, is convinced he’s the most corrupt politician in a hundred years.

    Have you ever fallen in love with the wrong woman? All your friends may see that you’ve deluded yourself, and are bound for catastrophe; and maybe they try to tell you. You probably won’t hear.

  2. JACK

    River, I’m certainly not denying the need for judgment. Just the opposite — I’m suggesting that what is problematic in culture today is how often a reasonable investigation of whether something is true or not is replaced with a reflexive rejection because some fact/circumstance/thing encountered doesn’t fit some pre-determined schema.

    Now sure, one could argue that Giuliani had heard it all before and didn’t need but a split second to make that type of investigation in this debate. I find that a tenuous explanation. You could also argue he just was trying to shift the debate to what was the basic theme of his campaign (“I responded to 9/11 well, so you can trust me”) for political purposes, regardless of what he actually thought of Ron Paul’s claims. Maybe, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, although I admit that’s plausible. And there are certainly some circumstances that need little time to judge (e.g., whether to get out of the way of a car moving towards you at high speed). I’m not sure this one fits the bill.

  3. JACK

    Similarly, you are absolutely right that no one is free from filters, etc. We all succumb to ideological thinking at times. But it is helpful if we can recognize that that’s actually a problem and strive to avoid it as much as possible. From my experience, many today are frankly proud of being ideological. They almost wear it as a badge of honor, as if having chosen an ideological camp proves them a serious thinker, yet in practice what it often means is that they’ve decided to stop thinking seriously about some subject.

    Your example of falling in love with the wrong woman demonstrates my point. It can be a real challenge to remain open and even with the grace of good friends who try to open us up to reality, we might still choose to remain closed. But that doesn’t disprove the danger of this way of approaching life, especially if that approach is widespread in society and widely present in the way we approach governance.

  4. Beth

    Because we are pattern recognizing and story telling creatures by nature, we all have a worldview or pattern into which we fit the data from reality we encounter. CS Lewis wrote about that phenomenon. He recommended reading one “old” book for every contemporary book one reads in order to better recognize one’s ideological presumptions. I am reading The Gulag Archipelago now (only starting part III) and it is amazing how resilient the Marxist-Leninist ideology was even for those imprisoned in the Gulag for years. Apparently it takes an awful of reality before most people question their ideologies.

  5. JACK
    Beth: He recommended reading one “old” book for every contemporary book one reads in order to better recognize one’s ideological presumptions.

    Interesting idea!

  6. River

    Points well taken.

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