Understanding Other Worlds

I am fascinated by politics.  (Perhaps the understatement of the year.)

If we are ever presented with another area of human life where ethics, morals, philosophy, ideology, religious views, and economic theory all get together to have nice little demon children, then I would be just as fascinated with that aspect of human life as well.  All the conflict in politics is also inherent and fun to ponder.

But talking about politics for a lot of people is a non-starter.  When I say that I love politics, people give me a look as though I just said that I loved Saddam Hussein.

  Loving Saddam

Okay, so the dictator that everyone loves to hate right now is actually Bashar al-Assad, whatever.

Regardless of whether people think I love Saddam’s photo-spread or Assad’s lovely box of a head, that look they give is one of incredulousness.  How could any sane person bring himself to care about the variety of disagreements with government that people have?  Why would anyone bother to pay attention to all the corruption, back-handed deals, and dirty compromising?  Simply: people don’t understand the world in which I live.

And I don’t understand a lot of other worlds either.  Fatalism (in its colloquial sense) is a concept that I have a really hard time with understanding.  The line of argument usually goes along the lines of this: “We don’t have control over X event, therefore why should we even bother to do anything about X?”  I am not going to be able to change the broken nature of politics in this country, so why should I even bother doing anything?  Why should I bother voting; it isn’t like I’m going to change the outcome anyway.

This mentality admits a far too limited few of human agency than I’m willing to accept.  It is definitely true that I am not going to be able to make politics magically unbroken, in the sense of just how many filibusters get used, how much influence lobbyists have over making policy, whatever.  I can’t change the world to look exactly as I like.

But just because I can’t get what I want, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to help move things to being closer to what I want.  Even though there are a lot of filibusters, and a lot of lax rulings about corporate abuse of their customers, and lots of shitty things about the world, I can still do something. To focus on all the things that I can’t do ignores all the things that I can do.

Here is the short for why I think politics matter: those issues impact everyone.  I don’t think anyone can say that the break up of TomKat seriously alters how we manage the resources that we have decided to share for common purpose in this country.  The gun shooting in Colorado does NOT, in fact, mean that gun shootings in theatres are going to become hugely popular, or that we are on the verge of experiencing a wave of gun violence across the nation.  It does not mean that we are on the verge of Civil War, or that we will experience nation debilitating protests about gun usage, or anything of the sort.

There are things that will bring our nation to a stop.  And to ignore those things, I think, is to be entirely unaware of what problems we most need to address.  We can’t focus on what we can do about problems that we don’t know exist.  We think that the national debt is the problem–it isn’t.  The problem is about half of our country’s willingness to pay for the debt.  We think that TomKat getting divorced is a travesty–it isn’t. Tom Cruise might be gay anyway, and who gives a shit about what two couch-jumpingly crazy celebrities think anyway?

The reason I don’t understand a lot of other worlds is tied very closely to my drive to better understand our shared world.  It is a moral statement: if I don’t care about the issues that impact huge numbers of people, about issues that impact the world that we all share, then how can I call myself a living, breathing participant of this world?

So look at me like I’m crazy all you like, but I’m going to keep on paying attention to Assad’s brutal campaign of violence in Syria.  I’m not perfect about knowing about everything, but I do try to do what I can.  How much control do I have over keeping myself aware?  Well, I don’t know.  In my most honest moment, I’d say the answer largely depends on luck: what’s in the news, what is reasonably accessible, what have you.  But there are things that I can do to better my odds.  And I’d like to think that I try to keep my odds of learning about my most valued issues pretty high.


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