Saturday, October 24, 2009

Yearning to breathe free

I don’t want to be a conservative or a traditionalist. At least not in the sense that I resist change or am even wary of change.

I don’t want to be a liberal, either, though, if that means seeking and embracing change just because it is different. Change should happen for a valid reason.

Change needs to happen whenever the old way of doing things isn’t getting us where we want to go. But we must be careful to select a correct new course, and not just a different course.

The point is to show continual progress towards goals. In that sense, I am a progressive - though not in the sense that word is often used by liberals.

The whole fuss and fight, then, is about defining goals. We can’t seem to agree on our direction. Everyone has a different idea and is convinced his way is “obviously” best.

The two primary political parties in the U.S. have been fighting and obstructing each other for a long time now. It is no longer a case of two differing sets of values struggling to rise to the surface. Instead, the only thing that is important, it seems, is to block the other party from looking good in the eyes of this or that bloc of voters.

Is this really how we want to run our country? Is it not possible to sit down and find common ground on a handful of general goals? Or have we finally become just like the Israelis and Palestinians? Surely, if the goals were general enough, we could find consensus.

The general goals we set for our country should not be different than the general goals of individual citizens, should they? If individual citizens want the same general things - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - then it should be their government’s goal to secure those things for the citizens. That’s simple enough.

It’s not that simple, though, is it? For, whenever you give the government such a broad mandate, you leave it up to the government to come up with its own list of specific things it believes would make your life better, things that would make you happy. Soon, the government is sculpting out a whole life, or way of life, for you - for your own good and your own happiness, of course. Why? Because what you have really done is tell the government, “Take care of me.”

I think I would be telling the truth if I boasted that I think I have cultivated some of the most thoughtful, educated and intelligent readers a blogster has ever attracted. Right about here is where you exceptional people will begin to remind me that I am not an island; I live in a society. Living in a society brings obligations and limits to personal freedom.

I know. I have no desire to live off in the woods by myself like Thoreau. Not even if me mum brought me pies and sweets and clean shirts on the weekends. I freely admit that I like and want things like paved roads and grocery stores and fire departments and schools and good health care. I also admit I want these things for others and not just for myself. I do understand that having these things, and many others, requires that I subordinate a good deal of my free spirit to the common good. “Common Good” in this case being pretty much run by the government.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us exactly where we are today: haggling over what we want the government to provide. Each of us has a list of things we want. Some of your lists are very much longer than my own list. Obama’s list is very much longer than my list.

Okay, here’s the point (you just KNEW there was going to be a point, right?): Government doesn’t provide ANYTHING. Government doesn’t SOLVE problems. Government, in and of itself, is NEVER the answer. Only PEOPLE can build roads and hospitals and schools and take compassionate care of their neighbors. Government is only a VEHICLE for getting things done. A mechanism. A tool. The actual planning is still up to us. The actual DOING is still up to us.

It is a great mistake to assign some sort of actual “life” to the government and expect “it” to get things done for us.

Stop bitching. Get involved.


A. said...

The problem is that people can't drive the vehicle of government themselves, they have to employ drivers, the politicians That, I think, is the stumbling block. Career politicians seem to be in it for themselves, for the most part, and that is a discouragement for me at least from being any more active than voting.

On the other hand, joining organisations which lobby and work for things I'd like to see addressed could be a way forward. That is a way I am able be more involved.

Stephanie B said...

I'm completely on board with the disgust of either pushing one's agenda no matter what or obstructing no matter what. I feel like, when I was younger, politicians on either side of the fence could work together on topics, but that could just be a perception.

Americans should be deciding what they want from government and the government they elected should be making it so. That isn't happening and hasn't been happening for some time. I would really like to see the opportunities for special interests to provide money to politicians go bye-bye and campaigns reigned drastically back. Politicians should be working for "our" interests and no one else's.

Or perhaps what we need is a viable third party, but I'm at a loss to see how we keep them from wandering down the same worthless paths.

Redbeard76 said...

To compound the issue- politicians used to be ordinary people with ordinary jobs: Merchants, farmers, etc. The problem with the modern politician is that they are almost exclusively lawyers, and they have twisted the system to make it more difficult for regular folks to represent constituencies.

ettarose said...

What about the Socialist party? I have been listening to talk radio a lot and have been hearing some things I am not too happy about, as far as what is going on behind the scenes. I am very much more confused than normal. Does Michael Savage ring a bell?

Shakespeare said...

George Washington feared a two-party system would divide the country, and I think he is right. Identifying specific difference which define a party--especially since it seems no person actually agrees with everything on his or her party platform--creates an automatic division between people. It's a way of separating, not integrating, of emphasizing differences, not seeing similarities.

What we ignore is that we all have so many things in common... that we are all in this together...

Relax Max said...

@A. - True. A republican style of government exercises democracy through representation. And I don't know any way around that even though the representation hasn't represented the people's will in a very long time, if it ever did. So the question is different than I presented it. The real question is how do we get our representatives to do what we elect them to do? They only represent special interests and the interests of those who can deliver a lot of votes for their re-election. Re-election being the overriding goal of the politician. You suggest we get/join our own lobbies. I don't think we should have to, but I guess that's all we can do until we think of a way to make them do what we tell them to do.

Relax Max said...

@Stephanie B - Like you, I agree that politicians ought to be able to work together for the good of the people. But they don't ever seem to do that, so we are still left with the question of what to do about it. Theoretically, with the vote, we hold the trump cards. But none of them ever keep their promises they make to get elected. They all get corrupted almost immediately. So what can you do?

Relax Max said...

@Redbeard76 - I agree. I don't think a "regular person" has a snowball's change of getting elected anymore. The big party fix is in.

Relax Max said...

@Ettarose - Hi Ettarose. I don't know about the Socialist Party. I know about socialism though. And I have strong opinions about it. Heh. I'm afraid I don't know that much about Michael Savage either. I think he is a radio talk show person. I have seen him on sound bites as a guest on some of Fox News' opinion programming, and if he is anything like he sounded there, he needs rabies shots. Just my opinion. Sort of like Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin. Put them all 3 in a cage together and sell tickets. :) I still like to watch Sean, but I no longer stare at him and nod my head. I guess I go through phases. :) Sorry. You wanted agreement, didn't you? No, I haven't turned liberal, I just have learned over time that the far right can be just as unreasonable as the other far end of the political spectrum. I think we need some sort of middle ground coalition that cares more about our country than their personal agenda. Some day it may happen. There is no one who wants to help more than you do. I know that. Please don't listen to any of them Suzy Q. K? Hold your own counsel.

Relax Max said...

@Shakespeare - Thank you for stopping by. Yes, from what I read, I think George Washington (and John Adams) were very suspicious of political parties and wanted the presidency to be non-partisan and try to represent all the people. Fat long time that idea lasted. :)

I think you hit the nail on the head when you say party platforms are so broad that nobody agrees with all the "planks" in the platform, and in-fighting happens all the time. Or, as they are fond of calling it today, "our tent is big." Too big. Stand for something understandable. Don't stand for EVERYTHING. That's why we only really have one party right now.

I say let's make a list of what ordinary people want to see happen in this country and get about 6 parties representing each faction, and... wait. That's a Parliament. Never mind.

Stephanie B said...

You asked me how, Relax Max. The first thing that comes to mind is campaign reform. If a government employee takes more than a minuscule gift (here, it's >$10), they are open to corruption charges, but the public shrugs its shoulders at millions being spent in campaign contributions.

Our public servants shouldn't be serving anyone but us. Period.

Would that lose us political "talent" - God, I hope so. I'd be as broken up at losing politician because they couldn't be bought off by special interests as I am feeling all weepy about big time Wall Street CEOs losing their million dollar bonuses. BooHoo.

Relax Max said...

@Stephanie B - Campaign reform? I agree. But what can you do when our congress is the only one who can vote that into being? They depend on donations from special interest groups in order to continue their power trip. On the same note, how do you keep congress' salaries reasonable when they are the ones who vote for their pay raises and their pensions and their term limits (no limits.)

I also get a laugh when the banks say they have to give huge bonuses to top management or else they will lose this top talent. Could the janitor have done worse? Let the "talent" go down the road to the competition and run THEM into the ground!

Stephanie B said...

On this, we are agreed.

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