I try to keep my political opinions to myself, or off the ol’ interweb anyway. My “radical” philosophy is always vastly underrepresented in my profession, hometown and most social circles, so full self-expression would be detrimental to my, well…entire life.
But I don’t want to talk about it. When people write or say naive, myopic or just plain wrong things in my presence, I nod in agreement. I refuse to stand up and defend my position.
I am a coward.
Or, that burning desire to teach others what I've learned and therefore change the world I had in my 20s, waned into frustrated ambivalence in my 30s, and has all but disappeared in my 40s. I don’t have the time, ambition or patience to explain things like basic economics or human motivation to people. Things that require thought.
I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in this realm, thanks to social media. There are hundreds of complicated fields in which people have varying levels of expertise; electronics, music, architecture, sports, etc. What I’ve noticed of late is that society defines and accepts certain qualified experts in subjects like these, but for some sad reason, for the one that really affects everyone in the most profound of ways, politics, it does not.
When you need your house re-wired, you don’t argue with the electrician on how to best do the job. If you met Jay-Z, you probably wouldn’t tell him how to produce hip hop records. If you enjoy ballet more than baseball, you don’t head to Las Vegas and place a million dollar bet on the World Series. If you need surgery, you don’t grab a knife and get to work. The filter that stops us from taking action without sufficient information and expertise in other fields does not seem to extend to the realm of politics. Wildly differing levels of understanding of how government and the political process behind it works don’t seem to discourage those with the lowest level of understanding from getting in the faces of those with the highest, and proclaiming their intellectual superiority. Everyone considers himself a pundit, and lack of fundamental knowledge inherently necessary to form political opinions doesn’t stop people from doing so, and expressing them with gusto, on Facebook.
The non-politically adept think if they just “feel” a certain way about something (War - Bad! Funding the Arts- Good!) these feelings should be reflected in the laws of the land. Oh, were it that simple. I feel like I can install a ceiling fan, but I can’t, so I leave it to an expert. Why don’t people leave politics to people who have actually taken the time and effort to understand it? Many people think that whatever individual opinion they hold, out of hundreds of possibilities, should also be held by every government official, and laws enacted accordingly, and they are offended when their individual thoughts and desires are not shared by their political leaders. And they make their dissatisfaction known, on Facebook.
Do me and the rest of us who take a passionate interest in politics a favor; if you know more about the New England Patriots than the Patriot Act, don’t tell me how to stop terrorism and I won’t tell you how Tom Brady can increase his completion percentage. If you know more about T-Pain than Thomas Paine, don’t tell me about natural rights of men and I won’t tell you if he’s a better rapper than Wiz Khalifa. If you know more about Katy Perry than Rick Perry, don’t tell me who should be the next GOP candidate, and I won’t tell you who should be her next boyfriend.
It would seem that while people are able to separate expertise in say, sports or architecture, from their self-perceived intelligence, the same cannot be said about politics. You can be less than an expert in sports, architecture, music, etc. and still regard yourself, and be regarded as, normal and intelligent. But the dimmest of the dim expect and are expected to weigh in on candidates, policies and laws, regardless of their ability to actually spell “law”. And weigh in they do, on Facebook.
This morning, some troglodyte I apparently went to high school with and carelessly befriended on Facebook, posted graphic pictures of a baby afflicted with some kind of cancer. Underneath was his comment - “This is why abortion should be legal.” Regardless of your stance on abortion, this poster’s parents clearly should have expressed their right to one. My personal solution was swift and effective- I couldn’t have clicked “Unfriend” any faster. FB-posting Troglodyte is gone from my world forever, but he will be voting in the next election. For someone who favors the legality of abortion apparently. Because babies get cancer and he found a picture of one on the internet. I wish I could wipe a lot of people out of the voting pool as swiftly as I eradicated his existence from mine.
A friend of mine, who is very involved with local politics and writes a column in a town paper, was being lambasted on Facebook by someone who found his latest column "rude." She informed my friend that if he wanted to write in a public forum, he should get his facts straight. Apparently, his citing of facts that contradicted her inaccurate personal opinions was “rude.” There were as many misspellings, basic comprehension and grammatical errors in her critique as there were facts in his column.
Plato spoke of philosopher kings as the individuals in society best suited to rule it. As much as this smacks of intellectual elitism, do we really want a bunch of moron kings running the joint? We already have politicians who cater to whoever is in the room (Social Security needs reform until your audience is old, immigration policy needs reform, until your audience is Hispanic, welfare needs reform until your audience is poor, and corporations need to be reined in until they are funding your re-election campaign), so perhaps a bit of individual intellectual dominance in office is in order. The opposite philosophy and practice has not worked, except in insuring the proliferation of more and more dumber and dumber kids growing into dumber and dumber voting adults.
It is unfortunate that for whatever reason, be it the Internet, Obama expanding the general interest in politics, the decline of America as a great nation, or the popularity of the Kardashians, American Idiots suddenly feel empowered to pontificate on matters of which they will never actually attempt to grasp the intricacies. It’s bad enough they vote- now we all have to hear why....on Facebook.