Wikileaks and the government you actually want

In Re Wikileaks: the widespread expressions of shock at the muckraking pettiness displayed in the recent diplomatic data released by Wikileaks is a bit comical, since it demonstrates how disconnected from reality we want our political leaders to be. Most diplomats are merely very high-level gossips and everyone spies on the other side to one degree or another.

There is nothing shocking about characterizing Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi as “feckless” behind his back, because he is a feckless fascist lout. We should be glad that we have ambassadors who will point this out about Berlusconi instead of woodenly kowtowing to him, yet I’ve read several major publications today saying this was one of the most shocking immoral acts cataloged by Wikileaks.

Even if there are some truly evil activities revealed, the conversation is trivialized by the pretense that we expect our leaders to be better, or better behaved, than us.

Ministers, priests and, maybe, psychoanalysts may be expected to be better than rest of us, because they are paid to heal our spirits. Politicians are responsible to deliver results, not perform morality plays for the edification of the masses. Besides, look at what miserable wretches are numbered among our great spiritual leaders–there’s no one with a monopoly on virtue.

We elect these people, and we can expect them to be greedy, venal, lecherous and bad sports in roughly the same proportion as we the people are. That is unless you want a god-king, which seems to be the standard against which democratically elected leaders are measured. I think this betrays a deeply fascistic desire to submit to a leader morally, politically and spiritually among a large minority of the electorate. People get leaders who disappoint them morally because they ask so little of candidates at election time besides a clean police record, then turn over the governing of the country to those impossibly pristine images and leave them to govern in virtual isolation until the next election.

We the people tend to judge pols by whether or not they do anything that hurts us financially, beyond that we fret a bit about freedom and debt, but only to the degree that the consequences of eroded freedom or debt elimination impact us personally. We ought, instead, to demand our leaders level with us, even when approaching the third-rail issues like taxes, and cut them more slack about their moral shortcomings. I personally don’t care who or how Jack Kennedy shagged during his term in office, he was a great president for a variety of reasons, not the least among them that he prevented my death and those of hundreds of millions of other people in an argument over Cuba. Nixon, had he won in 1960, would have gone to war and screwed the global pooch in a showdown with the Soviets… over Cuba.

What should a successful politician do? They invest to make the world better for our children first and foremost, but too many voters count only whether the pols have done anything to hurt them in the current term. If the success of a politician is judged by the the perceived pain inflicted by their votes or policies not being felt by many voters, that’s an awfully low bar to set for our elected leaders. I’d much rather see politicians who are willing to take some chances and make mistakes as they learn than endure a do-nothing Congress that never tries to address the public’s problems. But to get that Congress we’d have to accept that politicians can’t be celibate monks who have taken vows of poverty in order to let them off the absurd moral hook on which we hang them today.

I get it now

“It is the most foolish of all errors for young people of good intelligence to imagine that they will forfeit their originality if they acknowledge truth already acknowledged by others.” — Goethe, Maxims and Reflections

Goethe is not saying to accept any truth handed your way. This is why he writes “young people of good intelligence,” which assumes a critical subject who can consider and decide on the validity of a proposition. One might even apply a truth differently or respond to the perceived truth with a novel act, but ignoring truths simply because they pre-date you is foolish.

Vacation reading

I read several very good books during my week off. Colonel Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, is an excellent portrayal of TR in the years after his presidency, when he was the most prominent American in the world and quickly saw his first opportunity to reclaim the White House shattered by his party’s growing fragmentation.

Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia is a book one has to be ready to read and I’ve been preparing for a long time, but still need another reading to get a more complete handle on the ideas.

William James’ lectures on A Pluralistic Universe, free on Kindle, was a good counterpoint to the radical monism of Deleuze and Guattari — not to mention as a refrain on Theodore Roosevelt’s aggressive patriotism. James’ approachability in contrast to the wild language of D&G, which carries several kinds of weight in Anti-Oedipus, and stark dismantling of the univocal nature of reality helped me think through the Spinozan foundations of the the critique of capitalism and the family structure. Neither side wins definitively, but it was a good contest.

Change is the only constant

The election shows that change happens, and happens, again. The people aren’t fickle, nor are they stupid. They are constantly adjusting the settings of government. This year, many said that “politics don’t matter,” including a lot of folks disappointed by the lack of change they perceive resulting from the 2008 Presidential election. They’ll be back in 2012, alarmed at the right turn we apparently took as a nation yesterday.

 Tales of doom for the left and center are mere blowhardery and short-sightedness. Just look at the “radicals” elected and they backing by the Same Old Money. These are the candidates of the people who gutted campaign finance reform, not populists.

Politics is the essential human activity. When we learn that it matters, we see its power. Can the right, the left or the center hold onto that insight and drive a series of consecutive wins in order to effectively deliver change? We’ll always have to wait until the next election to see — great changes are visible only in retrospect. Not much changed in the election of 2010, because it left us pilloried on our differences rather than united in a mission.

I’m waiting for someone to step up and say that it is time to change, to invest in the future through reasonable government programs and to save, to pay-off the debt with actually responsible policies that cut costs and do not pass those savings on immediately to the living in the form of tax cuts. That will not happen until we find it within ourselves to invest in the nation, from the infrastructure to education to the health and well-being of all. The Tea Partiers and Republicans who have immediately turned to eliminating tax cut expiration are not the winds of change, just the same old bag of spending on self-serving issues.

When are we going to talk about everyone making sacrifice for the country, for the future, instead of sending young people off to make their bloody sacrifices and calling that sufficient patriotic expense for a generation? If we don’t pull together soon, we might just pull the country apart, and that would be wrong.