Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Politics Me Off

It's another birthday for Mick Jagger and for two-or three-hit wonder, Dobie Gray. According to Gray's official website,, he was able to persuade South African authorities to let him perform for an integrated audience back in the 1970s. That's a pretty impressive, and underrated, achievement. "Drift Away" remains the vocalist's best known track while "The In-Crowd" and "Loving Arms" receive occasional airplay on oldies radio. "Drift Away" is a nice song and all, but it's a little overplayed and Uncle Kracker's cover version didn't help; it wasn't terrible, just unexciting. Still, at least he had the good manners to involve Gray in the project.

I've concluded that I remain interested in the subject, but don't really like politics much. Like any human endeavor, there are a few heroes, a few villains, but mostly flawed human beings lost in a moral miasma, where it's difficult to know what's right and even harder to do what's right. Politicians who compromise their principles in order to achieve results are spineless and those who cling to principles in order to play obstructionist games are intransigent ideologues. So you can't win.

It isn't that politics is so terribly different from other pursuits, like business, entertainment, medicine, media or personal relationships. All of these are subject to human frailties like jealousy, greed, revenge and plain honest mistakes. Politics is not, by definition, more corrupt or more wasteful than these other arenas but it is understandably more reviled than most. There are a number of reasons for this, but two stand out and, of course, interrelate. First, in a more direct way than any other human undertaking, it is our money that bankrolls government. To be fair, government and politics are not precisely the same thing, but the association between the two is undeniable. Second, with that money controversial things happen. Wars are started; programs are funded; deals are brokered. Not everyone wins and those who don't are generally unhappy and disillusioned.

Corporations waste money, too. Mass media can, either deliberately or unwittingly, shape public opinion in directions that may endorse war or reject it. And personal relationships are always a factor in how decisions are made. So it isn't that these other forces aren't powerful, but when things go well, it's often because someone is said to have "set aside" politics. And when things go badly, politicians get blamed.

For me, then, it isn't that politics is worse--more petty, more vindictive, more corrupt--than, say, entertainment, but it is more of a grind. Preconceived notions are undermined so often that it's jarring. Not that rethinking one's preconceived notions is altogether a bad thing, but it's something people almost inevitably resist. So it's tempting to either tumble into the realm of foolish consistency--whatever my "side" says is undeniably correct and unassailable--or withdraw in disgust--they're all crooks anyway. For the contemplative sort, politics is a confusing business. People you loathe are sometimes right and those you respect and admire are sometimes wrong. And nobody's perfect so you have to decide what you can live with.

I see why so many view politics with disinterest and watch Entertainment Tonight or professional wrestling. But I can't do that. In order to preserve my own self-worth, I have to pretend to be intelligent and engaged. I have to claim I know what's going on even when I don't. This must be the curse of all people who write for no money. We want acclaim and notoriety and if the only people from whom we can get them are friends, families, and ourselves, it will have to do.

Meanwhile, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul. And cheer up. At least you can read.


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