I read too much. I watch too much, and I make sure to cover every side of the spectrum. Why? Quite honestly, I don’t expect the truth from anyone.
I’ve made the assertion several times that politics is just another belief system. Like any belief, certain aspects of our politics, no matter how we identify ourselves, are based in faith. That’s not to say that we cannot grab facts to support our faith. We always can. Just like a revival, we can offer our testimony for a certain set of political beliefs. That’s perfectly fine. One of the great things about this country is that we can believe the way we see fit.
The problem – one among many – is that most of us live at the receiving end of a giant and well entrenched system that is designed for the express purpose of manipulating those beliefs. If you are offended by Romney’s recent unearthed comments about the 47%, there is an army of liberals trying to make you believe that it makes him a heartless rich bastard, and therefore entirely unsuited to represent your particular brand of Americanism. Likewise, if Obama is not loudly and aggressively hunting down terrorists right now, an army of Republicans is trying to make you believe that he is weak, and therefore unsuited to run the country in a world full of shadowy terrorists.
We see news that is almost laughably designed to make us look at the pretty birdie while Congress passes something that goes against our beliefs. Since we can’t really accept the news we are fed from every spouting electronic mouth, we are compelled to examine the issues from a viewpoint of some kind of logic. Does this make sense for Republicans or Democrats? Who is most likely to benefit from current events? Could it be someone else altogether, like China. What is happening in the world that we hear nothing about? And right now, how does everything affect the upcoming elections? Is there a larger game at play? It’s tiring, being the pawn in an information war.
I recently read an article in Wired magazine about the modern markets. Apparently, some investors will actually drive down the value of stocks they own in order to manipulate the currency market, where they actually make their money. It’s seems shady in a system that is intended to create value for companies and investors that someone would intentionally destroy value in one place to create it somewhere else. But it’s a good analogy for the patterns I see occurring every day, and the source of the title of this post.
What if (and please bear in mind that I write speculative fiction) there are people out there who think of our political beliefs as a kind of commodity that can be traded? Our beliefs can be built up for one purpose, and destroyed for others, so that the political power conferred by those beliefs can be traded for something of “real” value, like an election, or a war, or even something more subtle, like the tendency to use credit like the future doesn’t matter.
Everything has a spin. Sometimes the spin is delivered with a language that assumes that I am part of a certain platform of belief before I hear it. If I’m viewing the conservative side, the world is a scary place, teetering on the brink, and it’s made worse by those pesky Democrats. If I’m listening to the liberal side, it’s warm and fuzzy and the government will take care of everything for me, except for the stifling efforts of those pesky Republicans sitting on their hands. If I listen to the Libertarian side… Well, not much point in that in an election year.
I’m not saying that anyone’s political beliefs are wrong, mostly because, like that other great purveyor of belief known as religion, no one can legitimately claim to have the whole picture in hand. Especially not us, the average Americans who try to make sense of our world. Just as a survival tactic against an overwhelming tide of complexity, we are forced to have faith in something, or someone, just to retain some semblance of order in our heads. Over time, most people turn that faith into a kneejerk to the left, or a spasm to the right, and we forget the fact that almost everything we see and hear is intended to impose someone else’s beliefs upon our lives.
Am I calling for everyone to dedicate long hours of his or her life to wrestling with some grand, underlying truth? No. Frankly, most of us have better things to do with our time. I am saying that we might question our beliefs from time to time to discover where they arise. Unfortunately for me, when it comes to politics, all I do is question. I’ve lost my faith in any recognizable part of our ostensibly representative government. I’m not sure who they actually represent, but I’m sure that it isn’t me. I would further contend that, by and large, they no longer represent the Constitution, the founding ideals, the health and well being of the citizens, or any agreed upon concept of what makes America great.
And what made it great? You. Aware, responsible, educated, hardworking Americans trying to build something better, without trampling the rights of everyone else attempting to do the same. Your great-grandparents may have come to this country with a simple dream, but they did not contend with the flood of noise aimed directly into their skulls, trying to trade beliefs like food stamps for frozen pizza. They were not such victims of the Market of Belief because the tools were limited. That doesn’t mean that politicians haven’t been playing the same game forever. It just means that you can’t create an entire ideology in a single whistle stop campaign speech. It takes time. It takes access.
So, here we are, believing that government should do more or the government is way too big and prevalent in our lives. We believe that the free market governs itself, or that regulation is the only way to keep an out-of-control system from using us like the money batteries we’ve become. We believe that unions are the only thing that keeps the playing field level, or we think they are the greatest destroyers of progress, efficiency, and improvement in the country. We believe we should engage the Middle East in a meaningful dialog for peace, or we have decided that we should nuke them until the desert is a shiny bowl of glass. Either way, we believe.
Control your own beliefs. Don’t be a commodity in a chaotic market. It’s one of the prices we pay for this experiment of freedom and one of the sources of what made this nation special in history. It’s who we are – ornery, cussed, opinionated, independent Americans.
Thanks for reading.
Special note to politicians: Here’s a thought. Be honest about your beliefs, and stop changing them with your shoes. Better yet, find out what your constituents believe and, I don’t know… Represent us.