The Market of Belief

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.



7 thoughts on “The Market of Belief”

  1. Yes, Jim….
    I watched the news yesterday, and almost every newsperson I saw was trying desperately to turn what Romney said into something evil, something awful, something huge.

    I live in Michigan, mostly….am I the only one that has heard rumors of Democrates giving few rides to the voting places for people on welfare that have no other transportation than the bus system…and because of that, probably wouldn’t vote? I’m not talking senior citizens here, because that’s a good idea, even though, I haven’t really heard much about that…..

    I listened to Clint on Youtube…I sure wish he was getting younger, not older, but you know why does it take “Dirty Harry” to reasure us that we own this country and that the people running it work for us…or should?

    I’m personally a little tired of distributing the wealth that my spouse and I have worked 60 or 80 hours a weeks to put away. When people talk about the “wealthy” as evil people, that totally pisses me off. Do those people honestly know how much we “wealthy” pay in income tax every year with no idea in hell what that money is being used for? I mean come on…..

    Okay, you got me going Jim…I have to vote because I’m an American and that is my right…but isn’t it my right to have some upstanding choices on the ballet? I’m tired of voting for the lesser evil…because you know, my crystal ball is just a tad bit cloudy.

  2. Another timely and thought provoking blog Jim. This election has really just polarized people into the 2 schools of thought. Really wish there was honesty in politics, just something simple like what the candidates actually believe not what the focus groups determine should be to get the most votes. What about issues that really matter to people like the mounting debt, illegal immigration, all the crap in the middle east right now, and changing the direction of the country. The president is really just the head of the snake and the senate and house are the body all dancing to the tune of the bankers. I seriously doubt we will get any meaningful change anytime soon.

  3. “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.”

    Right on, Jim! You nailed it with this one.
    We aren’t near as simple, or gullible, or as easily led as the politicians would like to pretend that we are.

  4. But then…………………….I am beginning to think that over 50% of Americans are simple, gullible and lazy. And they are the first ones in line to whine about everything they don’t have because, yes, they are “entitled”.

    What’s the first thing your Daddy taught you? The first thing my Daddy taught me was that nothing, nothing in this world is free….not even freedom.

    There…have a good day.

  5. I also vote my own personal beliefs, even though I often feeling a little foolish when I am voting. I do believe our politics are owned and operated by large corporations with unlimited money. I believe that their is enough blame to include Democrats, Republicans, Independents and any other political groups that you may want to throw in there.
    I am always amazed at we are quick to belittle the poor and unemployed. Where is the outrage towards the Corporations and their out of control greed? It is the Corporations and the politicians they own that we should be angry towards.
    The elite wealthy, Corporations and the politicians that they own have done excellent job of creating mistrust and infighting among the rest of us. While we are accusing each other over pennies, the politicians and the wealthy corporations are stealing Billions of our tax-payer dollars. There is nothing wrong with being successful or wealthy, but, there is everything wrong with becoming wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.
    I enjoy reading the Renewal series, because it would not surprise me to see major changes in our lifestyles in the not so distant future and like the Carter Family we will either learn to work together or suffer the consequences.

  6. Meetoo….Me too!

    The only other thing I will add from personal knowledge, businesses will grow and invest in their companies when given incentives to do so.

    American companies can not compete with the low wages being paid in other countries. Another thing, if American companies have to spend the money for inviromental controls then no products should be allowed in the United States from foreign countries that are not made to manufacture to those standards. And any corporation that is found to use toxic materials or processes should be banded sales to the USA forever. That would help even up the cost of goods. Things made in China are not cheaper because the workers get less wages, that’s only a part of it.

    You are correct, most of those corporations are American. And that is where the greed comes in.

    This is on me, sort of off track, but why do we need to have the new vehicles have all this wasted added expense? I want a safe vehicle that will be dependable, but I can park myself, I don’t need it beeping or flashing lights if someone is in my “blind spot” or vibrate my seat if I’m…I don’t remember that one. I don’t need my kids to watch movies while going somewhere, I don’t need 8 cup holders, and I know when it’s raining, I can turn my own windshield wipers on.

    I think we are suffering some of the consequences now, I just hope we learn from them before the whole thing hits the fan.

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