It has never been easy for me to take sides in political positions. Perhaps because ideas and knowledge do not appear to me to be static. As well, there does not seem to be any particular ideology that I can completely embrace. I do think that the best decisions I have made in my life came from being both financially cautious and self reliant, and when the risks I took were from my personal investments.
I believe government is necessary for a variety of functions but primarily to protect the weakest members of society, but should also encourage and incentivise self-reliance. I don’t think governments should play favorites with funding or regulations. I think it’s hard to regulate the regulators and that their power needs to be kept in check. American government as it functions now does none of these things effectively. I refuse to strictly identify with any political party as they currently exist but, I feel a certain obligation to pay attention to the issues and to participate by voting in elections and reflecting on current events and history.
On a meta level, embracing popular political positions seems in and of itself to be the force that drives a never ending split between all socially acceptable and easily identifiable groups. The power of political identities, I believe, has become destructive and keeps people from developing and deepening their emotions, thoughts and ideas by tempting us to choose a side and adopt an identity, even when we don’t agree with the entire menu of a particular ideology.
It’s amazing how well the polarization of identities works in our current political culture to devolve the conversations we have into two warring camps. Every news event is ultimately interpreted, distilled, and forever concretized by the loudest voices in the media whose sole purpose is to sustain the war of opposing views that have become wearily predictable.
This dynamic has allowed most of our elected officials to sell themselves to us and corporate interests as warriors for the people, regardless of affiliation. They have come to trust that no matter what choices they make once in office their camp will support them, if only to insure that the other side stays out of office. For example (there are many that could be cited), how can you be a small government Republican and still be okay with Bush’s No Child Left behind, and how can you be an anti-war Democrat and still be okay with President Obama aiding rebels in Libya and sending troops to Uganda?
If we were honest with ourselves, we might admit that politicians are not serving our country well and our loyalty to them only serves to sustain the madness.
So what does each side stand for, or what defines a democrat or republican or an independent these days?
It depends who you ask. We can all define what we think it means to subscribe to a political identity and what each us individually believes. But, it may not matter that much anymore. More and more, the forces of polarization are what matter and what may soon steer us off a cliff. I think the only hope of changing course right now would be for each of us to disengage our political identities and realize how much power the polarization of our culture is destroying us.
I don’t believe there is a third party cure either. We have to be able to call a truce with each other and it doesn’t seem that we are able to do that. Where are the voices in the media other than those who are engaged in the battle and invested in particular identities, who can help us to listen to each other and take an honest look at their part in our decline?
With that in mind, what is the message of the Occupy Wall Street protest? Again, and predictably, it depends who you ask.
The political right, which does not embrace the protest enjoys telling us that there is no message while the left willingly embraces and ascribes a variety of messages to the protesters:
Tax the rich, end the wars, punish the bankers for stealing the middle class’s wealth, dismantle the current political system, forgive loan debt.
But no matter what the message is, it is getting swallowed up by the polarizing forces in the media, and in ourselves. One thing we would do well to remember is that politicians, corporate interests and the powers in the media, on the right and on the left, even those aligned with the message of the protesters, do not really want to dismantle the current system. They are the system! Randi Rhodes and Keith Olbermann would be out of a job if it weren’t for the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and vicy versy.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Will they get tired, bored, or cold when the winter sets in, returning to their homes? Will the media eventually rid themselves of any threat they pose by ignoring and discarding them. Maybe, but only after exhausting their news and entertainment potential to make a few dollars for themselves and their sponsors.
There’s no doubt though that current and future protesters will serve as a barometer for the state of American culture and its future. They are, I believe, here to stay.