What are the things you’re not supposed to talk about at a dinner party? Religion, politics, money… I think there’s a few others. Sex maybe?
I’m going to weigh in on the politics one here for a few minutes. I’d rather write on sex truth be told, but since this is a family site as evidenced by the title, I’ll put those musings on the back burner for now.
So… On to politics.
Steve Jobs had a fantastic quote before he passed away last week. Speaking to a class at Stanford he said “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living the results of other people’s thinking.”
Another icon of mine said the same thing differently… Ralph Waldo Emerson in his memorable 1841 essay “Self Reliance” said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Both quotes are relevant in the context of the hullabaloo over the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS). Here’s why: Both of our tired political parties are desperately trying to maneuver themselves into the middle of the OWS debate to appear relevant.
Democratic dogma says OWS is all about corporate greed and scumbag bankers, the solution to which is even more government regulation and taxes. They’ve rolled out the labor unions and progressives to make their case. Republican dogma says OWS is a bunch of weirdo Brahmin-class, pot-smoking elitists who are out to destroy the “free market” and replace it with Socialism. They trot out candidates like Herman Cain to make their point.
One side says government is the problem. The other side says corporate America is the problem. So, who’s right?
Both of them…or more precisely, neither of them.
To really understand OWS, or for that matter the Tea Party, you first have to extricate yourself from the dogmatic labeling that keeps you mired in thinking in “Republican” or “Democrat” talking points.
Imagine for a moment that you could hover God-like above the world looking in on our current situation. What would you see from that perspective?
I believe you’d see a crisis caused by corporate America and government equally — a crisis defined by bigness, centralization of power and control, top heaviness, crushing bureaucracy and ultimately decay and destruction (where we are now).
What you would see are massive systems that have grown to be fundamentally unstable and that are long in the tooth, some of which are about to keel over and die – corporate systems, money systems, political systems, government systems.
You would see a certain inevitability to all of this because it’s happened over and over again throughout human history – systems are born small, highly efficient and productive, they grow, they become old, creaky and inefficient, and eventually they die and are replaced.
Now, lets zoom in our perspective a little further to the two dominant U.S. political parties. Both are equally invested in keeping these systems chugging along because it’s the source of all of their power.
The big government contingent (typically Democrats) keeps its subjects hopelessly dependent by offering the masses more and more free stuff. It’s why nearly half, 48.5%, of the population now lives in a household that receives some type of government benefits.
Keeping the goodies flowing to an increasingly dependent and infantilized electorate conditioned to expect more and more free stuff from the government keeps the thousands of government fiefdoms that administer the “free stuff” programs in high cotton.
But Republicans are no better. They perpetuate the false myth of the “free market” to defend a system that is anything but. Instead of the ruthless competition and creative destruction in business that they claim to embrace, we actually get a top heavy system of cartelization and crony capitalism that relies on centralization of power and favoritism, and that games government rules, regulations and taxes to snuff out new innovators and competitors.
Take health care as just one example. There is no free market in health care. The health insurance market is dominated by a handful of players at the most. They easily collude to keep prices as high as possible, payouts at a minimum and new competitors from nipping at their heels.
For the past few elections the electorate has been lurching back and forth between Republicans and Democrats looking for someone, anyone to “fix” these problems.
That’s now changing because we’re finally realizing that relying on either political party for a fix is foolhardy. They are far too invested in the status quo — perpetuating the existing systems.
What OWS and the Tea Party represent in their own unique ways I believe is a broader awakening of Americans who are starting to recognize that neither government, nor corporate America is our savior.
Ultimately, such thinking will coalesce around vibrant new movements that disambiguate and disperse power. In other words, the birth, growth, death cycle will begin anew. I happen to believe these new movements will be focused on economic individualism, radical self-reliance, resiliency and a huge upsurge in innovation and entrepreneurialism. At least I hope they are.
And that’s why I’m encouraged by movements like OWS and the Tea Party. You don’t have to agree with everything in either movement, heck you don’t have to agree with anything. But it’s refreshing as hell to finally see people waking from their stupor, thinking seriously about what comes next, throwing off tired labels and stepping outside of dogmatic thinking.