Dear Diary 

Political cynicism and oversimplification

There's a very popular view which says that everyone in politics is a lying bastard out for their own interest, none of them can be trusted, and if only HONEST people got into power, everything would be much better! But alas, they are all lying bastards, and so we gots what we gots...

I don't buy it. I think this view stinks of magical thinking -- basically, it's the other side of the Green Lantern Theory of Power, Viridilanternism, the view that we can do anything as long as we WILL it hard enough. Conversely, if we didn't do it, then someone in power must have not wanted it... and that's the cynicism.

Cynicism and Viritilanternism are two sides of the same coin -- the magical view of the political process, magical thinking, where complexity and competing interest aren't significant causal factors, and narrative logic holds sway; the view that the key determinant of success is WILLING enough, being committed enough.

I don't buy the magical thinking about the political process, and consequently, I reject both the cynicism and the viridilanternism.

I think that most people in politics are sincerely trying to make the world a better place. I think that genuine d-bags (like Dick Morris?) are few and far between. I think that even Cheney and Rumsfeld were basically trying to do good, in a manner in which their Straussian view defined it; and that when we get frustrated about the lack of progress in the advancement of our respective political agendas, what we have to realize is that the world is complex and the political process is complex, and 'politicians are lying bastards' is NOT why things generally fail to happen.

The cynical view of politics elides the real complexities, obstacles, and competing interests of the political process, and instead imagines politics as a simplistic manichean struggle between the forces of light (us) and the forces of darkness (them). This 'us' vs 'them' can be either partisan (us on this side of the aisle vs. them on the other side) or populist (us the people, or even just me the cynic, vs. them corrupt politicians/fat cats), but either way, it's a view that oversimplifies the complex reality, and reduces it to the level of a bad fantasy novel, a naive narrative of Light vs Darkness.

A stark example of this sort of mentality on the left was Obama's budget negotiations; progressives were generally outraged by Obama compromising too much, and stridently insisting that he should have negotiated harder, taken a tougher stance, and then everything would have been A-OK. Obama betrayed us! He betrayed the liberal interests! He caved!

A comparable example of this sort of mentality on the right was the Iran negotiations, were righties were stridently insisting that if only USA negotiated tougher, spoke from the perspective of force and moral authority, Iran would have bent to our will. Obama betrayed us! He betrayed the american interests! He caved!

Both of these complaints were born out of a deeply cynical -- and deeply naive -- view of politics. Cynicism is not a sign of mature, jaded, deeply informed understanding of the world. Instead, it's a sign of magical thinking. Cynicism doesn't happen because one understands how things really are, cynicism happens because one lazily imposes a naive, simplistic interpretations upon the complex reality.

We should reject cynicism. We should reject it not because it's dark, unamerican, or morally suspect, no -- we should reject is because it's CHILDISH and SIMPLISTIC, and reduces the complex reality to a simplistic magical narrative (and magically tragic is still magical).

18:50:49 on 10/08/16 by danilche - Category: Philosophical


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