Imagine stories around a campfire…
a mystical möbius – curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a digital space around a safe, cozy, yet rather eclectic virtual campfire. My hope is to render an adequate real-time sketch of history (i.e., a rough first-draft).
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse’ is a brief mini-series of themed posts. Part five.
One and Many reconciled…
Last week (as a “Bonus Video” under the post) I shared the U.S.A. Air Force Band’s “One Voice” Holiday Presentation from 2018 (see Canceling Christmas?). This week I want the song to be fully integral to the piece and not an addendum. So, to help set the tone, right upfront I’d like to go back to the primary source for the “One Voice” piece. That is, to the Wailin’ Jennys and specifically to a live performance they gave of their amazing song. I’m convinced this song embodies a shared-reality we as Americans have a deeply existential need to feel right now. Please listen with your heart:
A nation of good neighbors forms the requisite grassroots basis for a functioning democratic form of self-governance, it’s intrinsic to our constitutional design.
So, if it’s a matter of approach
Of the two basic approaches to reasoning, I prefer the path of less granularity but greater universality. To review, deductive reasoning begins with the general and works toward the specific (e.g., findings). Conversely, inductive reasoning begins with observable specifics and works toward the general (e.g., theories). So, in this “Picking up after…” mini-series we are taking specifics revealed by the Covid-19-Apocalypse (and Easter Apocalypse) and using them to draw broader conclusions.
To MAGA, and beyond
OK, I’ve written here on several occasions that the president’s support base is in no way a monolith. For example, I’ve asserted some MAGA folks are consciously, overtly racist, while most are not. A mystical möbius has enumerated various aspects of the MAGA base, and, admittedly, I’ve seen many of them as unhelpful and presented them in a negative light. In any case, we recall, no group of human beings is a monolith. And yet, surely we can reason inductively to find common ground hidden in MAGA diversity. I feel a bit bold to suggest there is at least one perception that is not only common to most MAGA-backers, it is also shared by most people far outside the MAGA crowd as well. I argue that real, broad-based political consensus is out there on at least one key point right now.
Bi-partisan common ground
“Bi-partisan?” Really? Pray tell.
Well, it’s my sense that one piece of common ground is a very deep frustration with what (in both houses of the federal legislative branch) is now referred to as “business as usual.” Right now, business as usual is just another way of saying pure ‘power politics.’ Power and cynically winning one’s own uncompromising way has become the solitary objective of many political leaders. When we—and by that I mean most Americans—say that the political system is “broken” and “getting nothing done,” I feel this is generally what’s being referenced.
Taking the U.S. Senate as an instance to examine, I feel it is helpful to distinguish business as usual from “regular order” as they are very different things. You likely recall what may have been Senator John McCain’s last cause was his strong desire for the Senate to return to “regular order.” McCain had been in the Senate long enough to have experienced both forms of process and he knew that one works, and the other doesn’t. Regular order works by design. Business as usual works by design, too, only for money interests, e.g., the best government that money can buy (cf. Citizens United decision).
A feature, not a glitch
Under the banner of regular order the two parties both work on the basis of compromise as a matter of volition and consent. They know the need for “compromise” is not an unintended glitch in our system, it’s a brilliant feature. Our system was designed to work by building bi-partisan consensus through compromise. The filibuster rule is itself a design feature of the Senate that requires consensus building and compromise.
With regular order everyone (generally) operates in good faith, not to gain one’s own way, rather to actually do the work of the people and produce results. The dysfunctional practice wherein the party with the thinnest of margins on a particular issue strongarms the legislation because, “We have the votes,” is not a sustainable mode, as most people can plainly see. The business as usual mode is the result of several influences, one of which is the the unabashed, unapologetic practice of power politics—cf. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.
So, the toxic partisanship of the business as usual mode reflects the present brokenness of our political system. We mostly all agree that things are not working. We know because there are many proposed policies that already enjoy vast majority bi-partisan support and yet still can’t be legislated. In just a minute we’ll look briefly at how with a business as usual, winner take all legislative process operating within a polarized environment, the system naturally develops a dysfunctional coping mechanism, e.g., gridlock.
So, is it a ‘one’ or a ‘many’ problem? No, it’s both.
For many Americans the deep frustration this dynamic creates is understood and expressed as a strong generalized animosity toward all politicians as individuals regardless of their party. Other Americans present an expression of the deep frustration they feel by making strong generalized declarations of a broken polity, blaming a well-meaning but overwhelmed constitutional system that they argue our twenty-first century complexity has essentially outgrown.
Stuck in the Upper Left Quadrant
I counter that the design of the system is not the problem, it’s fine. Rather, it’s been our ELP-dominant execution of representational-democracy over the past three or four decades that provides the key to explaining our blatantly power-driven political context right now.
—”ELP?” Yes, ELP, an acronym for ‘eighteenth level perspective,’ is an illustrative image I developed in a couple of earlier posts [for ELP see Ashes, ashes we all fall down and, The three hardest words]. ELP basically amounts to a cynical self-centered expression of nihilism. From The three hardest words:
The ELP is a paraphrase for describing one who feels their own perspective is standard. One who feels that everyone else must experience the world the very same way they do. Even more plainly, one who believes that they personally vector Reality, that their understanding of Reality is normative for everyone.
From within an ELP worldview it is easy to ‘other‘ another human being (i.e., one’s opponents) and so to dehumanize, even demonize, them into enemy status. One very problematic aspect of ELP is that it defeats empathy and compassion as it makes it much easier for one to discount and dismiss the experience of others. Brené Brown helpfully observes:
The primarily self-locused ELP worldview makes a transactional, social Darwinist framing of human reality appear obvious and sensible, even though it’s actually dreadfully destructive of community, of our democratic institutions, and, ultimately, of individual persons caught within this severe human limitation. Many who operate from an ELP find affinity with a good bit of libertarian thought—e.g., an ELP “libertarian” = an over-reaching, grotesquely over-expressed sense of self in philosophical/political form. I note that ELP makes a very fitting analogy for the human “sin” that Saint Paul describes well in his letters (cf. Romans and 1 Corinthians).
I NOTE: “ELP” is simply another way of saying trapped in a binary frame of reference. So far I haven’t been asked, but if pressed I’d have readily admitted that ELP really represents the short form. Actually, eighteenth level perspective, or ELP, is short form for human eighteenth level perspective, or ….-wait for it-…. HELP.
Systems tend to produce what they are designed to produce. The U.S. Constitution forms a bicameral system for legislative governance that has been consciously designed to move change forward incrementally through compromise. Depending on how one’s anthropology works, contemplation reveals the wisdom of this compromise approach.
Many systems are a product of human consciousness and may well include a consciousness component. However, non-living, socially-constructed systems, per se, are not conscious. Further, I’d argue that ‘systems’ themselves have no capacity to reason, and yet, systems do display an operational logic of one sort or another as a function of the particular system. I’d say, to a very high degree, life conditions and our social/political context drive the way systems respond and process making change.
In the case of our legislative branch, for many reasons we have discussed previously in the blog, the American voter is nearly fully polarized at this point. In that environment, with a business as usual process at work, the system produces a pragmatic, if not helpful, response, e.g., gridlock. If, as a function of our polarization, every decision for change is perceived to involve existential doom for the “losing” political party, gridlock has a certain logic to it. However, some proverbial wisdom immediately comes to mind, e.g., a particular verse of biblical scripture:
Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death. [Proverbs 16:25]
Too many political leaders of both parties are into the winner-takes-all power-politics right now. Meanwhile, gridlock is no longer a viable coping strategy as too many existential issues demand attention and require timely response. We see things that need fixing, we agree on the fixes, and yet none of it can get done. I feel there is broad consensus on this, it’s not working, and most voters can see it plainly. But, here’s where we come to what may be the hardest problem.
A prime difficulty here is that roughly 40% of American voters adamantly believe that DJT is the obvious solution to our winner-takes-all, gridlocked, broken-ineffective-government problem (that we mostly all agree on). Many of the other 60% have a good bit of difficulty understanding how anyone could possibly believe that and how this whole DJT phenomenon is even possible.
I feel one simple point proves Trump supporters are completely misguided here on their understanding of DJT as the solution. If U.S. leaders do not soon take the work of compromise seriously and immediately return to regular order, then our days as the U.S.A. may be severely limited in number. Polarization simply must be reversed, and our shared sense of community must be restored and healed.
DJT may be many things, but he has proven he is not a leader of reconciliation or returning to regular order. I hope we can mostly all learn to agree on this simple fact soon enough. We have been called now by history as Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation to the significant healing work that is ahead of us now [2 Cor. 5.18].
Next week: We’ll continue in our “Picking-up after an Apocalypse” mini-series. Come and see.
[this post approx. 1,950 words (8 min. read + Wailin’ Jennys video at the top]
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say? Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).
Archive of posts related to this mini-series:
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 1),’ ~ Election debrief
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 2),’ ~ “Racial anxiety”
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 3),’ ~ This is really messed-up
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 4)’ ~ Cancelling Christmas?
Other Covid-19 related posts (listed from oldest to most recent):