“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
— The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s, “Alice in Wonderland”.
There are a number of propositions in today’s America that would seem to be a natural fit for The Mad Hatter’s philosophy:
- Giving the wealthy more money will make those who don’t get that money, wealthier.
- Taking the country back for the people can only be accomplished by passing legislation that goes against their best interest.
- The budget deficit is a crisis that will destroy our nation and we must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to save ourselves but it’s not so serious that we need to raise taxes on the wealthy.
- Healthcare for all Americans will undermine their lives.
- To prove that they have what it takes to be the best leader, Presidential candidates must prove that they are the best followers of their party’s leaders.
- The way for the media to combat running shallow and exploitative stories that undermine giving the public real news is to run them frequently and explain that they would rather be reporting on issues of substance.
We live in a society that sometimes seems to be the equivalent of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party…and that includes The Tea Party…some of whom howl about wanting government to keep their hands off of their Medicare, claim that they want to put democracy back in the hands of the people by taking it away from the majority and some even boast that they are so passionate about preserving our democracy, they support the violent overthrow of it.
We see this elsewhere in our society too, eating Subway sandwiches make you lose weight, oil companies are good for the environment, drinking chemicals, high fructose corn syrup and gas in a concoction called Coke is a good thing and in the past, cigarettes are cool and harmless enjoyment. Corporations have thrived in their businesses by using dishonesty to promote their products and now that they have become so dominant in our politics, they naturally bring the same proven marketing tools with them.
If our society was analyzed by a psychologist as if it was a person, it might be diagnosed as schizophrenic. How did American society disintegrate to a point where there is broad acceptance of such concepts as corporations are people, fighting back against class warfare is the only real class warfare and the way to help the poor is to give money to the wealthy?
What may be at the root of this upside-down thinking that our society is clouded by may be the fruition of the proposition that it is indeed whether you win or lose and not how you play the game. Delusion and deception being a fair and balanced competitor to reality and truth may come down to the preponderance of that very American quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
We as Americans like our games, be it on the sports field, playing Wii or even in relationships. We recognize and respect winners, even if we would otherwise dislike that winner if he/she was a loser (wonder if Donald Trump’s ears are burning). People go to see terrible movies that have gotten awful reviews just because they won the #1 spot in the weekly box office. For years, everyone looked the other way at sports stars’ use of steroids and other chemical abuses because they led their teams to victory. Winning is all that matters sometimes, winning a game, even by cheating and lying, has become too accepted in our society so it flourishes.
Americans are sometimes easily misled, this may be due to a deficit of critical thinking or because they just want to believe something so much that they rationalize away its lack of reason. As we see in politics though, the substance or truth of what is being said is often less important than the perception of whether the conflict that stems from it makes a political figure look more like a winner or loser.
Even when the American Public learns that an accusation is a lie, such as President Obama being Muslim, more attention can be focused on whether the way he dealt with that lie makes him look like the winner in that situation instead of considering that he had to respond to this because a political party, their news network and a whole corporate machine lied to and tried to deceive all Americans for political and financial gain. The response of someone who has been slandered should be far less important to one’s opinion of a situation than the actions and motives of the one that has committed the slander.
At times, there seems to be a “buying in” by the public to such games, almost a tacit recognition that lies and deception are being employed to create a conflict but what the public sees as important is only, which of the parties can end up as the winner of that conflict. This goes back to what was mentioned above, American’s being more into who wins or loses than how the game is played.
Do candidates who tell the truth more often do better with the public than those who can be documented as frequently lying (check out Michele Bachmann’s high polling numbers in IA and don’t forget Bush’s re-election in 2004)? Are candidates who refrain from negative advertising supported more strongly by the public in the face of vicious negative advertising by their opponents (Swift Boats anyone?)?
There seems to be less interest among Americans in the validity of a political conflict, even if its cause is clearly dishonest, than who comes out on top as the winner. That being the case, there is little incentive for those who have no principles to act as if they have any, they are rewarded by the public for trumping up conflicts out of thin air. In such cases, the public acts like children on a playground hearing “Fight! There’s a fight!” and just rushing over to watch the fight to see who wins.
Winning is important but how the game is played does matter. When the rules fall apart, when people can act as horribly and dishonestly as they choose and still win, that eventually drags down everyone who wants to compete. For those who are principled, they have to either abandon some principles to drop down to the level of their opponent or be far better than their opponent just to squeak by them.
Politics has become the most corrupt sport in America. Those who have only the agenda of winning can cheat in every way imaginable because the referees, the American public that is, doesn’t hit them with a penalty or eject them from the game for doing so, they just seem to be engrossed by the additional intensity of the game and solely intent on who wins.
What they don’t realize is that by allowing such a dishonest competition to be sanctioned, the “sport” is degraded so the public is the the loser in the end.