“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.

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jjgravitas
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jjgravitas

We rely way too much on sound bites during elections. Please let’s put more focus on public debates between candidates. It would also be better if they could be more un-scripted than they currently are. Make them explain and justify their points of view, balanced against those of the opposing candidate.

agrippa
Member
agrippa

Excellent article and excellent comments.
First, I do not know anyone, IRL, who knows very much about history, current events or politics. Sad.
But true.
I think that we will need to “play the tape to the end.” Owing to the willed ignorance of the general population and the willed folly of the elites, matters will just have to play out.

whatsthatsound
Member

The majority of Americans seem to side with politicians the way they do with athletes and movie stars. They invest in them emotionally, rather than appraise their policies rationally. It’s scary but plausible that Michelle Bachmann may become our next president. To many people, she is “one of us”, a fundamentalist Christian, patriotic (in the most blind and stereotypical way), with a good story to tell about God guiding her to seek office. They trust her and identify her, and will ignore or disregard her shortcomings. The votes she gets will be based on these feelings, rather than actual consideration about what her presidency would look like.

Part of the problem is education. We need to educate citizens more about what policies translate into for them. Part of it is the media. Who am I kidding, MOST of it is the media! People are dazed, distracted, and confused. And a big part of it is just plain old disillusionment with government and politicians. When politicians go back, as they so often do, even on the simple and easily understandable promises they make to get elected, people just assume they will do it on the more complex things. So why even educate oneself, when it’s boring and takes so much time and asks so much of ones brain after a hard day at the factory or office? The TV is there to make things right.

By the way, I love that illustration so much, please allow me to reproduce my own homage to it in referencing the Tea Party, from a post of mine a while back.

img

Caru
Member

You’re not alone, America.

ADONAI
Member

AdLib, Again, sports have a RICH tradition of cheating. Baseball more than any other. Constant stretching and breaking of rules. Cheating isn’t “natural”, I;ll give you that, but it’s a very much accepted part sports.

Still though, that’s besides the point. And I truly do believe the ends justify the means. It’s very hard to stand on pragmatism when millions are dying.

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
(Luke Chapter 9)

The men who founded the American government also recommended it’s violent overthrow if necessary. That’s all I will say.

And this is really where you and I part ways. Americans have never been this smug and distracted? I disagree. The 1920’s were pretty damn bad. And what followed? A Depression. Corporations may control TV news but more people watch the new episode of Real Housewives so how impactful are they really? You think news wasn’t shaded by outside interests before they became profit devices? Tell that to the Native Americans, migrant workers, single parents, Japanese and Chinese Americans, movie producers, the comic book industry, and so on.

We are not special. These are not unique times. Every generation feels it is the most important. “We are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants”. We think we see further than we really do. Know more than we actually do. All we care for is the present.

And I hate to break it to future generations but, you got a lot of hurt coming your way anyways. We’ve been passing down ridiculous debt generation after generation. Kinda got tired of waiting for that to “doom us”. Now I’m of a mind that ti doesn’t matter. It’s just the way our system works. But, climate change. I’ve already buried a time capsule apologizing for that shitstorm.

We’ll be o.k. though. This terrible economic mess the liberals are so worried about? Well the South has been there for a LOOOOOONG time now. Suck it up.

Reincarnation_TPS
Member
Reincarnation_TPS

This is different. Times are not as mellow as several decades back and it’s likely to get far worse due to peak oil.

ADONAI
Member

Mellow? When were things mellow?

ADONAI
Member

crap

bito
Member

What do the “winners” win when a vast majority of the populace has little education, health care, housing, an increase in crime and an inability to spend and support consumerism, the life blood of capitalism? A nation of serfs? Can we all become nothing but lackeys for the top 2% and support the economy?

Mad Hatter indeed, Adlib! I read an article today about reducing taxes in a Texas town so low that they no longer can afford a police department and now crime is rampant, anarchy, Taxed Enough Already, the TEA party. What did they win? The ability to sit up all night waiting with gins in hand for a home invasion?

Cutting medicaid? Now some one tell people that 70% of the funds go to care for the Mother-in Law (who you dislike) to keep her in a home? Do you want her living with you, do you want to care for her 24/7 or would you rather believe that 95% of all Medicaid goes to just lazy lay-abouts? Winning? Winning what? “And what it wouldn’t be, it would.” With the ice flows melting, we can’t even find an ice burg to put that cranky old person, that slacker, that burden on society on to float away. We are going to “keep” them in the house AND pay for their medical needs. Cheaper method may end up being is to up their life insurance and just neglect them. Best outcome, bottom line no, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Education? Hasn’t everything been invented, discovered that is useful already? Why educate any children? Send them to work and make some money for the household, bottom line again.

I just heard today on the “news” that housing prices went up 2% without any mention that they are still 10% above 2005 prices (before the worst of the housing boom/fraud) nor any mention of who the buyers are. Speculators for rental homes, perhaps? Certainly not wage earners, their wages are either falling or stagnant.

Mad Hatter indeed, Adlib and not my cup of tea.
I don’t want my country back, I want my country forward- for all.

Abbyrose86
Member

Bito…INDEED! Seriously WHAT have they won???

These people should be mindful of the old saying…”Careful what you wish for…you might just get it!”…

I’m reminded of the woman who fights to ‘win’ back her cheating husband…seriously…what did she win? BUT A Liar and a cheat…she won the booby prize!

bito
Member

Indeed back Abby, when one cuts taxes to road repairs or sewer repairs, one gets potholes and car repair bills and my plumbing is now DIY, but “hey, I paid less taxes and I love working at the sewer plant on weekends for no pay to keep my toilet flushing. Next week, I’m doing road repair and the water purification plant. Can’t wait till I get a chance at police work!”

Abbyrose86
Member

Adlib, great piece…the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party does seem an apt analogy for the insanity that passes for political discourse these days.

I swear, I feel like I’m living in some sort of alternate universe myself, lately. I can relate to Alice!!!

ADONAI
Member

Good piece AdLib. I THINK I have a pretty good idea where you’re coming from with this. Excuse me if I misinterpret it. And if it seems like I’m just shitting all over everything you said, please understand that is what I was built to do. Blame the programming.

I absolutely love the “American people as referees” analogy. It’s almost perfect. I see some similarities to a coach only concerned with winning too. Your “best player” goes against you, breaks the rules, and you not only DON’T dismiss him from the team, you make him a starter again the very next game! Incumbency rates are ridiculous in this democracy.

But comparing sports and politics is kinda trivial. Steroids aren’t evil. They help millions of people. If yo aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying hard enough. Baseball is just a game(with a rich history of cheating). Entertainment. I think so many people forget that. Myself included. Sports is just entertainment. We take it far too seriously far too often but it’s just a kid’s game being played by adults. And we pay them well to entertain us.

Politics shouldn’t be about that. Like sports, it very much is about winning and losing but not for a meaningless trophy. Democracy is an active thing. Always moving. It’s not the Olympics where we just get geared up every 4 years for an exhibition.

I would have no problem with Democrats using the Republican’s tactics. Dropping to their level. Doing what they have to do to win. But I’m a consequentialist. I believe the ends justify the means. You do what you have to do. The only time the mass of people become outraged is when their sports are taken away from them(or their team wins/loses a championship). Maybe we just have to wait til people’s democracy is taken away from them.

Also, the first people to support violent overthrow of a corrupt American government were the people who founded this government. If we’ve corrupted the system then any legislation sent through it will not bear any fruit. Of course, I don’t believe it’s fallen that far. Somehow, someway, “Obamacare” got through. It wasn’t perfect but it’s an imperfect system. Point is that it worked. We don’t just need more voters but we need current voters to take their duty a little more seriously. And vigilance. We’re like blind umpires(bringing it back around!). And I think we’ll do o.k. Politics were pretty damn fierce in the 60’s too. But we persevered.