What that heck happened to having some sort of perspective on the political process? We used to have the patience to allow contentious situations to unfold, but now we’ve forgotten German philosopher Georg Hegel’s point that the interaction between a thesis and antithesis is necessary before we can come to a synthesis.
Belligerent confrontation used to be the last resort, but now it’s the first. Compromise, a once distinguished and respected art form, has suddenly become something to be despised.
And that’s the question that’s been baffling me for the past three months. Despite hours of deliberation and my willingness to take a stab at it here, I’m not so sure I’ve come up with any good answer.
I’m convinced the root of the problem lies squarely within our “instant” culture. It started with instant coffee and now it’s iPods, Tivo, smartphones, the Internet, microwave ovens, Domino’s Pizza, and Hulu. We’ve caught a collective case of the instant-gratification-impatience-for-anything-else-blues.
By contrast, Europeans consider something like fast food to be an abomination. They’ll spend hours enjoying dinner at a restaurant. As the late George Carlin would likely note, even with everything being “instant,” we never seem to have enough time.
An inability to see beyond our immediate self-interest borne of an ADHD-induced laziness also plays a huge role in this take-no-prisoners political phenomenon. And when I say “immediate,” I mean whatever we’ve been thinking for the last five minutes.
Since we seem to lack any capacity to see how something will affect us down the road, when it does bite us in the butt and cause personal pain, we immediately go into fight-or-flight syndrome.
The best example of this collective shortsightedness is the failure to foresee the scourge of plummeting home prices coupled with rising property taxes.
All kinds of sage seers warned us that would come to pass if for no other reason than the lag time involved. But the landed gentry uttered nary a peep until they finally saw it on that bi-yearly bill in black and white.
Yes! School boards and city councils that kept spending are a part of the problem, but those folks tend to see silence as assent. And it really doesn’t help matters when we suddenly go from calm to rancor with virtually no stops in between.
Then those tax-tired citizens pound their fist on the podium and shout that it should all be run like a business. But, it can’t be run like a business. Unless you’re a dictator, there’s no level of government that can be run like Apple.
Just ask Bashir Assad how well that management style worked out for him.
The American political process requires—no, it demands compromise! That’s why they call them “checks and balances.” The system is set up so that one person or one bad idea can’t take the whole thing right into the toilet.
There’s no CEO on a city council, just a mayor who occasionally gets to break a tie. Just ask Rahm Emanuel how well treating those teachers like employees worked out for him.
And lastly, we’re also falling prey to a vastly over-inflated sense of our own self-importance fueled by the advent of YouYube, blogs and websites. These days, anyone can claim they’re the only true champion of truth, justice and the American way.
Then those folks, who’ve served no real public eye apprenticeship, tend to take it far too personally when things don’t immediately go their way, and then they proceed to make the situation even worse.
So here’s the truth. When it comes to the Geneva City Council and the District 304 School Board, they’re doing pretty well. They really are making the necessary shifts away from the “municipal mindset.” Have they hit that high note yet? Probably not, but the pace at which they’ve dealt with some rather dynamic issues has to be commended.
Does that mean vigilance is no longer necessary? Of course not! But what it does mean is that backing off and giving the pendulum time to complete it’s swing isn’t a bad thing. My good friend and frequent radio co-host Tim Elenz likes to say, “It took 40 years to get Illinois into this mess, and it’ll take us some time to get out of it.”
And when you think about the political landscape, do we really don’t want overnight change? Do we really want our representatives to, as the Russians like to say, always go “where the wind blows?” The fact that it can’t be run like a business is one of those vaunted checks and balances.
LBJ tried to govern by Gallup polls, and he ended up quitting.
In the end, I’m not so sure I came up with any answers as much as I described the political disease and its symptoms. But maybe that’s a start and, in time …