In response to my last blog my sister Sandra commented: “How do we make a difference, Rog? How do we change our aging, dying, manipulative political system that benefits only the few and horribly manipulates the many?”
A great comment, one with no easy answer.
But worth the effort.
The whole purpose of this blog is an exchange of ideas, a hope that it can be a smelting pot of viewpoints and ideas resulting in some alloy that brings out the best.
So I’ve been thinking about what she said.
How DO we eliminate a systemic poison without killing the host, when the poison is carefully administered in doses measured to keep the body public breathing, but only barely, so the manipulative few can feed at will?
For starters I would suggest the poison is information, and it is poison only in the way it is used, not in and of itself.
There’s just so much of it now. A flood of information.
I think it’s physically, mentally impossible to absorb even fractions of what comes pouring in from TVs, billboards, radios, tweets, internet, newspapers, magazines and the hundreds of other interruptions and intrusions on each day, hour, minute.
So we filter.
We have to filter it out…this is important…it’s a red light and I’m driving…this is not important, it’s another damn commercial…that sort of thing.
And we do it at a political level too. Especially at the political level.
We’re handed a set of political beliefs from our parents, we grow into our own beliefs as we rub up against family and friends, as we experience life, and we build filters that allow in mostly what we believe.
We listen to the other side while our thoughts are on rebuttal and points of contention, not on listening.
I know this from wrestling with my own listening skills and from 19 years as a mediator, listening to people in conflict whose listening skills have broken to the point of not hearing.
Those in power count on this fractionalization. They give us talking points, not information; they mislead, misdirect, quote out of context and outright lie to persuade us they have the truth.
A slippery eel, truth.
And I find in most discussions, the less firm grasp a person has on that eel, the more passionate his or her discourse.
So we believe the talking points handed out by the talking heads, the very puppets dependent on those who benefit most from the talking points.
I listen to NPR and might catch a column from Rachel Maddow, you might listen to Fox News and Bill O’Reilly. To those you can add ad nauseam the list of talking heads, from civil to strident who pontificate on the state of the union.
The trouble is, we get very little information on which to base our decisions.
We are fed a glut of opinion.
But facts are hard to come by.
I think the majority of Americans are intelligent and capable of reasoned thought. I think the majority of those in power are very well aware of this fact and will do anything they can to eliminate real news from reaching real people.
So they’ve made ‘news’ into a sideshow, a caricature of what Edward R. Morrow, Eric Sevareid, Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Tom Brokaw and a distinguished list of others pioneered.
The BBC is about the only news agency out there now that ‘reports’ the news. I don’t think most folks listen to the BBC because it’s rather boring, unless you are interested in information. And of course there is a bias there, as there is in the most even-handed reporting. But good reporters understand and acknowledge that bias and try their best to report what they see.
It’s important to understand the bias of what we read and listen to, and incorporate that into what we can glean from the flood. The Wall Street Journal and the NY Times are iconic newspapers; the first leaning right the second, left, but they have great reporters and broad perspective. ‘The Economist’ covers global affairs from a British platform.
But how do We, the People change things?
I think we learn to listen, learn to recognize how we are being manipulated. Not an easy task, listening.
Listening when someone is talking. Listening to what is being said, what is not being said, caring about the person enough to have a conversation rather than shoving sharpened salvos of talking points into the air.
How do we do this?
By each and by day. By minute and by hour.
And the powers that be will not be happy if we choose the road less traveled and have conversations to break down barriers and stereotypes rather than buying into the hype.
I think we can do it.
Democrat, Republican, it don’t mean a thing. Conservative, Liberal…all just names to keep us distant, wary, distrustful. Most all of us really want the same things. We might look at it differently, might see different ways to get there, but that deserves a conversation, not a shouting match, not talking points.
There are a lot of issues that need be unpacked from hyperbole and it’s really up to each of us to do that.