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Why Your Opinion Is Not As Right On As My Opinion

A rant by Vern Clinton

We all get emails that tout some article or book or video that will supposedly turn our opinions about the world and political or moral reality around to the sender’s point of view.  These usually do a pretty good job of presenting the sender’s picture of the world as they see it.

I recently got such a recommendation for a book titled “How Capitalism Will Save Us”.  It was thick and I may be inferring too much but assume that it is a treatise on how laissez faire is the answer to most of our economic woes as opposed to government regulations.  I’m sure it makes a lot of logical sense.  I remember “Atlas Shrugged” as making a lot of logical sense to me when I was younger–as well as Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’.  It was heady stuff to believe that enlightened self interest would not only be good for oneself, but would be good for everyone. I have a different take on a lot of that now, but that’s not the subject of this rant.  It just sets the stage.

MY opinion on matters starts here.  If it jibes with your views you will think it ‘right on’ and if it doesn’t you will think it is ‘wrong headed’.  That’s the way we all think–how well does the concept presented fit MY pre-conceived view of MY world?

What drives our society, our economic system, our politics and our interpersonal relationships is not enlightened self interest or logical adherence to well documented economic theory but rather is a simpler version–our idea of self interest.  All of our political systems are driven by self interest.  More simply: “How does anything affect ME and MY interests?

If I’m a ditch digger how will it affect my life and my family?  If I’m a teacher how will it affect my teaching and my family?  If I’m a salesman how will it affect my prospects and hence my success in sales and my family?  If I’m a parent, wealthy entrepreneur, homeless person, out of a job, politician, etc, how will it affect my world?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s human nature.

When a person has a problem and doesn’t see a way out, they want to find a cause for it, a reason why their efforts at taking care of themselves and their family are not working.  After all, in their eyes they have done their best and have worked and sacrificed to fulfill their obligations so they want to blame  the problem on someone or some wrong-headedness in others.  They need a scapegoat and seldom consider that they may, themselves, be to blame.

So take 350 million people representing thousands of ‘groups’ allied by various common interests and you have our political will.  There is no real world unifying political concept that we will all adhere to.  In its simplest form it is “How Does Anything Affect Me?” and “How Can I Influence the Powers that Be to Make It Better for Me?”

Without turning this into a impossibly long rant here’s how I see the result (and how it affects ME).

First Politically:  Our legislators are driven by wanting to keep their jobs.  That means assessing the temperament of their constituents and pandering to whatever they believe  regardless of any consideration of whether or not their desires are consistent with a logical (by my standards) concept.  If the politician satisfies his constituents he gets elected.  The politician’s election is also dependent on his contributors who provide him with the funds to influence the voters and convince them that he will be the best choice for their interests.  Mostly the funds are used to propagandize the constituents rather than inform them or educate them.  Very often demagoguery is the simplest and most effective way to win the constituent’s trust.

Looking at this from the top (the source of funding) which is mostly big business in its various forms, self interest is getting politicians elected who are sympathetic to those interests.  Again, propaganda and demagoguery are very effective.

And why is propaganda and demagoguery chosen instead of honest information?  That’s too obvious to comment on.  (But I will).  People are incredibly stupid when it comes to propaganda and demagoguery.  Get it in the Newspaper, on the TV, in a Blog or in the mouth of a celebrity and the most absurd concepts gain traction.

Now look at it from the other end — the bottom.  Here are the groups.  Small business men, laborers, blue collar workers, professional, doctors, lawyers, welfare workers, salesmen, Latinos, blacks, whites, Asians, mothers, unemployed, CEOs, janitors, wealthy, welfare recipients, old, young, etc ad infinitum.  Each group has an agenda, each group changes its goals and its constituency with changing times and with a changing economic and political climate.

A group that feels in distress is angry and looking for a scapegoat.  They will vote against the establishment, whatever that is, because they feel change is to their advantage.  A group that feels well taken care of will vote for the establishment for the same reason.

Our president was elected because so many of the groups were angry at what was happening during the previous president’s tenure.  Two years later a lot of those people were angry because they still hadn’t gotten theirs yet so they voted against their previous choice.  In two years we don’t know yet who the angrys will vote for and who will be angry, or why anyway.  So the politicians will continue to spend their time on vilifying the other guy so they will not have to take the blame for whatever goes wrong, thus endangering their chances of re-election.

The point is that in this dynamic there is no political concept like Capitalism, Socialism, Laissez Faire, Theocracy, Facism, Oligarchy, or Benign Neglect that will ‘Save us’.  Concepts and theory are only influential if people buy into them and people won’t buy into anything that doesn’t fit their concept of reality.  (Look at concepts like global warming.  Do we believe the scientists or our politicians or the blogs?  And Evolution and Intelligent Design?  Do we believe those who claim to know the mind of God, or those who claim to understand the physical world?  What is it we really WANT to believe?)

Education and transparency in all matters is the only trend I see that may, over time–a lot of time–save us.  Meanwhile we need to do what we can do with each of us trying to find a way to survive, to hold our leaders to account and to insist on transparency.  Fight for legislation that demands transparency so that we can see what’s really happening.  Then, hopefully, we may begin to see what is really happening in our world.  Then maybe we’ll see where our myriad self-interests coincide.

That’s is, of course, MY opinion.