Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on my blog Life After Bartertown in 2013 and is a good example of where my writing was at during that time period. It is reprinted here in it’s entirety by special permission of it’s author, Nina Illingworth (me)
Imagine for a moment that you are in small room with no windows and locked in a chair designed to keep you from moving your upper body, in particular your head. You cannot break the locks and owing to confining head restraints you cannot even turn your face. There are three men in the room with you and one of them begins to explain the reason why you’ve been brought here. He tells you that there will be a brief debate period, at the end of which you will be asked to choose between a punch in the face from the man on the left, or a kick in the face from the man on the right. Confused, you ask if there are more options. He says no and casually reminds you that there are other rooms where people just like you are currently choosing between a gunshot to the stomach and a beheading. Before you can object further, both of the other men begin babbling incoherently and attempting to shout over top of each other. You don’t understand all of it, but ultimately you realize that each man wishes you to believe that his assault will be both more gentle and better for you in the long run. In turn, each man also assures you that the other is seriously trying to hurt or maybe even kill you. They both claim to have evidence of people who’ve died after choosing “the other guy”. Finally, just when you think you can take no more of the incessant droning the first man shouts “time” and instructs you to make your choice. What do you do?
If you’re observant, you will notice that I asked what you do, rather than what you would choose. This is because despite all of the language that suggests otherwise, you have not been presented with an actual choice. Regardless of which man you select, you will be struck in the face and the only variables are method of delivery and some empty promises to be gentle. Furthermore, since you are powerless to avoid the assault you really only have two options. You can make a “choice” and hope the blow doesn’t kill you, or you can simply refuse to participate. Unable to defy the men in any other way you might be inclined to suggest that this game has been rigged, that it doesn’t matter which man you select and that you will not dignify the process by making a choice.
For those of you still searching out your morning coffee, I am obviously talking about the act of voting in modern representative democracies. Although this scenario may seem dystopian and surreal, it’s designed to highlight the irrationality of choosing between multiple leaders or political parties who do not have your best interests at heart in a (more or usually, less) democratic election. In the situation above, it would make little difference to you if your friends, family and neighbors were all willing participants in the process. No amount of peer pressure or campaign advertising would be able to convince you that being struck in the face was somehow vital to the direction of an orderly society. You would not believe that it was your civic duty to be assaulted and you would openly question the sanity of those who suggested the process was somehow good for the common man.
If we can agree that choosing between candidates and parties that do not have our best interests at heart is no choice at all, the question then becomes, how can we know the intentions of those who would lead us? Unfortunately this is frightfully easy to do for anyone who can read a dictionary and understands the peculiar combination of narcissism and selfishness common to the vast majority of politicians. First let’s take a look at what politics actually is as taken from the 2010 edition of the Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary:
pol•i•tics (ˈpɒl ɪ tɪks)
n. (used with a sing. or pl. v.)
“Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state. A variety of methods is employed in politics, which include promoting its own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against adversaries.”
Now we’re cooking with a little gas. Taking all of the information presented to us we can then suggest that politics is the act of influencing people to obtain and exercise control over a community or state. It’s then not too far a leap to suggest that a politician, literally any politician is someone who is professionally engaged in the act of organized politics. In short folks, regardless of why an individual went into politics in the first place, being a politician is a job in every aspect of the word. What makes this job interesting in a representative democracy is that every few years, politicians will be “fired” and the position will be declared open. This is however also something of a lie, owing to the power of entrenched political parties and the sheer number of individuals controlled by most democratic governments, only a handful of people will be seriously considered for the job. What’s more, this small handful will be selected primarily for their ability to both adopt and sell party ideology; which in turn will be heavily influenced by whomever is paying the staggering cost of running an election campaign in such a large society. In this regard it becomes clear that a politician has two professional goals; convincing the party to support his election campaign and convincing people who vote that he’s a better choice than anyone else on the ballot. If providing the people with good governance, the rule of law or beneficial services appear anywhere on that list at all, they are clearly running far behind getting nominated and then winning an election. In summation, governance is what the politician does in the downtime between elections.
Once you understand what a politician’s real job is, it becomes fairly easy to understand that no matter why a given politician entered the field, his survival in the profession is utterly dependent on convincing two groups with often wildly divergent goals that he serves only them. This is obviously a contradiction whenever the goals of these two groups collide, and owing to the nature of the process, you can virtually guarantee that the politician is going to side with the money when the chips are down. Put yourself in the politician’s shoes for a moment; you cannot win an election if you are not on the ballot and frankly supporting the people with money tends to be far more lucrative when the music stops and you finally do lose an election. Your constituents simply can’t offer you a cushy consulting job, position on the board of directors for a large corporation, a professional (and well paid) lobbyist gig or a partnership in their law firm once you’ve “retired” from a life of politics. Furthermore, because these people paid for your election campaign, you already have an established working relationship with them by the time you’ve entered office; your constituents on the other hand are represented by a series of polls that show as many as half of them (or more; gerrymandering is fun!) didn’t even vote for you. In short, it is simply in the best interest of a politician to prioritize the party, his sponsors and winning elections ahead of providing the people with good governance.
So now you have to ask yourself some very simple questions. Looking at all of the politicians you’ve been ruled by your entire life; would you say that it’s likely the are selfish, narcissistic bastards who would do or say anything for money, power and the ability to keep winning elections? Or, would you suggest they are typically altruistic and are genuinely prepared to risk their careers by opposing the party and corporate campaign sponsors when it’s in the best interest of the people? Wanna buy a bridge?