Why I Don’t Run for Office

by Daniel Brenton on August 8, 2013

in Politics

Viper -- or Congressman. Your Choice.

    An emotionally charged Facebook discussion actually leads to a question worth answering.

Start: During a Facebook discussion about everyone’s favorite whistleblower (or traitor, or dissident, or whatever you choose to call him) Mr. Edward Snowden, one of the participants made a very provocative statement:

… the government actions may be legal, but are they just? We have a president who has contempt for the Constitution and violates it whenever he wants. Which is frequently. After due process is served in the House and Senate, I would like to see Obama do a merry jig at the end of rope. I’ll even tie the noose.

(With Obama embarrassing the United States in the eyes of the world by petulantly canceling a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, largely over the Snowden issue, support for the President in some quarters is bound to be a little weak.)

After a few other comments, I responded to this one specifically with:

… the House and Senate wouldn’t do what you describe because just about all of them should be doing the same merry jig.

Should something like that that happen, however, I would be delighted to bring the popcorn.

This level of distaste for our leaders in Washington is shared by many: a recent poll found that Congress was less popular than carnies, root canals and colonoscopies.

After this, another commenter jumped in with:

Daniel, how about you run for office instead?

Huh.

Well, first, this isn’t really a question. My first impression was that it was a “put up or shut up” statement, but the person that posed later made it obvious there no interest in public office on their part, either. But, even taking that into consideration, it’s still worthy of a response.

To be able to wade into that fray, I would have to have a network of support, and I’d probably have to be a lawyer in order to make sense of everything I’d be looking at. I would also have to have a very thick skin and an ability to operate in deeply gray areas morally, which I just can’t do, and be able to amicably work with individuals whose very presence would make my flesh crawl.

I know who I am and what my abilities are. Frankly, even if I got into the race, I would be crippled before I got out of the gate. I would have better luck wrestling with a dozen vipers in a pit of slime than I would going into state or national politics. (And probably even city politics, given that this is Las Vegas.)

The Failure of the American Experiment?

Looking at the range of politicians, of the ethical pygmies that walk the halls of power of our country, it is clear there is one qualification that I will never be able to do, which is to sell my soul to the devil.

It could be that the American Experiment is over, and it has failed. Now Russia — a nation with an utterly abysmal human rights history — has the ability at this time to claim the high moral ground in the Snowden affair. Snowden — for whatever else he may have done — has exposed what I’ve long suspected and many friends of mine have asserted, that the American Security State has no boundaries, no respect for constitutional limits, and will do whatever it pleases. The term “turn-key dictatorship” has been bandied about recently, and it has taken the drastic steps Snowden has taken — for whatever his motivations may be — to roll aside the rock of secrecy and expose these vipers that hide in its shadow for what they really are.

“The Fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our Stars …”

Quote marksPower attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it.

~ Frank Herbert

So here’s the hard part:

If we eliminate the corrupt leadership, if we remove the kingmakers that supported these miserable excuses of humanity to serve their ends, even if we craft and implement intelligent regulation to head off abuses like this in the future, will we really solve the problem?

The answer is … no.

Our propensity as a species toward the need for having power over anyone else, for our need to reject reality in order to elevate ourselves high enough that we can’t feel our own inner emptiness, and for all the other “seven deadly sins,” is the root of this. We aren’t interested in fairness. We aren’t interested in cooperation. We aren’t interested in tolerance. And we’re especially not interested in Truth.

The American Experiment was a seized opportunity to attempt to create a nation where ideals, where the innate “self-evident” rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness could be realized. And now our nation has demonstrably descended into the first shadows of plutocratic dictatorship, and there’s no where else to go. Perhaps where the first independent colony is established on the Moon there may be another opportunity like this American ideal, but not until.

One of the themes of the film 2001: a Space Odyssey is that as technology increases in sophistication, we will eventually start seeing our own nature through it. With the digital revolution, we are seeing just this: an intrusive regime, hidden behind a wall of “national security,” seeks to strip us of many basic rights in order to better serve the greed, ego, and power needs of its corporate masters.

Apollo 17 Landing SiteEven if we “clean out the rascals,” if we identify the puppet masters and take them out of power, there will be others, waiting in the wings, watching hungrily for their opportunities.

If this is all we, as a species, can expect of ourselves, then perhaps the Human Experiment has reached a dead end as well.

As in that same film, it became obvious to David Bowman, the protagonist forced to shut down a sentient computer that tried to kill him became it too human, that the human race needs to become something more.

You suggest I should run for political office?

Until the human race becomes something more … what’s the point?

Quote marksThere will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

• • •

Copyright © 2013, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.

End

Evan August 10, 2013 at 5:18 pm

The problem does not reduce to human nature. Some places are more corrupt than others (and in different ways) but human nature is the same everywhere.

My view is that the US experiment failed because it bought into the myth of individualism and forgot commonality. The US is the land of co-operation – mostly through denominations but also through legions of local associations and ‘lodges’ and much else.

It is the system that needs changing. And part of this is measure of success. Consumer junk is not the appropriate measure in my view.

Daniel Brenton August 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Evan –

I do see that I painted a rather dire picture. I don’t preclude the possibility of human beings actually working together in an amicable way, that this isn’t impossible. What I meant is that we in America are so fundamentally locked into our own selfishness that we’ll almost certainly crash and burn before we get there.

And I will say that I don’t think Americans have cornered the market on human folly. Had we not invented nuclear weaponry, someone else would have. Likewise, the U.S. has insisted on perfecting and using weaponized drones to kill in the Middle East — and appears to be creeping towards using this same technology in America as well, and now to our dismay everyone else is developing their own versions of this same technology. Once something powerful and effective is invented, it doesn’t go away — there is some flaw, be it in our nurture or our nature, where we simply can’t let go of technological advances that are clearly useful only for destruction. We didn’t stand back in horror after Hiroshima and say, “Let’s not do this any more …!” We kept building, and Russia stole the knowledge from us to do this as well, and here in the 21st Century we’re seeing rogue states like North Korea and Iran perfecting their own nuclear arsenals. I have no doubt North Korea’s leadership will use these when it is available and is sufficiently reliable.

It’s just madness.

Our population is over seven billion now, and growing unabated on large parts of the world (though, oddly, the U.S. isn’t one of them). This in itself will eventually cause diebacks at some point. And still, fundamentalist Christianity insists birth control is sinful.

Madness.

We need a big leap in what human beings are. The metaphor in the film 2001 was the intelligence behind the big Monolith changing David Bowman into the Star Child, the next step in human evolution — whose first act, in the book, was to destroy all the nuclear weapons orbiting the Earth.

I’m reminded of the chorus from the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” — “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

– Daniel

Evan August 10, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Yes it’s weird. Ever since the Berlin Wall fell the West has set about becoming what it opposed a state where security forces have wide ranging and ill-defined powers and almost no democratic accountability – and this often promoted by the cold warriors.

The Nazi’s were working on a nuclear weapon. I think it was Feynman, but it could have been one of the others, who said that what was unforgivable was that once it was obvious the war was won, they still kept working. A Christian reflecting on the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 said the modern equivalent is that we can’t not know that a nuclear weapon can be made.

World population well probably level out at 9-10 billion. Our planet can support this many people in good comfort – but not in a western lifestyle. How many people would really prefer a plasma TV to saving a village in Africa? – it is putting people in touch with things so that options are real for them that I think is what needs to happen. Depending on how you do the numbers we probably already grow enough food to feed 10 billion – it is the distribution that is the problem not the production.

I think the next leap in evolution needs to be a collective one. Seeing the value of interdependence – which includes, does not abolish, independence. This is a theme of mild difference between me and many other self development bloggers – there is a stream in self development that I regard as being the promotion of psychopaths.

I hope that enough of us learn soon (say three decades ago).

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