“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.” Mark Twain
There is much left unsaid in that quote but somehow it captures my feelings as we approach the election. It may be our common Missouri birth and small town beginnings. It may be reflected in our escape from Missouri early in life to more cultured society but the basic similarity as I see it is in our mutual distrust of collective decisions in this country although it took me a while to get there.
By themselves, my fellow Americans seemed quite capable of making good decisions for themselves, their families and to a more limited degree, their neighborhood. But today, more and more of those decisions are made far away by people I don’t know, don’t much respect and who don’t seem to care about what I think. I’m talking about politicians.
It seems like the questions are always about ‘those people over there’. “Those people over there’ are not like you and me. They have problems because they don’t make good decisions. They eat too much and what they eat too much of makes them fat and unhealthy. They smoke and as we all learn from watching too much TV, smoking is unhealthy. They drink- not the normal Martini before dinner and a beer watching the game. Those ‘people over there’ drink bourbon straight, 7 and 7 and tequila shooters to excess causing them to behave badly and drive drunk.
It’s always easy to demonize ‘people over there’ because they aren’t you; they aren’t your neighbor or your boss and by their very existence they threaten all you hold dear. I remember when I was young and offensively self-righteous, being quite upset over the sad state of affairs in our country. It was all because the ‘people over there’ weren’t living up to my expectations. (Back then, the nanny state was a wet dream of college professors and pinkos.) We were all dragged down because some people- meaning the ‘people over there’ just weren’t capable of making good decisions and so, for the good of the country we needed laws to make sure that they behaved. Of course I wanted to help.
I was an easy sell.
It was he right thing for all us responsible people to create laws so that the ‘people over there’ would be forced to do the right thing. Then we would have the perfect country because all the ‘people over there’ would become just like me. It needed be said that of course they would be happy once set on the right path and all those problems caused by those ‘people over there’ would stop.
It didn’t go so well. Converting the ‘people over there’ to being ‘just like me’ is problematic and actually contrary to our founding principles. It actually created new problem. Oppressing ‘the people over there’ just created dependency and massive social programs paid for by me and run by those far away politicians. It turned out that managing those unintended consequences required more programs, more taxes and an undeserved level of respect for the politicians. It was so bad that now we actually needed them- or at least that’s what they told us.
Gradually this dogooder philosophy gained traction as more and more people became convinced that we could force those ‘people over there’ to behave just like us. Slowly the momentum built up until it became the American way to make sure that ‘people over there’ behaved right. Finally, the majority had caught up with me. But something still wasn’t right because somebody back there in government discovered that I was one of those ‘people over there’ too.
This was troubling.
How could that be? I hadn’t changed. But the country had.
What used to be responsible behavior is now reckless and irresponsible. Slowly the rugged individualism of my childhood became redefined as endangering society. How could I send my kids out on a bicycle without a helmet when at any moment a meteor might fall from the sky and brain them? How could I practice Christianity when it was clearly an oppressive cult: remember the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition? How could I insist that marriage is intended to nurture children and protect women not a tax dodge to get medical benefits? Who needs a Daddy anyway: the feminists have already established that men are redundant.
It seems that ‘the people over there’ have taken control and instead of listening to me, those politicians get stronger by enlarging their scope. They want me and the people like me to become manageable just like ‘the people over there’. They tried social pressure. Now it’s on to making laws.
It’s just like when I was young although when I was young and foolish, I believed that right was on my side. I was helping everyone by getting ‘the people over there’ whipped into shape. Now, I see things as more desperate. Unless something happens to rein in the politicians who now answer to no one, What freedom remaining to me will go. People like me will be forever lost in the great mass of ‘people over there’ working without free will or self-determination to support the will of the politicians subjugating us all. I guess it’s time for me to take Mark’s advice and reform.