Alternatives and belief

I had an argument, today, with someone who offers a very swell model of the belief that America’s electoral politics are some sort of fundamentally fair-ish game which democracy advocates can win, if we just perform a checklist of the same activities as always.

I am convinced that this is naive and blockheaded verging on delusional. It is not completely outside the realm of all possibility that something might turn the current political environment, and the prevailing pattern of three decades, completely upside-down between now and November. It is very, very unlikely, and it is nonsensical to assert that the same things which have failed so thoroughly can be much more successful in 2022 because they “must.”

I have drafted a book exploring this premise, but perhaps the aspect about which I have the least to offer is that which most interests a lot of individuals: “what do I do?”

I feel like this is really a wrong question. I mean, World War I was an appalling immolation of lives to no point, even by the standards of war; if you had a choice about whether or not e.g. to go fight in the battle of Verdun, doing so would be absolutely stupid even if you wanted with all your heart to win/end the war. It would be absolutely stupid regardless of whether or not someone else, besides the war leaders, was proposing an alternative contribution you could make to help win/end the war.

Yet it’s tough to beat something with nothing, and familiarity often has a nearly unshakeable hold one people’s thinking and behavior.

At the same time, people can and do embrace new ideas and beliefs, often dumb and ridiculous—from Q anon to the hype[r]loop. I guess that one can argue to some extent that the former reinforces adopters’ priors, in important ways.

I urge realism and honesty, because that seems to me essential to for any alternative to being captured by the bamboozle. This seems like the choice more people should be concerned with. Not “what can we do besides keep on muddling or give up,” but “should we proceed through honesty to where that leads us, or should we stay captured by the bamboozle.” So many people adhere like Loctite to the former question; that seems indistinguishable from being captured by the bamboozle.

I don’t know. Most people seem, to me, weirdly fatalistic and determined to deny the possibility of powerlessness. Perhaps this is essential to understanding the persistence of religion and other magical thinking across most of human history. “What happens is up to god(s)…” satisfies fatalism and aversion to responsibility, while aversion to powerlessness is satisfied with “… but by our prayers and rituals and whatnot, we might move god(s) to direct something more to our liking.”

Maybe I take something of an inverse perspective? I think that there is a lot about which an individual can usually do nothing, and lately that category seems to be expanding considerably. In terms of America’s political future, the vehicle seems to be out of control, and likely to crash; whether or not it does seems largely beyond any of us. War seems like it’s on the way to Europe. In both cases, any very happy turn of events would at this point be miraculous. Probably all that the typical individual can do is take responsibility, personally, including responsibility for honesty about what’s happening and what will or won’t be useful.

For heaven’s sake, you want a checklist of actions, stop giving money to rapacious corporate oligarchs where you can do without that. (But no, people won’t even stop eating chik-fillet, let alone stop ordering at amazon.) Engage with the government you have, more often, even and perhaps especially when there aren’t organizations telling you to do so; I won’t claim that this is very useful, but here’s a chance to say something or be silent. Learn something about news media, who is involved in it, and try figuring out places you can encourage the good work while pushing back at the stupid bullshit. Think about what you’re doing, once in a while; don’t just literally click the “like” response on some tweet which is nothing but a direct factual statement of something abhorrent to you, simply because that’s the reaction familiar and right in front of you. Call people out, especially and including putative team-allies, when they are spouting nonsense so extreme that it’s dangerous.

Also, if you do try to get heard by people in leadership roles, do not just tag their account on whatever social media platform you use. Some times that works but try something else, first. I can tell you from direct personal experience that even local elected officials may leave their whole social media account up to someone else who is not even recording or reporting most of the mentions, which tend to be unserious, and even those with something worthwhile are mostly directed to use the gd official email address.

There. I suppose this post meandered, but it may have led to some worthwhile points; perhaps some can even go into my book.

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