Baseball is no longer the most popular sport in America. But it’s not football, either. Nor is it basketball or golf or tennis.
The national sport in this country is politics. Look at social media if you don’t believe me. Almost everyone chooses a side and passionately cheers for his or her side. Team Red and Team Blue constantly clash in each new political season. There are also some minor teams which routinely lose to the major powers. And the results of these bizarre contests matter almost as little as it matters who wins the Super Bowl.
I spent 20 years working professionally in this “sport.” Before that, I had been passionate about the game as an amateur. And even after I finally got out of the political game — partly so my conscience could rest easily at night — I was still eager to argue with everybody about the game. I was eager to show others where they were wrong. I passionately begged them to adopt a rational and moral view of the game.
But I now understand just how insane that was. I finally figured out why it was a waste of my time and energy. Because I’ve finally accepted that political activism — of any kind — is just as effective as shaking my fist at the sky and screaming that it wouldn’t be right if it rained today.
Those who are deeply invested in the political system — and those who dabble in it on social media — are all the victims of a myth that we were all taught at an early age.
When we were in school — mostly government-operated schools, of course — we were taught that good citizens kept themselves informed and were active in politics. We were taught that this is the way good people change the world. We were taught that if we believed that some level of government was wrong, we had the power to speak up and convince others to change things.
We could work on campaigns. We could educate our neighbors. And the biggest part of the myth is that any boy could grow up to be president. (Later versions of the myth included girls, too.)
That myth is nothing but a big lie. It’s always been a lie.
If you want to get into politics in a serious way, you can definitely turn it into a career. If you have the skills that the system wants, you can make a good living — as I used to do — helping to craft the myths and lies that allow your rulers to control you.
If you’re slick enough — and can learn how to raise money by making promises — you can even become one of those names on a ballot. You can get yourself elected to some position of power.
But you’re not going to to fix things.
Contrary to what almost everybody believes, the good things that were going to happen would have happened without you. Yes, there are ways you can get some of the graft to come flowing toward your city or state or interest group every now and then. But you’re not going to make the world more free. You’re not going to fix the deep-seated evil which controls almost everything governments routinely do.
If you know it’s going to rain — and you don’t want to get wet — you plan for what reality is. You stay inside when you can. You carry an umbrella when you have to go outside. You might even move to a place where it doesn’t rain so much.
But what you don’t do is shake your fist at the sky. You don’t try to convince your neighbors that it shouldn’t be allowed to rain so much. You don’t pretend you can control things which you can’t control.
Groups of people act in irrational ways. A political party is nothing but a mob with a fancy label. And as English novelist Terry Pratchett famously wrote, “The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its dumbest member divided by the number of mobsters.”
You might think that’s cynical, because some very intelligent people are actually deeply involved in politics. But the smart people who think deeply about philosophy and policy are almost never the people who make the ultimate decisions in politics. The people who end up calling shots hold power because they’re rich or they can sway a big group of voters.
The people making the decisions tend to be those who understand what’s in their best interests. And they have a habit of making the mob believe that the members of the mob believe that up is down and black is white. They create realities which the masses buy into.
I’ve sat in political meetings when powerful people made insane decisions — and I’ve seen cheering crowds rabidly applaud that insanity when told this is how “our side” is going to beat “their side.”
States and countries are the ultimate mobs. They tend to see their interests in terms of power and money and their own prestige. Whatever you think is rarely important to them, regardless what the politicians might claim
The bottom line is that political parties and governments and countries are going to act in their own interests. You are not going to be able to implement your view of a moral or just world.
You might get lucky from time to time when something which you believe in — and care about — happens to be done by a political entity. But when that happens, it’s not because you caused it.
You just got lucky.
Every second of your time which is devoted to politics or political arguments is a wasted second. The only smart choice you have is to be realistic about what political reality is — and then to make plans for your own life which allow you to react to that reality.
If you can live with the theft which the current system takes from you, then ignore it as best you can, just as you would ignore the “protection money” that you might pay to mobsters. If you can find a place where the graft is less, you might want to move there. If politicians change the rules in ways that will affect you, figure out the consequences and make your choices accordingly.
I wish the world were exactly as I believe it should be. That would be a more moral and just and rational world. But that’s never going to happen, no matter what I do.
The irrational mobs are going to do what they want to do. I can live my life. I can make my choices. I can stay or leave. I can look for alternatives. I can do whatever is in my own rational best interests.
What I’m not going to do, though — not anymore — is waste my time begging you to change the political system. I’m finished with shaking my fist at the sky.