November 1, 2012: More Caring and Less Carrying?: Political Diversions, Part I

“…it’s only when you stop trying to make sense of things that you start seeing.”

Eugene Richards

Warning: This is the vision part. The action part follows.

It’s major election time again and as usual uninformed and low-informed opinions are appearing like locusts in a plague. Hopefully I won’t be one of those pesky beings, but then again, I’m not exactly in the business of endorsing anything but the practice of attention—to whatever degree individuals can best practice their attention. In other words, perfect understanding is not the issue simply because who amongst us has perfect understanding? However, the proliferation of uninformed and low-informed opinions is a nasty business for which we all should be aware. Think of such opinions as though they were a computer virus—if we don’t stop it, it can usurp our cognitive/emotional/behavioral operating systems.

What’s the difference between uninformed and low-informed opinions? As delicate a line as that between semi-sanity and semi-madness, methinks. Low-informed opinions (apparently Samuel Popkin from the University of California at San Diego forged the term more than twenty-years ago) may be slightly better as there seems to be some information to work with. However, as we all know, a little information can be worse than no information. Uninformed opinions however, are opinions without any real information, which doesn’t stop such a person from having an opinion. For me, choosing between listening to uninformed versus low-informed opinions is kind of like having a choice between death by hanging or death by firing squad.

All right, let’s see what we’re dealing with: Perhaps the point of the election in general is how much do we help others versus how much we let them figure it out for themselves—caring vs. carrying. So, do we help people/corporations/governments in trouble by letting them fail or do we help them by keeping them from failing? As you can see, there is a framing problem with the question: It’s called a forced-choice question where there are only two ways to go. I tend to think the issue is a bit more nuanced than just two possible outcomes.

Let’s start with common ground—in this case the notion of helping. Most of us know that adult folks/corporations/governments sometimes need help. No arguments there. So both sides of the caring versus carrying camps at least agree on helping. The problem becomes if, how, and when we help. It seems to me the two camps each argue there is mostly one main way to help: either for government to be a parent or for government to stand aside and let business (the entrepreneurial spirit) take care of the problems. I’m not saying that our “leaders” or political parties or pundits are really so strident, only that it seems to come off that we have to choose one or the other governing philosophies. Bullshit. The ground we’re talking about is as dynamic as the weather in New England. Politically speaking it seems like we’re being asked to build either a sunroom or a storm shelter.

So, without going crazy and devoting all our time to becoming experts on each and every political nuance, can we actually pick an appropriate focal point and avoid going off-point? I think so. Find the common ground (helping) and avoid trying to make sense of arguments that are not the main point in the first place (why do we have to choose one side or the other?). One of my theses here folks, is that even the dumbest of us know enough to understand how pretty a Venus Flytrap may be, but how uninviting it really is. The second thesis is that the decision-making landscape is dynamic and a one-view-is-always-best is only best for some of us, sometimes.

It may be annoying having to pay attention, but I think we’re already annoyed and in trouble. Landing on one side of an aggravation only perpetuates the aggravation. I think the point is to not let resentment disable us, to remind ourselves that we don’t keep up with everything by trying to keep up with everything, and to simplify our lives by not only learning to focus, but by learning what focal point provides the best point to take action. After all, all those political diversions don’t have to be watched or run down to be negated.

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