Populism is what passes for citizenship among those who don’t pay much attention. It is, to actual democracy, what vinyl is to leather—too smooth to be real.
Joe Klein, Time, August 3, 2015
Klein was referring to toxic populism born of the “populist showbiz lane” that is apparent “In the trumped-up train-wreck politics of the 2016 presidential campaign…”
Naturally, sound bites are not the same as true north (and yes, I do tend to like quotes). Even a compass heading is not the same as a true-north heading (that pesky angle of declination has to be accounted for). And it has to be noted that populist swell is not always toxic and that whether it is vinyl or leather, we might want to know its past, present, and future sources, influences, and outcomes. But, having covered at least some of the disclaimers…
All this populist noise, from the talking heads both outside and inside of us, is often just that—all that noise.
Noise can be fun—sort of like finding some kind of Waldo in the midst of a collage of chatter. But the resultant images can be resting on a poorly engineered foundation, even while those images are wowing us, like a house that shows well, but will collapse around us way too soon to actually purchase—if one inspects it closely.
What does one inspect closely if one is looking for well-being Waldo, instead of rich Waldo or famous Waldo or influential Waldo or shows-well Waldo, etc.?
Not the populist noise—not noise at all?
Portals allowing free-movement back and forth from noise to quiet are not found by inspecting or erecting walls around us. We’re looking for those passageways, methinks, ways in and out. And yes, sometimes a wall can masquerade as a door and vice versa. That’s part of the difficulty—and the need for not-noise.
However, stuff can seem so much more important than space when packing to go somewhere, except when there’s not enough space for the stuff. Finding more space for stuff is still a focus on stuff. But well-being, the ability of Purgatorians to traverse through and out of Purgatorio and back if they want (maybe then they’re no longer Purgatorians), is not born from fixing Purgatorio, it is born from finding passageways. It is born from getting still so the noise does not blind us to the quiet—the emptiness. It is there in the quiet from the chatter inside and out that passageways will be found or arise.
The politics of noise is simply noise. Good politics come about when pointing out substantive issues founded in the stillness. And that’s because the stillness, while changing, is always the best foundation and is always available. It seems to me we have yet to really realize stuff, however attractive, is not always available.
So what Waldo are we really looking for? It’s not really apparent in the noise. It will be in the quiet.