Few things excite human emotion more than politics. There were three things I was instructed as a youth never to discuss with people I didn't know: Sex, religion, and politics. Sex is a highly personal subject for most and religion has gradually splintered into one just as subjective. Why has politics not followed this increasing diversity of expression? While it's true that politics seems to have gone far beyond the Beaver Cleaver world I grew up in, why have its forms remained relatively static in comparison with other human concerns?
Ward and June Cleaver (not related to Eldridge) were products of a T.V. world which couldn't express the subjective concerns of the individual – only its hopes and wishes; a world where, when the T.V. was off, we were collectively building bomb shelters and most Americans were frantic from the threat of Communism instilled by those idealistic values of “our” government vs. “theirs” – a tactic employed with great success by Middle-Eastern governments and one which provides an easy hook for our own projections. For, concerns anent our own affairs are easily deflected in the face of an imagined or manufactured threat.
It reminds me of what Muhammed Ali said at the close of the Beaver Cleaver era when he was stripped of his heavyweight title by this conspiracy. When asked by a reporter why he had refused to fight in Vietnam, he replied, “Ain't no Vietnamese ever called me nigger!” and he pointed squarely at the reporter, “You my enemy!”... and so the slow, grueling evolution of individual awareness inches on.
A new Muhammed Ali is needed in the political world – a new minority in this rigged “adversarial” production – this reality show; one where the individual confronts his own real-world needs in an expanding era of diverse, global competition. This competition is yet conceived to be on the battlefield of ideals – a manufactured and inhuman masquerade for those who unwittingly commit to a structure whose priority is to maintain control. Ideals? Whose ideals? Out-dated relics whose rhetoric has changed little since the Holy Roman Empire? They still invoke God (or Allah) for their small purposes – small because their priority is the maintenance of personal power and they still have not weighed the value of human lives against that concern.
Little Alexanders and Napoleons -- little human parodies of grandiosity -- still peer from behind the grinning masks of many politicians and only our recent expanding diversity keeps them at bay. But diversity needs voices more than two sides of the same coin – a need which surely precipitated the election of Obama – yet the rhetoric continues unabated by either party. We are certainly the victims of our own gullibility when demagoguery suffices for plain talk. What does the future hold for an ever-increasingly diverse population whose choices have been limited – by their own proxy – to only two outlets? Who will image this catalyst of change that says, “You my enemy!”? One thing is sure: It won't be a Republican or a Democrat.
It is as Faust remarked to the Devil upon questioning his motivations, “Now, I perceive your worthy occupation:/ You can't achieve wholesale annihilation/ And now a retail business you've begun!” and the Devil replied: “And truly thereby nothing much is done!” This is the perspective of one who has power, but whose power seems never enough to secure its position for fear of its loss. And our politicians will concede only what they are forced to concede by such recognitions. But it is also a reminder: How much can a government do for its citizens when its primary focus is the maintenance of itself?