Thursday, May 8, 2014

Leave that stuff to the experts

Most of my life was spent in a state of deliberate ignorance.  I was totally into my career and took almost no interest in anything that wasn't relevant to it in some way. I pretty much just ignored most of what was going on around me.  All work; no play.  Boy, have I changed.

When I met my wife, in 1988, she told me one evening after a visit to her folks, "Charles, you don't need to be afraid to speak up at my parents' house; don't be afraid to speak up to Bob, he's just trying to find out how you feel about things."

And I replied, "I'm not afraid to speak up, it's just that I don't have any opinions about most of that stuff.  I just don't know enough about it to form an opinion."  My wife was like, "Well, you must have some opinion, just state it."

And I was like, "Actually, no, I don't have any opinion really, and to state an opinion, in ignorance, would just be stupid."

Most of the topics were either current news events or politics, or the hot button social issues that people in the Bible Belt obsess over. The truth was, I just didn't care about those things.  Most were complex issues, and I felt it was best to leave those things to the experts; those who were elected to make the difficult decisions on our behalf; exactly so we don't have to.  We can concern ourselves with our own personal lives, vote every couple of years, and and forget that we're part of a society.

Leave such matters to the experts:  That's an attitude that most people tend to hold today, I think.  They have so much going on in their lives, that they choose not to worry about anything that doesn't affect them immediately or directly. Anything else is for someone else to worry about, debate and decide.  Leave it with the experts, let them argue and let the politicians argue.  After all, no matter what the public says, it will be their decision in the end. Life is too short and we have so much in our lives to worry about. Why worry about something like that when, at the end of the day, only powerful money-hungry people will get a say.

I've come to believe that that attitude is wrong on several levels:

Most of all, that attitude is wrong because it represents a refusal to accept individual responsibility. It isn't easy, and it isn't comfortable, but it is the responsibility of all citizens of a representative democracy like the United States to educate themselves to the extent they are capable, and to take responsibility for their own futures; for the big long-range decisions.  That's what self-governance means.

That attitude is wrong because it represents an acceptance of the status quo.  It validates the system; a system in which the people have no real power, or interest in self-governance, but abdicate their choices, decisions and their futures to others, hopefully "wiser than we."  No one thinks of themselves as instruments of change.  In other words, it's an acceptance of impotence.  It's defeatism.  "Leave it to the experts" is the surrender of a person who admits he or she has already lost.

Look around ... where on this planet is significant lasting social change being accomplished through elections?  You want to tell me that's how change is being effected in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine/Crimea?

I'm not saying that one shouldn't vote; I encourage everyone to vote this Fall.  Just don't expect anything to change as a result.

Direct activism is effecting more change in our world than democratic elections.  And I think society will benefit from far more of it.  In the streets. Young people who can't find the time, the energy, or the interest to protest are making themselves a huge part of the problem by refusing to be part of the solution.