Why I Hate Politics

When I was a child, I played as a child, etc. And when, as a child, we played sports, I was often picked near the bottom. (Though depending on the crowd; I didn’t really find my sport until I took up karate.) But there was one characteristic in which I excelled: I could be relied on to tell the truth.

If a ball was in or out, if a foul occurred, I could be counted on to give an honest appraisal regardless of what the implications were for my team. This taught me a lot about people. A scenario like so:

Their Team: “That was out!”
My Team: “That was in!”
Me: “No, it was out.”
Their Team: “You see, your own guy says it was out!”

would be followed with a scenario like so:

Their Team: “That was out!”
My Team: “That was in!”
Me: “Yep, it was in!”
Their Team: “Well, sure, you’d say that!”

Behavior like this probably put me off team sports forever. It also taught me that integrity is for one’s self; it’s not something people in the real world believe in.

I didn’t learn this lesson quickly. It was probably when I threw my first karate tournament that it really hit home.

Martial arts are a great thing, like the Indian Pow-Wow, one of the things they teach you is that life isn’t fair, and that politics count for a lot. Your job, really, is to rise above that. Rising above unfairness, and not exploiting it when it cuts in your favor, is what you’re there to learn.

I should say that’s what our school, and a few others, taught. We won tons of trophies, but God help you if you screwed up and won because the judges didn’t know any better. That trophy would not be going up in the dojo, and you’d have to do some penance for trying pull crap like that. I got one of the worst scoldings of my life when I took second in one kumite (sparring match), not really because I hadn’t taken first, but because I didn’t perform as I should have.

But the martial arts is filled with the biggest jackasses this side of–well, actually, I’m not sure of any comparable environment where being able to beat someone up is a big part of one’s social status. And since it’s all up in the air, it’s all about acting tough.

And so it goes that there is a ton of politics in the martial arts world. And in one tournament, an offhand humorous remark (made by me) resulted in a shrimpy blackbelt (why are they always short?) throwing a temper tantrum and pulling his fighter out of the tournament.

And he did it by deliberately misunderstanding what I said and assuming the moral high ground.

His guy was, of course, losing.

But this is the ultimate effect of politics: One is no longer playing the game. I mean, there is a game being played, but it’s a nasty, trivial, shrewish game, and not the game one pretends to be playing.

I wanted to play baseball or football, not “who can piss and moan the most about the rules”.

As a result, I’ve never followed politics very closely. What a huge waste of time and energy. They’re pretending to play “Let’s Run The Country” but what they’re really playing is “Get The Other Guys”.

And so, the more interesting game, the one that really tasks us, never gets played.

The other thing that happens is that communication becomes impossible. Look at the situation in Iraq. One side is convinced that it’s evidence of evil actions done by evil people. No good can come of it. You can’t say anything good about Iraq without immediately being identified as “being on the other team”. Therefore, anything you say is suspect.

You can see the same thing among, say, certain hard-core Christians. If you’re not a Christian (or not their kind of Christian), you’re “One Of Them”. You can no longer be one of the good guys.

Politics can be introduced into anything, at which point, it is essentially ruined. You can see it in the workplace: People become more focussed on credit and blame than on actually producing. It’s hellish when it happens in a relationship, or God help us all, when it happens to a family with children–when the parents act more like children.

When we become men–and women–we’re supposed to put away childish things.

Fault-Proof to a Fault.

Commenter William over at Althouse, in the anthrax thread, wrote:

What was so scary about the anthrax scare was that it took just one bright individual to sabotage a basic service of civilization….The sniper nut and his young companion in the Wash-Virginia area weren’t even all that bright…There are so many moving parts, many with a zero tolerance for error, that keep civilization pumping out the goodies that it’s a wonder it all hangs together– especially when you consider how many would love to see it all fall apart….

Civilization, of course, has a very high tolerance for error, at least at this point. In other times and places, minor errors can threaten it, which is why societies enter stoic. The tolerance of error is why societies exit epicurean, as well. In other words, when your survival depends on strict behavioral codes, then the homosexuals in your culture are stoned, unless they line up and have children like the everyone else. Thievery costs a hand. Blasphemy–which is an attack on the code–results in crucifixion. And so on.

Ultimately, society becomes “safe”, and therefore soft, and ultimately is destroyed by not realizing the cost of each individual transgression against the whole. I think this is most readily apparent in Western Europe, where Islam is permitted unthinkable sins (rape, violence and even murder) because, at least at some level, nobody can actually conceive of Paris or London or Rome falling.

The various links that hold things together can be strained: The current oil bubble is an example of that. A combination of speculation, inflated dollars, and refusal to produce in the face of rising demand, causes some discomfort. Then the response comes in the form of decreased consumption, pressure to control inflation, and abandonment of seemingly cherished-beliefs-that-are-in-fact-fads (environmentalism).

Even outright evil in the form of overt attempts to destroy a civilization can be easily handled. (They can even be a “good thing”, for reasons explained later.) Even knocking down the WTC–which was timed exquisitely (however coincidentally) to wreak havoc on the economy–was ultimately a minor blip.

Although it doesn’t get reported much, the economy under most of Bush’s two terms was about as strong as it was under Clinton. (Clinton inherited a great economy and left a mess, while Bush inherited a mess and will leave a mess, but both had good–even great–times in between. And, of course, they had little to do with the successes and failures of the economy, which is why President is such a sucker job.)

Remarkable when you consider that Clinton’s term took place during a time when we didn’t consider ourselves to have any serious enemies, and Bush’s time has been a constant war.

Civilization trucks on. Fault-proof to a fault, you could say.

What kills civilization is corruption. Where the corruption begins–i.e., it is possible to have noble leaders and corrupt populous, just as it’s possible to have noble people and a corrupt leadership, Confucius notwithstanding–almost doesn’t matter. Americans have traditionally been hardasses, I think, much better people than our leaders have reflected, which is why a political career used to be so fragile.

It’s not so true any more. Because wherever the corruption starts, it ultimately spreads. If anyone ever felt any romantic attachment to any mdoern communist government at any time, all you’d have to do is point out that corruption was rampant in all of them from the get-go. Anyone could get out of the USSR with enough bribe money.

Various populations of the US have elected convicted felons to office often enough to suggest that, at some level, other concerns now trump any concerns about corruption.

Not to suggest our impending doom, or anything. Civilizations spiral downward and one can always believe that things are different now than they’ve been before.

Ironically, a direct attack on a civilization can be “helpful”. The sort of patriotism engendered by WWII and even a few weeks after 9/11 can make corruption seem treasonous–which it really is. It’s a lot harder to brook corruption when you’re sacrificing.

Then there’s the idea–codified by the left, but used by everyone long before–that truth is secondary to partisanship. Think “I’d rather be wrong with _____ than right with ______”. One this idea becomes ensconced, once it’s apparent that, at long last, there is no shame, you have a society on the way out.

Although it seems bad today, it’s probably not as bad as all that. 1jpb wrote in the treadmill thread, the French are somewhat shocked by Carla Bruni. The French! We get a homogenous view of other people thanks to the homogenous media, but really, Europe isn’t completely filled with effete, amoral pseudo-intellectuals.

But this brings me to another post, on why I hate politics.

Great Moments In Low Budget Filmmaking, #1

Bruce Campbell as an aged Elvis, teamed up with Ossie Davis as JFK, in Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep, attempting his kung-fu against a spellcasting mummy.

The beauty of Coscarelli’s flick? Despite the premise (Elvis is alive and living in the same home they put JFK, except that JFK’s been turned black somehow, and they must fight this mummy to save their fellow residents), this is really not a camp movie until the end, when the low budget catches up with them. (The final battle.)

Most of the movie is actually an examination of old age and regret, if crudely told. Possibly Ossie Davis’ greatest role, and at 85, he actually looked healthier than the heavily made up Campbell.

The copyright stinger worns that infringement on the copyright may result in the wrath of Bubba Ho-Tep.

I actually caught this in the theater when it came out. It had a two-day run 15 miles from here.

Fractured Eardrums

We watched Fracture yesterday, a film I had avoided in the theaters due to its alleged mediocrity. (It is fairly mediocre, but before you see a movie, you have to assume that it was alleged, right?)

It suffered from precisely the situation I talked about here. At one point, the music kept getting louder and louder while the dialogue kept getting quieter and quieter.

This almost never happens in the movie theater. Mix it for stereo TV, jerkwads!

The Boy’s perception is pretty keen. He noticed the movie was good while Hopkins was on, and pretty much un-engaging otherwise. The lovely Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice, Doom) is overly made-up and has no accent. Actually, it’s a fine cast, with David Strathairn and Ryan Gosling, etc. etc. etc. But it’s a by-the-numbers cat-and-mouse detective/killer story.

I realized early on the movie was in trouble because I was rooting for Hopkins. I wanted him to get away with killng Embeth Davidtz. Now, I love Embeth Davidtz, from Army of Darkness to Junebug, and from Matilda to Thi13een Ghosts (is that how you spell that stupid title?). She was in Schindler’s List for cryin’ out loud.

Hopkins kills her, and I’m still rooting for him to get away with it. He’s the shoring member that holds up the creaky mineshaft. Or something.

Anyway, director Hoblit has done better, particularly with his uneven but very touching Frequency, about a son whose radio allows him to talk to his (now dead) father. That one doesn’t really work logically, either, but it makes up for it with some great chemistry and a novel concept.

Paris Hilton Pegs The Irony Meter

McCain’s campaign ad suggesting Obama is a lightweight celebrity famous for being famous ended up pissing Paris Hilton, whose image it used (along with Britney Spears).

Paris apparently objects on the grounds that he didn’t ask permission to use her image.

Heh.

Here’s a woman who’s probably signed a deal with Lucifer to get her image out in every medium possible allegedly upset by the fact that someone, you know, put her image out there again.

I’m pretty sure it falls in the “fair use” category. He’s not suggesting you endorse him. You know, maybe he’s trying to smear Paris with associating her with Obama, didja ever think about that? Paris’ best counter-attack is probably to say she supports Obama.

Britney isn’t in the same category. She’s a has-been (with plenty of time to come back), not a never-was.