Sunday, November 8, 2009
The most fundamental problem with politics today
Some say the trouble with politics is that it has been corrupted by moneyed interests. Others that the other side has gotten too powerful through lies and deception--the right says this about the left, the left about the right.
But there's a deeper problem: society has gotten more complex than at any time in the past, as have the issues facing us--and this complexity is too much for the average human mind. Over half the human race isn't up to the task.
This is nobody's fault. Intelligence is expensive, metabolically speaking. You learn this if you get scuba diver training. Your body pumps an incredible volume of blood through your head in order to feed all those brain cells. Every animal's metabolism represents a compromise between effectiveness and efficiency--that is, we're only as smart as we needed to be 50,000 years ago--otherwise, extra smarts would have added too much need for high protein food.
So...how smart did we need to be? Smarter than other animals. We had that. And in our recent evolution (over the last million years or so) our ancestors got quite a bit smarter. Then we stopped getting smarter, a long time before we developed agriculture and the rest of civilization.
We reached a balance point between what it took to feed our brains and what our brains could do for us.
At that point we were smart enough to become masters of our primitive world--to know what to eat, what to not eat, what the threats were, what the opportunities were...how to make our way through that world.
The problem is that that world doesn't much resemble this one. It wasn't simple, to be sure. Look at what Kalahari Bushmen living traditionally had to know--such as how to find water in a desertlike landscape. But it was an environment someone with an IQ of 100 could master.
So there's over half the population, in over their heads. Not so bad when things are going well, as they were in the 50s (if you were white at least). But as things have gotten progressively worse for this group over the last 30 years or more, this group has dimly realized that rising tides didn't lift their boats.
They want hope. They want answers they can understand. They want revenge on whoever did this to them. They want to feel something besides helpless and futureless.
And--especially in times of stress--they want leaders who look like them and talk like them.
This opens the door to demagogues. They make people feel like they do understand the situation, and that they can do something about it.
So what do you say? That they're incapable of understanding the situation, and they're helpless? That dog's not gonna hunt.
So we're stuck. Maybe Slipknot is right..."All hope is gone."