Friday, August 22, 2008

Authoritarianism, Politics, Ego, and You!

With all the time off from school, I've been able to catch up on much that I've missed. Most importantly, I've been able to catch up with all the news that I've missed out on being in classes and what not.

For example, the Tigers (barring an improbable comeback a la the 2007 Rockies), they are out of the playoffs. Some guy named Michael Phelps can swim pretty fast. Gas is expensive. Stephanie Meyer is apparently J.K. Rowling's heir apparent. And John McCain is old.

Props to JibJab for the SNL grab.

I've also been able to catch up on all the latest comings and goings of a certain election that's nigh unto vital. And while I've been doing my best to listen to each side's argument (while agreeing with one side in particular), I'm amazed when I listen to people talk politics.

Perhaps I should add a caveat. I'm amazed when I listen to people talk politics AROUND HERE RECENTLY.

CIP - case in point (I've begun to limit my use of words because I find them tedious). Exhibit one occurs in a class I had in school. There was one that would, with his loud voice that would talk over everyone, spout off his political ideals and thoughts, very one-sided (read: conservative republican) while disparaging the other (liberal democrat). It's almost as if he found those who didn't have his same expectations of politics to be sinners!

Exhibit 2: Wednesday night at Coldstone I overheard a man talking to a woman next to him (presumably a date) about ANWR and drilling for oil. He seemed to be reverberating what he'd heard conservatives say (it's a small portion where we want to drill, blah blah blah). But the way he said it sounded so authoritative, as if there could be no other alternatives.

Exhibit 3: A case study - a guy that I worked with had an Obama '08 sticker that he placed on his backpack. When I asked him if he was an Obama supporter, he laughed and told me he wasn't supporting anyone. I asked him why he bought the sticker. He said he wanted to see people's reactions to it. I asked him if he'd gotten any interesting ones, and he told me that he had someone tell him that he wasn't worthy to hold a temple recommend if he supported Obama. Wait...seriously? The best part was he didn't even know the was some random dude on campus.

Now this isn't about bi-partisanship, or choosing the best for our nation. This is actually about the way people discuss politics. Maybe, due to the 2006 article by stating that we were the "Reddest" city in the country, people forget that there are others who might not share their outlook. Or perhaps it's because we have a strong Republican stronghold here (check the numbers for Mitt Romney's visit to Idaho Falls last summer). Or maybe people know that Jesus votes Republican (...that should stir up some comments).

Here's my theory. Ashley's proud of me that I remember what she talks about (reference that one Klondike bar commercial..."Dan listened to his wife's story...give that man a Klondike bar). I mentioned that I think that the problem I have with these people is two-fold. One, they are regurgitating what they've heard on talk-radio and Fox News. I guess I'm a victim of that. I do that a lot, but I try to find what do I think, not what Rush, or Glenn, or Sean, or Michael (Medved), Laura (Ingrahm), or Ann (Coulter).

The second part is about ethos. Oh you didn't know? Ethos is "how the character and credibility of a speaker influence an audience to consider him to be believable. " (thank you Ashley). Basically what credibility does Joe Sixpack have when he states how small of an area that he wants to drill in ANWR is? Or about how he feels that anyone who supports Obama should have his temple recommend revoked? Or any of the republican rhetoric?

There is a flip side to ethos: Rush, Sean, Laura, Glenn, Ann, Michael, they all have ethos. While they might not be poli-sci majors, or political geniuses, they ARE credible because they are given a public medium to state their feelings and opinions, and their credibility comes through their ratings and respect from their constituents.

What's the solution? Easy. Take a page out of Covey's 7 Habits book.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Instead of spouting off Republican responses to talking books, tell me why YOU think drilling in ANWR is right. Answer my questions honestly, not with an agenda, or Republican rhetoric. Tell me why YOU think we should stay in Iraq. Or why you think that universal health care is bad. But you must establish yourself as a credible source. You must have that ethos. If you're spouting off what you've heard others say, without observing all angles, you're ignorant. But if you, after sincerely studying those issues, feel that way, more power to you. This is America. We can do what we want. We have hot dog eating contests broadcast on ESPN. We have the greatest basketball team in the world (I know it's preemptive, but it's true). We have world class swimmers that consume 12,000 calories per day. You can think how you'd like (even though you're wrong...)

And don't worry democrats, you're not off the hook. Just wait till I start posting about the DNC.


Ashley said...

As I stand in the mist of ambiguity, one thing is for sure. People MUST understand that everything has a consequence. Yeah, we have more oil in the U.S. than in the middle east, but at what cost? Do me diminish our mountains for shale? Will people look outside their window and see oil wells and plants instead of tree? What are we willing to pay or give up for some extra money in our pockets?

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading The Fountainhead and started Atlas Shrugged, and I found one statement of yours particularly interesting given my current situation: "they ARE credible because they are given a public medium to state their feelings and opinions, and their credibility comes through their ratings and respect from their constituents."

Ayn Rand would certainly disagree, and I do too. Credibility is founded on individual achievement, and not bestowed by public opinion.

I hear what you are saying, and I agree with the conclusion you seem to have reached (that empty cans rattle the most), but because they merely spout what they have heard others said (as you alluded to earlier).

Having said that, I fall into the same category having quoted Rand. Hehe. Thus one of my criticisms of objectivism as an absolute or final philosophy of life.

PS - I just rewatched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I took notes, hehe. I will have to share them with you sometime.