Saturday, January 26, 2008

Meditations on Politics and Reality

Barack Obama won South Carolina today. As of yet, I'm still undecided on who to vote for in the February 5 primary. Essentially, both candidates have virtually the same policy prescriptions, evidenced by the lack of substantial differences at the Democratic debate.

So, what really is the difference between them? It is, on the surface, as the pundits like to say, a difference of demographics. You know, the whole young voter/women voter/new voter/last minute voter thing.

At the core of it, as we all know the cliche, is the challenge of differentiating between Hope vs. Experience. The New York Time choose experience. I don't blame them, nor do I enthusiastically support them.

Race and gender matter.

What does Hillary represent? Her being a woman, that America can join the modern world and become again a respected member of the international community. Many countries have had women executives, even Islamic ones. America hasn't, but having one shows that we are on planet earth, we aren't an evil imperialist that no one can relate to. America is back, ready to be a moral country and not have entire continents hate us.

What will Obama demonstrate? He will be the quintessential figure of American exceptionalism. He will show that America is SUCH a country that, for the first time in human history, the greatest power on earth will be led by a man of a racial minority, a minority that used to be enslaved, and still is to some degree. His candidacy is trying to put the critics, the cynics, and the doubters to shame. He will show that, unlike everyone else on earth, we are TRULY a people who look at a person on their merit, not on their race or religion. The world is a fundamentally different place. Politics is going to operate at a higher level. Through out the rule book.

Are we a pragmatic people or an idealistic people? Is the American experiment just a farce, or is it the supreme culmination and conclusion of millennia of political thought, convulsion, change, ultimately leading to timeless greatness?

Throughout the night, the crowd erupted in chants of "We Want Change" and "Obama, Obama," "Race does not matter" and "Yes We Can."

We are ultimately human beings, however. Obama's victory, rather than transcending race, ultimately involves it. This article in Newsweek mentions the elephant in the room: Latino Voters. While white Democrats may be willing to look past race, Hispanics will operate on a different wavelength. Black voters, as soon as it is reasonable, will vote for one of their own.

Seriously, that is truly what this is about. For if we can't transcend race even in a campaign that is entirely based on transcending old divides, then how can we govern a divided America?

That's where pragmatism kicks in. Hillary is tired. She listens to consultants. She takes money from lobbyists. She uses Bill to attack Obama, and snipes at a well meaning comment on Reagan. It's politics as usual. We've been wanting to move past that, but yet it STILL works. The human animal is not fundamentally different from 10 years ago.

And that is our problem.

I want Obama quite badly. I am moved by his vision of America, and tired of Clinton (to say nothing of the Republicans). But ultimately, he has not come out with the bold policy initiatives, and is yet to convince most Americans that his vision of America is truly possible. We can move past Bush and correct his errors. But to TRULY transcend the Bush era is not that easy.

And so, moving beyond politics, the clash between idealism and pragmatism is always there.

I was inspired by the microfinance movement, but the movement is already approaching saturation while billions go hungry tonight.

I was inspired by the end of poverty, but IQ regressions on GDP are as robust as ever.

I was inspired by the seduction industry that men can become successful with women, and still truly respect and honor them. But I see too many broken hearts and disillusioned and unhappy players.

I thought that African independence will lead to a new era of prosperity and cooperation for them. Instead we have Rwanda and Darfur.

I thought that we could bring democracy to Iraq. I thought wrong.
Republicans still think we can. They are foolish.
Democrats think that leaving will solve the problems. Democrats don't want to face the reality of having the third genocide of the 21st century on their hands.

I thought girls would go for the nice guy like they say they want. Months of no play while playing that strategy say otherwise. Switching the strategy to cold and emotionally distant and OMG the girls are now giving IOI's. Wow!

I thought that reason and logic can bring people over to secular humanism, and we can get rid of divisive religion. Unfortunately, we are hardwired for God, and we define ourselves by our hatred of others.

I thought I could convince people to become vegetarians. But I didn't realize that people are phenomenally talented at not thinking about the suffering of others if it is in ones self interest.

When I traveled to South East Asia I thought I could convince a prostitute to forsake her unhappy life and make a decent living by getting educated. The lure of fancy cellphones and a lazy lifestyle begged to differ.

I thought capitalism was supposed to give power to the rational consumer. Madison Avenue and the field of neuro marketing do not agree.

Don't take this as complaining. Everyone goes through this. Bright eyed and idealistic and young, we think we can change the world. That everyone can get along. That man is fundamentally decent.

But we're not. As I am writing this, little girls are getting raped, killed, getting their genitals mutilated, enslaved, and humiliated. And there is nothing I can do about it. God stands by. Children are dying from preventable disease. Man and God stand by.

Now, at this point, people have a choice. This is a generalization, but it falls into three categories:

1) Begin to ignore the world. Retreat into the ivory tower or the peaceful suburbs. Assume that things can get better. That all we have to do is elect a candidate that promises change. Use your concern for the world and denigration of the "system" to gain pseudo-status in intellectual circles. Use political correctness to guard a foolish world view.


1a) Start a revolution implementing your radical ideas. The revolution stutters with the advent of reality, and dictatorship sets in. Either you remain oblivious to the outside world and continue to fail or eventually come to your senses.

2) Accept the world as it is, and say: too bad. I'm going to live for myself, and to hell with the rest of the world and the poor. I don't care about them.

3) You know, there are problems in the world, but it's part of God's plan. Look inward. Do your duty, find peace, find transcendence, and the world is just as illusion anyway. It doesn't matter in the long run.

I raise my fist in defiance. I will NOT remain oblivious to the horror of the world, and yet I will not work towards a solution that will ultimately fail.

Instead, I will put my faith in the machine .

What has religion done for us? It has found a way to explain the word. Why do the planets revolve around the sun? God did it. How do you explain the miracle of life? God did it. Why do bad things happen to good people? God is mysterious. Why do babies die terrible, painful deaths? God is punishing them for past sins. Why do we exist?
How should I live my life knowing that death will take away everything that I have worked for and loved? Jesus Christ is your Lord and savior.

Tough questions that religion tries to answer. But every day we find out more and more that religion doesn't explain everything. And yet, we remain stuck with a terrible world and terrible people, and a lack of purpose in our lives.

Eastern philosophy has it right. Ego and desire is really what promotes human suffering. We should rise above it.

But why should the culmination of life be rising above our genetic desires and propensities? Is the purpose of life truly just to discard life and deny existence?

Instead of God, I look towards machine. I look towards a world and a universe without individuals. Without desire. Without STATUS. Without war and pain. But ultimately, it is a world without man. Because while we are man, we will be a species looking to maximize our fitness, NOT a species looking for greatness.

We will become one, all plugged into the same giant supercomputer universe, with our streams of consciousness merging into a giant consciousness, plugging away at the universe and existence at a thought process level unimaginable to the smartest being in the universe.

And then there was light.


P.S. That still doesn't resolve the question of Barack or Hillary.

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