Insanity – Political and Otherwise

At the end of the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the protagonist says something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing time after time and expecting a different result.  All of us are insane at times, but what happens when more and more of us are insane at the same time?”

Recent off-year city council elections here in Cedar City reminded me of this rather forcefully.  Two of the candidates running for re-election were incumbents, and both were handily defeated – and replaced by candidates with exactly the same backgrounds, views, and general attitudes of the incumbents – and those new councilmen have absolutely no experience in municipal government. As I noted more than a year ago, the voters of Utah did essentially the same thing in replacing the then-incumbent ulrea-conservative Republican Senator with an ultra-conservative clone.  In a national politics generally, the Democrats continue to reinforce their ideology and the Republicans theirs, and in general each party is continuing to do the same thing they’ve always done with the hope of a different result.

And that different result isn’t going to happen, because increased taxes [the Democratic view]can’t cover the annual deficit, let alone the debt ; and there’s no way to cut federal programs and regulations [the Republican view] to the degree necessary to reduce massive deficits without destroying both government and the economy.  But both sides resist compromise, and continue to do the same thing… and that is truly insanity, and no one is calling them on it.

From what I can see, this is exactly what’s happening politically in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere around the world as well.

Have we reached the point in society where our illusions mean more to us than the survival of our society?  Where ideological “purity” is all, and practical compromise is a dirty filthy thing not to be mentioned anywhere?

Well… certainly various forms of purity have run rampant before, such as the Nazi effort for racial purity, the endless wars/massacres over religious/ethnic/political purity, ranging from those that plagued Europe for some 500 years, to the Chinese and Russian revolutions, to Pol Pot in Cambodia, to even the Mountain Meadows massacre in Utah.  And somehow, after all the fighting was over, and the hundreds of millions of dead bodies buried or ignored, there were still two sides left, two views conflicting, if temporarily more quietly.  Protestantism and Catholicism still exist in Europe, Ireland, and the British Isles.  The Mormon Church remains predominant in Utah, but it’s far from exclusive, and non-Mormons outnumber Mormons in Salt Lake City itself. Both China and Russia have had to come to terms with capitalism, and right wing racial hate groups still exist, if in far smaller numbers, across Europe.

Perhaps… it just might be well to recall that when “ideals” ignore reality, they all too easily become illusions.  Yet, without ideals… everything is sold to the most powerful or wealthiest.  And balancing ideals with reality is also a compromise… like life.

Insanity is not only doing the same thing time and time again and expecting the same result; it’s also failing to recognize that inflexible adherence to any ideal inevitably leads to unrest, disruption, and all too often… death and destruction… all the time while each set of true believers claims that everything would be fine – if only the other side would realize the error of their ways.


4 thoughts on “Insanity – Political and Otherwise”

  1. Sam says:

    I would imagine compromise for the greater good would be a bit too much like socialism/communism for some people.

    In fact governments are often in the invidious position that decisions that serve the greater good have a direct negative impact on people when taken while the positive impact on the greater good is much harder to define and measure especially in the short term.

    This is most apparent to me with environmental issues. Here in Australia we have a river – the Murray Darling – that services a large number of agricultural industries through several states.

    Most scientists agree that water from the river has been overallocated in the past and that unless something is done the river system will collapse sometime in the next few decades.

    The government has been pursuing a water buy back scheme to try and reduce water usage.

    A few months ago a scientific report was released that stated how much water the government would need to buy back to save the river and it caused huge outrage in the communities that depended on the river’s usage. It caused such a backlash that the government backtracked and commissioned another study as a delaying action.

    Now months later they’ve released a plan to buy back half as much water as was originally reccommended and as a result no-one’s happy. The community outrage has died down somewhat and the compromise by the government has alleviated their concerns somewhat but the scientists are adamant that the government’s plan is insufficient to get the job done.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    Compromise is a dirty word, and while not always, too often justly so. Compromise with lobbyists, payoffs, grandiose and irresponsible schemes, with putting the lipstick of pandering on the pig of power.

    _Never_ compromise with anyone that wants you to trade freedom from interference for freedom from want. You’re _supposed_ to starve and die if you’re a clueless loser, and you’re _supposed_ to have the freedom to choose to be something better, too. You’re also supposed to have the freedom to practice whatever concern and generosity your conscience requires of you, without anyone else using you to pay for _their_ conscience – or more likely, their power and patronage disguised as conscience.

    Neither socialists nor mega-corps with their own highly budgeted propaganda departments advance the human condition. Relatively small entrepreneurs, free individuals, companies that are not engaged in incestuous relationships with over-regulators…_those_ are productive. Big government or big government-entangled business are both tyrants that need to be put down.

    1. The problem with labeling is that the interest group representative that represents “your” interests may be a filthy dirty lobbyist to me, while the individuals who present my views to Congress may be equally repugnant filthy lobbyists to “you.”

      1. Nate says:

        There are an awful lot of things that are _supposed_ to be, in there. Who says that that is the way things are supposed to be? God? Government is a human construct, created by society. It can be anything that we want it to be. I agree that the society that I want to live in values freedom. But to say that things have to be a certain way reeks of the smugness of self-certitude.

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