As We See It: Democracy on the March Edition

On Being a Human

Several weeks ago we ran a post entitled, On Being a Man. It detailed a list of things we felt helped define what being a man in today’s culture is about. In one of the comments, our friend Mary from Knock Knock asked us to consider a similar, if broader, question – what defines being a human?

Over the centuries, many people much smarter than the Poobah have pondered this question. There have been thousands of essays, books, articles, and studies, all in search of an answer to the question. Many of them, we’re quite sure, were well-researched and thought out, while others, we’re also quite sure, were swill. Loyal readers may have noticed that well-researched and thought out treatises are not the Poobah’s usual style. Better to wing it and do what we do best – pontificate.

So here’s what we think:

There are essentially three things every human – or for that matter, mammal – needs: air, food, and water. Many people also throw in shelter, but we maintain that given a gentle enough climate a human could do without it.

Besides, shelter brings with it many of the things that needlessly complicate human existence. You build a hut and the first thing that happens is you want new drapes to match the dirt floor. From there it’s a short leap to working 80 hours a week to pay the mortgage on the hut, finance your iPod, and pay monthly payments for an “essential” SUV that gets 5 mpg. We are, after all, human and that’s what we refer to as human nature.

So what else makes us uniquely human?

Language? Nope, lots of animals can communicate.

Opposable thumbs? Sorta, but some apes have pretty handy thumbs, so we’re not buying it. Besides, even we can live without a thumb. Just ask soomeone who had their’s blown off in Iraq.

Greater power of thought? Well, the 5 mpg SUV shoots that one down. You don’t see dolphins driving one do you?

A great many people would argue that “faith” is an essential. We have to concede that it’s important, but if it were essential, how do you explain deep cynics who survive quite nicely? But faith did send us down a trail that held some promise.

What about “will”?

You can’t get the first three human qualities without it. If you lacked will, you’d sit and starve or die from hunger. You could even decide to deprive yourself of air and die. If you believe that some other quality is necessary, how would you obtain it without the will to do so? Even a PB&J sandwich is worthless, though still tasty, without the will to eat it.

If you believe that faith is all important, an honest person would have to concede that without the will to believe, faith is impossible. Will is what leads some people to believe in a God while it is the same quality that leads others to believe there is no such thing. We choose to believe what we want to believe and do what we want to do solely because we possess the will to make that choice.

Will is also what allows us to survive. Even people who are adequately fed and watered have to possess a will to live. Many a person has simply willed themselves dead and it became so. Many other people made the opposite choice and in many cases beat the odds and continued to shuffle around on this mortal coil.

So here’s the punchline. If we have this essential quality in all of us, why is it we make such stupid choices with it? Why do we willingly allow people to starve or be mistreated? Why do we willingly let injustice and greed drive our lives? Why do we willingly destroy the planet – which coincidentally provides the air, water, and food we all need? Why do we willingly elect all sorts of charlatans, grifters, and imbeciles to make some of our decisions for us? And more importantly, when we see the those leaders for what they are, why do we make the willful decision to do nothing about them?

So in the end, we have an answer of sorts. You have to have food, air, water, and will to be a human. But that last thing we all have – the will – only provides more questions and almost never provides a clear answer.

Funny how that works out, isn’t it?

You Get Trust the Old Fashioned Way…You Earn It

It’s another day and there’s another charm offensive from the Ba-Bush-Ka. Today’s topic, wiretapping.

It seems he’s a near-permanent fixture on television these days as he offers up literally dozens of defenses for things he has already done or appears to be looking to do in the future. He is constantly on, talking to his citizens as if they were school children fresh off the short bus. His explanations are often rambling, confused, or downright wrong and a surprising number require repair by a crack team of PR spinners who dutifully explain, repeatedly, that the President really didn’t mean to say what he said, but something totally different.

When watching the actions of his supporters, it’s hard to tell just why they put up with it. They dote on his every word and find themselves joining the spinners on the PR tilt-a-whirl. For them, no mistake is ever quite a mistake, no gaffe quite gaffey enough to be heeded. The issues, mistakes, and miscues are always labeled vicious twistings of the mainstream media. They’re mudslinging smears. The transcript of the press conference lied and the (insert name of the topic du jour here) is really a win instead of a colossal fiasco.

Their advice, drink the Kool-Aid – politics is a hot and sweaty business and you need to cool off.

Giving the Prez the benefit of the doubt – and we admit that’s pretty damned hard sometimes – why are the constant justifications necessary? It seems impossible to us that a single person could come up with so many unpopular or inept ideas and proposals. The law of averages would suggest that at least some of the time he would be able to pick something we could all, as a nation, get behind. Yet he has the uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and anger roughly half of the country on any given day. We can think of no other President in recent memory who was so good as pissing off people so often.

Does it not dawn on him and his loyal followers that if half – or in some cases more – of the country is questioning him, that the questioners are not going to be satisfied with a little speechifying, some mud slinging, or a rapidly spinning Ferris wheel of PR?

His mantra is “trust me”. Yet he seems to have no clue as to why people don’t. Here are some examples:

One moment he says the US does not engage in wiretapping its citizens. Period. A few weeks later the story is that not only do we wiretap them, but we’ve been doing it for a long time, the Patriot Act that was supposed to address this issue is an inadequate yet must-have tool, and the legal system set up to deal with wiretaps is OK to bypass whenever he deems it necessary – contrary to what a significant number of legal scholars, Senators and Congressmen, and more the than half the population thinks.

But warrantless wiretapping is a complex issue. Let’s take something like coal mine safety. Coal mine safety is one of those things we should all be able to get behind, right?

When the two sets of miners died in West Virginia, Dub was all over it. We’ll investigate! We’ll get to the bottom of this and fix the problem! I am the man of action!

On Monday, two of the administration’s mine safety experts testified before in a Senate hearing for one hour. When asked by the Republican Chairman, Arlen Specter, to stay a few minutes for followup questions the experts said they had “pressing business” and left the hearing. Ineptitude or imperial hubris – we report, you decide.

Dub, we know you want us to “trust” you – and we want to, really – but here’s the thing, with a track record like yours NOBODY should trust you, opponents and supporters alike. To do so would be the height of irresponsibility and we know how you hold personal responsibility in such high esteem. Your feet must be held against the fire because you seem incapable of doing anything without a scorched sole.

So we’ll make you a deal. When you start to make solid proposals that don’t require so much spin that we feel like a cow caught in a hurricane, we’ll trust you. When you develop a track record of carrying through without screwing up, we’ll trust you. When we have some reason to suspect you will succeed where you so often have failed before, we’ll trust you. Until then, we won’t trust you any farther than we can throw the White House.