Okay, I’m sick and tired of this meme, and you guys know that when I’m sick and tired of something, I usually go to the keyboard and start typing away. This is, after all, how Darkship Thieves was born!
As sick and tired as I am of this one, I’m in the middle of two novels (well, the first quarter of two novels) – Through Fire and Darkship Revenge — which are coming out alternating one chapter at a time. (Because they hate me.) I’ve also got The Brave And The Free patiently waiting its turn (since it’s 500 years in the future from Athena, well… it is not as urgent.) I’ve also got two novels – Shadow Gods and Witchfinder – patiently waiting mid-revision. I’ve got covers to draw. I’ve got…
I’ve got no time to write a whole novel on this, though I very much suspect it will attack as a subtheme of a novel sometime in the future.
However, let’s dispose once and for all of the meme all over conservative websites that goes something like this “the citizenry doesn’t know x” (the number of judges on the Supreme Court; the name of their local representative, the color of underwear the president prefers) — ?????? – “Game over, man, game over.”
Then there’s the slightly saner version – why only slightly saner? See first point – which a) assumes that most people only know about the country what is on Jay Walking. b) that this is a unique form of ignorance in history. c) That the republic can’t survive without precise knowledge of the founding documents and the arcana of government. The ?????? comes in where, apparently, without being able to quote verse and line of the constitution, people won’t know when things get so bad they want to throw the bums out.
Generally speaking, the devil is in the ????. Also in the lack of historical perspective. We tend to get this picture of history where “the country rose up and…” I advise you actually READ the history, or even read The Moon Is A Harsh mistress, which gives you the impression of how many people were involved in arguably the most successful revolution he world has ever seen. (TMIAHM was loosely based on the American revolution, as was my own A Few Good Men.)
I have reliable information that the people actively involved were around 3%. The sympathizers probably were around 25%. Even after the revolution more than half the people were royalists, just not engaged enough to do anything about it. And I bet you given the state of communication in those days most of the royalists were sort of royalists. They had a vague idea we’d always had a king. They had no idea what was going on, but by gum, they didn’t want their lives disrupted. IF the royal mercenaries burned their house they might become ardent patriots. Or they might turn even more to the king, because if it weren’t for those danged revolutionaries, the burning wouldn’t have happened.
THAT was our founding. That was our inception. And I bet you since then the rates of engagement, wrong headedness and “get your politics off my face, I’m getting on with life” is about the same.
Look, I care passionately about politics, partly because I lived in times when not knowing who was likely to gain power the next turn could cost you your life (a lot of people become engaged in those circumstances) and partly because I come from that sort of stock. My family has a passionate penchant to pick at philosophical scabs. They will spend hours discussing a line in the Bible, and/or the symbolical meaning of a Roman myth and/or the concept of the divine right of kings. You get three of us together, you have at least eight opinions, and we enjoy taking the universe apart, then putting it back together, metaphorically speaking. (There’s always a bunch of metaphorical planets left over, and a dimension that doesn’t fit quite right, but by and large no one notices.)
It took me a long time to figure out most people aren’t like that. It helps that I live with a husband who got engaged in politics ONLY this last year (even living with me) and that only one of my kids actively talks about politics. (Though they are both informed.)
Most people in the world care about certain things, more or less universally: food, clothing, shelter, and – secondarily – a relationship (or at least sex) and tertiarily (totally a word, shut up) making and raising fat babies (HT Sanford Begley.)
They care about things they understand to be immediate to achieving those, so work and socializing. All the rest is “boring.”
Even if they learn the constitution and our form of government in public school (At least in CO they do, including having mock congress and mock elections – so, just like the real thing) they forget it as soon as they come out, just like I forgot the atomic weight and symbols of a bunch of elements I used to have by heart so I could do chemical equations without thinking or even as I’ve forgotten most of my German: they forget it because they don’t use it.
I live with a young man who wants to be a neurosurgeon and who babbles endlessly about the brain and its structure (in case people wonder why my fiction tends to go that way these days.) Because it’s not one of my primary areas of interest, I mostly tune it out. HOWEVER so much of it is poured at me (when we walk, he provides the sound system) that some is bound to stick. One thing I remember is how he says our brain is evolutionarily designed to cut out information we don’t use very often. That’s how, if a band of hominids migrated from the shore to the prairie, the info on how to detect the approach of a sneaker wave was erased in favor of the info on how to avoid big-cat-that-eats-hominids.
The info might still be there – in fact probably is there – but it is no longer easily accessible. You have to work for it, because it got routed around and other info comes up faster. HOWEVER if something reminds you, you can usually vaguely unspool the rest.
This is what a lot of our education, including civic education, is based on. You put a lot of things into teens which they might never need, and you hope that, given need and a beginning of a hint, the rest will come up.
Unless we build some system to mine the brain and modify it and have everything accessible RIGHT THEN, people mugged on the street by some idiot talk show host (or worse, a survey) are going to give stupid answers. H*ll. I might give stupid answers myself, if you asked me something like the name of the mayor in my city I think I remember the Denver one, because he’s such a pain. Actually most of the names of representatives I remember are the ones who make me drop on the floor and foam in a fury.
This is right, because my brain is attuned to DANGER. And these people are dangerous. However, the undistinguished middle? The go alongs? Couldn’t care less.
(As a note, btw, I bet not half the women are as stupid as they seem when interviewed on something like Jay Walking. I don’t know if it applies to the men, but I suspect so, amid beer buddies. However, women view “not being too bright” as a mating strategy. This is because it appeals to men’s protective instincts. Being an Odd, I never played that game. BUT I went to an all girls school, so I saw these women in the presence of males and not.)
Most people in America – for now – are living their lives, minding their own business, trying to survive, a task made more difficult by run away (if officially invisible) inflation, run away college fees, mounting taxes and stupid regulations AND the difficulty of finding and keeping jobs.
These are their primary concerns. Do all of them realize these are caused by politicians? No. I’d bet at least half think “it’s just one of those things” and it’s a cycle. Some might even think it’s caused by Global Warming or some other thing they heard a lot about but have no idea how it works (this is how we get the idea that Global Warming causes earthquakes.)
You’re not going to change that. You can’t. Most people can’t care less about politics, provided it doesn’t get in their faces and scream. It’s how human beings are and it might be a very good thing.
Those of us who care about politics tend to get into odd theories, and one or the other of them can become a fad. More trouble has been caused by theories in the world than by all the people who don’t care and go along doing other stuff.
The problem we have right now is the confusing of politics with social clubs. A lot of this has always happened. Hereditary democrats who don’t believe anything the democrats are promising vote democrat because their local Ward people met their immigrant grandfather coming off the boat and helped. So, in gratitude, they keep voting democrat.
But it is worse now, because there are a lot fewer other (local) clubs and sports are less … uh… fewer people care about sports. So people identify with a party in the same way that people would identify with a sports fandom. They vote democrat because their neighbors do. Other people do it was a status thing “All of my industry votes democrat. It’s what smart people do.”
As I said, this has always happened, but it’s become more so as the mass media – note I used all democrat above. There’s a reason – has worked very hard to foster this kind of clubbish partisanship. (Including reporting everything stupid a republican says and keeping mum about things like Guam tipping over and/or having to pass the law to find what’s in it.)
The mass media is a massive problem. (But one that’s being dealt with by tech, which is why the darlings have gotten even more shrill.) The people who don’t know much about politics and care even less? They’re just human beings.
Frankly, what makes America special is how many people showed up at Tea Parties: how many normal, everyday, work-a-day people got that concerned about runaway spending.
Those people are still there. Those people still care. They’re awake. They care. They’re waiting.
Pray. Pray very constantly that the crash isn’t bad enough to wake the rest of the people. PRAY that there is never a state of affairs where your survival depends on almost everyone knowing the constitution and being able to tell you if they’re for or against each amendment.
Because that will mean a state of unimaginable chaos and fear and possibly a tri-or-four part civil war.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope it’s never required that the majority of the people be THAT well informed.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit Readers, and thank you to Glenn for the link.