Friday, September 19, 2008

Palin: average isn't good enough (Sam Harris)

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get. You deserve to be poor, to see the environment despoiled, to watch your children receive a fourth-rate education and to suffer as this country wages -- and loses -- both necessary and unnecessary wars.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves.

First, I don't entirely agree with the above. I think there are a lot of Americans who'd like to see intelligent, level-headed and satisfactorily qualified persons voted into office.

That being said, there's also that side to America -- the side of the majority -- which does seem to gravitate toward candidates who are "average". IMO this is because the majority feels most comfortable electing someone whom they understand and who in turn understands them. The majority is also average. They therefore want a person who truly represents average men and women, their concerns and their interests. Who better to fill that role than "someone just like themselves"? On the other hand there is and will always be a degree of distrust between the average and the elite. There's a general fear that the elite, who do not and cannot identify with the average majority, will alienate the people from their government and place the nation on a slippery slope towards totalitarianism. I think that for these reasons liberal democracies inevitably gravitate toward electing "average" persons into office.

At this point let me add that what constitutes "average" is to a greater or lesser degree relative to the age. In the age of the Founding Fathers, for instance, it was something of a fad to appeal to reason and to use your head. The average men and women of that period, therefore, endeavored to be thinkers in their respective capacities (unthinking and irrational persons were not esteemed highly). It was for this reason that average men were able to produced such marvelous intellectual achievements such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The Founding Fathers also -- somewhat justifiably -- had confidence that unthinking idiots would not be elected to represent the people.

Things aren't the same in our own day. Intellectual excellence has been pretty much relegated to the sphere of the academia (and to institutions with ties to the academia). Academics constitute but a fraction of the population; the majority -- the "average" -- are intellectually mediocre, lazy. These same people are casting their votes with "someone just like themselves". Granted, our nation isn't a direct democracy -- votes aren't taken by referendum -- but I'm not so sure this is making much of a difference.

Ken

Anonymous said...

"Intelligence has nothing to do with values, judgment, or character. I wouldn't be surprised if Adolf Hiter, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong had IQs far above average, and look at the devastation they wrought. Closer to home, look at Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Carter was inept, and Clinton was corrupt. Intelligence ranks well down my list of desiderata for a president. I prefer temperance, courage, justice, and wisdom—the four cardinal virtues of Greek antiquity. (Please don't confuse intelligence with wisdom. Intelligence is innate. Wisdom, or prudence, is a product of experience.)"

Source - http://keithburgess-jackson.typepad.com/

intensely concerned said...

The real question in the upcoming election is whether, of the two choices we have, whether choosing either, regardless of your politics, will be in any way effective enough to even begin to deal with and fix the debacle the last eight years of Bushism now present us with, particularly with the imminent fiscal meltdown on mainstreet America.

Either way, I suspect things are going to get really bad, and sooner than I'd previously thought, although McCain would likely make things far worse, and even faster, as he is obviously less intelligent than Obama. "The economy is fundamentally sound" my ass!

It may already be too late for an new executive band-aid to stop the ingestion of the ongoing dysfunctional kool-aid by "the system," though I tend to favor Obama, due to his relative youth, vigor, and apparent intellect, along with a larger Democratic majority in Congress, hopefully, as being potentially the most effective political combination to begin stanching the bloody hemmoraging of the body politic.

If McCain/Palin get into office, the resultant bipolar conflict and continuing gridlock with a majority Democratic Congress may result in a subsequent economic depression and resultant systemic collapse that will eventually end up making the devastation of the 1930's look like a lovely weekend picnic by comparison. And then, if so, watch the hell out....

"Cusp of dissolution," indeed--"The Fear" is rising...quickly.