Friday, March 11, 2005

Some Political Analysis

I appreciate that putting a focus on social security is giving politicos, especially senatorials, an opportunity to zoom out and talk about the big picture for a change. The president is using a multi- generational time line like a big stick in an alligator's mouth, to hold the jaws open.

Leadership opportunities abound, to mix realism and futurism in interesting new ways; just stick your head down the alligator's throat and tell us what's down there, easy. Obviously big changes are afoot, and technology is racing on ahead, so the American people could use some substantive national dialog.

But the senatorials choose to stick with a strictly literalist or fundamentalist interpretation of "social security" and choose to keep the debate "by the book" i.e. as narrow as possible. For example, they argue about the long term solvency of the program internally, but fail to address the larger issue of a ballooning national debt. They duck, thereby failing to earn their high salaries.

When it comes to bombing campaigns and military action, politicos like to sound bold and full of bluster. But when the debate turns to civilian matters and the long term well-being of ordinary Americans in a peace-time economy, the boldness evaporates and everyone goes for playing it safe. Like, there's always plenty of money for war, but not much else. Funny how that is.

However, this is not a new pattern. We all know that politicos tend to follow more than lead. Another engine for change is the university, where young people with their whole lives ahead of them get some time to brainstorm about the big picture, before becoming submerged in the day-to-day.

Professors stereotypically inspire their youthful idealism, by feeding them a lot of grist for the mill. This is how professors get their reputation for being "liberals" (as in "liberal arts") -- a criminal mindset as some would have it, but historically a big part of what's helped us innovate and adapt.

But I'm not seeing a lot of interesting futurism coming from the professors these days either. They've mostly let this social security opportunity go by, aping the politicos, throwing a lot of numbers around. The deeper issues don't get discussed. A climate of caution prevails.

That leaves Hollywood and the media, including the Internet and the blogosphere (which is where you are now). I see more movement in this sector, plus a way of networking with those student idealists still able to think big picture and outside the box. Unfortunately, a huge amount of energy in the blogosphere goes towards playing petty politics.

I think it's a good thing that Bill Clinton has been out playing golf with the elder George Bush on behalf of tsunami survivors. That helps depolarize a mindset, making it harder for people to pour energy down their favorite political drains, squandering opportunities for personal growth and big picture thinking. Both these guys are showing some real leadership, while the younger Bush goes around stirring up the alligators.