26. July 2004 · Comments Off on Politics and Personalities · Categories: Politics

I’m going to delay my next scheduled post, Prioritization and Focus, and instead do Politics and Personalities first, because I won’t be able to get the other done until I get this out of my head.

Part 1: Politics

To paraphrase Clausewitz: war is politics by other means. Turn that statement around and it remains true: politics is war by other means. In our country, we don’t have coups or use violence to impose our will upon the country, but we do have an elegant system that, while eliminating the need for violence, still allows us to employ the characteristics of warfare in the political arena to achieve our goals. We also have a country with a strong streak of individualism, and I think there’s a way to combine those two things to achieve meaningful change without joining a political Party and attempting to change it from within, or forming a separate Party and trying to take the two established ones head on.

A lot of people feel that they have to form their own parties in order to participate in the process and affect changes amenable to them. Why? Standing before you are two systems already organized for that purpose. They have all the tools, people, and money in place. Why re-invent the wheel and bog yourself down trying to win the game by their rules when you can simply use them to get what you want? Let them raise the money. Let them nominate the candidates. Let them spend their own time and money firing up their base. Let them do all the legwork. Let them make all the speeches they want. All you have to do is simply pick and choose who you would like to see win and who you would like to see lose based on your own priorities. We as individuals can do so much more by using their systems to our advantage than we ever could by forming our own Parties to compete with them.

Political Parties are formed so that like-minded individuals can organize and impose their will on everyone else. By coming together in such large numbers, they give the impression of strength. Interestingly, prey also exhibit this same behavior in the animal world, so forming a Party may not be the best idea. Does the cheetah become like a gazelle to seek nourishment? Do cheetahs eat grass and move stupidly from one location to the next seeking food? Do cheetahs compete with gazelles for resources? Do cheetahs form large groups for mutual defense and protection against predators? No. They are the predators. They are individuals who prey upon the gazelle for their own personal nourishment. They track and analyze their prey. Once they’re ready, they spring upon the herd and take down the young, the weak, the infirm, and the unfortunate. In the end, the gazelle give them what they want: food. You might want to become the predator if you want to accomplish your ends. Guess what? You already have the two largest herds in American politics, the Republicans and Democrats, at your disposal.

Cheetahs normally hunt alone, but other predators sometimes hunt in groups. Take wolves, for example. They hunt in packs and bring an enormous amount of force to bear upon their prey at specific weak points in the herd’s structure. We as individuals can take a cue from this behavior and modify it for our own purposes. The only problem with wolves and other social predators is that not only do they hunt in groups, they also live in groups. They concentrate their numbers, which makes them easier to eradicate by the ultimate predator: man. So, what’s an individual to do? You can’t form a political party to compete for the general public’s attention; the Big Two would merely swat you away and render you largely irrelevant. You also can’t form solid social networks to prey upon the Parties, because you’d give them a target to attack. Unlike most prey, they can and do fight back. The answer lies with the very thing you are using to read this right now: the Internet. I’m not talking about blogs or other sites that exist merely to opine, either. They serve their purpose, but they’re not the best way to do business. What I’m talking about is the Internet’s ability to link disparate people together. The Internet, after all, is the world’s best communication device.

Here’s a scenario: Imagine you have hundreds of thousands of people who don’t fit into either the Left or the Right. They don’t have that much in common with either side, so they don’t seek common cause with others in either political party. They all have their own priorities and they usually focus on so many varied things that they could never come together to form their own Party, but their numbers are so large that at least some of the time, elements within this group share the same priorities. How do these people quickly communicate and temporarily organize to achieve a common goal before dissolving and going about their separate ways?

It’s a scenario that exists right now, but unlike in times past, we have a tool that empowers this group and provides a tool for them to form alliances of convenience and allows them to bring their collective power to bear upon specific points in the system to achieve their ends, just like a wolf pack. The Internet, as well as the myriad communication networks that exist nowadays, is the perfect tool to facilitate these temporary wolf packs and affect change. The change may not be dramatic or largely noticeable at that exact moment, but the collective efforts of all these wolf packs over time would have a dramatic impact on the system itself. The reason why this set-up could work, especially for moderates and independents, lays in the political system as it exists today.

Right now, we have two Parties that represent two supposedly distinct and diametrically opposed ideologies. We call them the Left and the Right. Both of these Parties have followers who will always vote for their respective Party. Each Party has its own halo of people who aren’t strict Party members, but share enough in common with the Party’s current ideology, that they tend to vote for that Party. What’s leftover are two groups of people: Those who don’t care and don’t vote, and those who do care, but don’t fall into either specific Party’s sphere of influence. We call the latter group of people “swing-voters” or Independents. Whatever you call them, they are the king-makers, as they usually end up deciding the winner of many elections. The problem is that most of the time, Independents are not only unaware of the power they wield, they also wield it haphazardly with no organization whatsoever. Imagine if these Independents were able to use the communication networks available today to briefly organize and plan who to vote for based on a common cause, irrespective of which Party a candidate happened to belong to? After the election ended, they would disperse and form networks with different people for different purposes, which would also end after time, and so on and so on. They could have an impact on elections that would go beyond mere accident, and they would be organized enough to co-ordinate their efforts with likeminded individuals in other areas of the country. Though organized, theirs would not be a strict organization with charismatic leadership, middle managers, or foot soldiers all acting in concert to promote a candidate and further a hardened ideology. They would be individuals with their own agendas who link with each other for a time in order to bring an enormous amount of force to bear on the two parties to fulfill their goals, just like a wolf pack.

The two Parties obviously wouldn’t like these Independent Wolfpacks. Gazelles probably don’t like being hunted and eaten by predators, either, but like’s got nothing to do with it. You can’t compete with the Parties, so you might as well use them to get what you want. The greatest advantage that an Independent Wolfpack would enjoy is that the Parties couldn’t effectively fight back or nullify them. How do you fight a shadow? How do you defeat a fog? The Parties are offered neither an organized system, nor personalities to fixate upon to discredit and defeat. There’s no hierarchal structure and no charismatic leader. In the Democrats and Republicans’ case, like can only attack like. To fight the Wolfpacks, they would have to fight themselves.

What I’ve just described is guerilla warfare. It’s a tried and true method of defeating a well-armed and organized foe by using a foe’s strengths to your advantage, so that those same strengths become your enemy’s greatest weakness. It’s only been modified and applied to suit the political realm, where the Parties aren’t your enemies, just a way for you to get what you want. It’s an idea to consider.

Part II will deal with Personalities.

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