7/26/2007

Rant #165 What do We Deserve?

"We get the government we deserve." I think that may be one of the least obvious, most true statements about government of any type, any size, and at any time in history. The best periods of government in American history all occurred during brief times when the public was so disappointed by the performance of the usual suspects that they rose from their lethargy and took back power for those who should never be allowed to possess it. In geopolitical time, those high points barely warrant a blink of an eye compared to the eons of droning, corrupt, self-serving governments that have cursed humanity since the first caveman decided to tell other cavemen who was boss.

Looking at politics under the lens of "what does the public deserve" does, maybe, a disservice to places like Mexico and most of South and Central America, most of Africa, the Arab nations, most of Asia and East Europe. At the core, obviously, many parents in those countries raised or failed to raise the little rat bastards who torture, destroy, and terrorize those countries. If their offspring turn out to be the knife that kills the parent, it's tough to generate a lot of sympathy for the "victim." You grew it, you own it.

Tough love, I know, but it comes back to haunt us. Much of the world's misery is generated by American robber baron corporations that use US military power and the threat of that power to manipulate foreign governments, smaller nations' natural resources, and the world's monetary system. We grew it, now we own it. Those corporations have grown beyond the boundaries of the United States and show no more loyalty to our flag than they do the flags of the countries they've invaded in the past. Should that really be surprising to anyone? In 1968, Chicago discovered that cops on the take don't take orders. Throughout the 1960s until today, we should have learned that a CIA/FBI on the take is equally insensitive to management. Now, we're beginning to see that corporations that manipulate, to their financial and power advantage, all of the worst aspects of our culture are insensitive to the culture that they supposedly serve. Well, duh. You lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Which brings us to our present dilemma. Our government, from local to federal is a contaminated, corrupt mess. The bits that aren't owned and operated by international corporations are owned and operated by local gangsters. Even the smallest cities are poorly managed by special interests that don't care one whit about the safety, security, financial stability, or future of the communities they pretend to serve. And we, apparently, love them for it.

My hometown, Dodge City, Kansas, once hired a City Manager from some damned place because he had magical business credentials and could, supposedly, bring new business to that dying community. Within a couple of years, he attracted a collection of packing plants and associated service vendors for that industry, which drew a few thousand illegal laborers to the town, driving wages into the dust, ruining neighborhoods, and decimating the town's already weak education system. After the City Manager's "work was done," he promptly left town with yet another credit to his resume. The town has yet to, and probably will never, recover.

My current home, Little Canada, Minnesota, presents less opportunity for industry, being a fully-developed bedroom suburb of St. Paul. That hasn't slowed up the march of political opportunism, though. Like most eastern cities, we have a supremely expensive, astoundingly unproductive city government. With too many employees doing too little work, all hired or appointed by a crony-system that is old, well-entrenched, and regularly re-elected by local voters. For some reason, the majority of voters like the current system, even though they don't know anything about how it operates. We're a mirror of national politics, which does nothing to explain either local or national politics.

In a fit of irrational community loyalty, my wife ran for City Council in the last election. She campaigned by going door-to-door, talking to our neighbors, engaging in the local televised debate, and taking every opportunity to talk about how our little city's quality of life could be improved. She campaigned on city efficiency, managing the city's resources and development, opening the city's financial decisions to public examination, protecting our small group of lakes and waterways, She placed campaign signs on our neighbors' lawns, with local businesses, and handed out fliers until she felt she'd contacted everyone who might care about the community and vote that concern.

Her opponents controlled the debate, placed their campaign signs, illegally, on public property, in front of a few bars and liquor stores and their own homes, took the local vote for granted and, correctly, assumed that the voters would be as uninvolved, uninformed, and dysfunctional as they had been in the past. One of the incumbents had been seriously ill with disabling cancer and died soon after the election, before taking office. Our little city's experiment in democracy ran aground almost immediately, as the existing office holders disingenuously praised the deceased council member's dedication to the city's welfare (something I never witnessed in dozens of council meetings I observed over the years). While waving that distracting flag with one hand, they worked quickly to subvert democratic principle so they could appoint another of their cronies to the council. Public comment was discounted, logic and fairness ignored, and it appears that we'll continue down the corrupt path our city has trod in the past, because that's what conservatives do.

The problem is normal people don't want to associate with the kind of people who work in government, run for , political office, or own the people who squat in those jobs. One trip to a city council meeting is enough to keep the typical citizen from venturing into that boring, degenerate environment for years. A short conversation with a city manager, a council member, state legislator, or governor will drive most of us into an hour-long hand washing frenzy. Government and business share this quality, the closer you get to the top, the scummier your associations become. At some point, freedom and liberty have to be defended by those who expect the rewards of those precious qualities. If we don't take back our governments from the scumbags who will use it against us, we'll deserve the government we get.

December 2006

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