Saturday, August 2, 2008

Why I Hate Politics

When I was a child, I played as a child, etc. And when, as a child, we played sports, I was often picked near the bottom. (Though depending on the crowd; I didn't really find my sport until I took up karate.) But there was one characteristic in which I excelled: I could be relied on to tell the truth.

If a ball was in or out, if a foul occurred, I could be counted on to give an honest appraisal regardless of what the implications were for my team. This taught me a lot about people. A scenario like so:

Their Team: "That was out!"
My Team: "That was in!"
Me: "No, it was out."
Their Team: "You see, your own guy says it was out!"

would be followed with a scenario like so:

Their Team: "That was out!"
My Team: "That was in!"
Me: "Yep, it was in!"
Their Team: "Well, sure, you'd say that!"

Behavior like this probably put me off team sports forever. It also taught me that integrity is for one's self; it's not something people in the real world believe in.

I didn't learn this lesson quickly. It was probably when I threw my first karate tournament that it really hit home.

Martial arts are a great thing, like the Indian Pow-Wow, one of the things they teach you is that life isn't fair, and that politics count for a lot. Your job, really, is to rise above that. Rising above unfairness, and not exploiting it when it cuts in your favor, is what you're there to learn.

I should say that's what our school, and a few others, taught. We won tons of trophies, but God help you if you screwed up and won because the judges didn't know any better. That trophy would not be going up in the dojo, and you'd have to do some penance for trying pull crap like that. I got one of the worst scoldings of my life when I took second in one kumite (sparring match), not really because I hadn't taken first, but because I didn't perform as I should have.

But the martial arts is filled with the biggest jackasses this side of--well, actually, I'm not sure of any comparable environment where being able to beat someone up is a big part of one's social status. And since it's all up in the air, it's all about acting tough.

And so it goes that there is a ton of politics in the martial arts world. And in one tournament, an offhand humorous remark (made by me) resulted in a shrimpy blackbelt (why are they always short?) throwing a temper tantrum and pulling his fighter out of the tournament.

And he did it by deliberately misunderstanding what I said and assuming the moral high ground.

His guy was, of course, losing.

But this is the ultimate effect of politics: One is no longer playing the game. I mean, there is a game being played, but it's a nasty, trivial, shrewish game, and not the game one pretends to be playing.

I wanted to play baseball or football, not "who can piss and moan the most about the rules".

As a result, I've never followed politics very closely. What a huge waste of time and energy. They're pretending to play "Let's Run The Country" but what they're really playing is "Get The Other Guys".

And so, the more interesting game, the one that really tasks us, never gets played.

The other thing that happens is that communication becomes impossible. Look at the situation in Iraq. One side is convinced that it's evidence of evil actions done by evil people. No good can come of it. You can't say anything good about Iraq without immediately being identified as "being on the other team". Therefore, anything you say is suspect.

You can see the same thing among, say, certain hard-core Christians. If you're not a Christian (or not their kind of Christian), you're "One Of Them". You can no longer be one of the good guys.

Politics can be introduced into anything, at which point, it is essentially ruined. You can see it in the workplace: People become more focussed on credit and blame than on actually producing. It's hellish when it happens in a relationship, or God help us all, when it happens to a family with children--when the parents act more like children.

When we become men--and women--we're supposed to put away childish things.


  1. I had decided to stay out of ALL Iraq-War-related threads about a year ago. But I got sucked into one yesterday. Fortunately, I had the sense only to comment once or maybe twice I don't remember. It really is a waste of time. I only commented in the first place because it was ZPS, and I like him and it bothered me what he said, so I couldn't ignore it.

  2. Yeah, politics is like war, in that you have to "kill" people you'd otherwise like. Some people on Althouse I thought were just trolls would suddenly show some human side and it'd be like, "Hey, you sound cool. WHere'd the jerk who likes to argue politics go?"

    I think Troop is expert at reminding people of their human sides; I also think that's why he places such a high value on the jokers who deflate the seriousness of the heavy threads.

    The confounding thing is the pollution of facts. I think, even if most of us disagreed philosophically, we could reach a highly stable common ground, if we could agree on the facts.

    A simple thing like casualty numbers. One poster who has completely devolved into a troll likes to throw around a 400K number. There's no reasoning with that.

    That was sort of the kicker with ZPS. He said he was just making observations. It's impossible to communicate with someone who's confusing evaluations of second- and third-hand data with personal observation.


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.