Friday, August 18, 2017


The very definition of politics may be: telling others what to do. Political power is the added ability to make them do it. Chew on that as you consider what messages we, our friends and enemies, are bombarded with every single day. Who is telling us what to do, and who can actually make us do it? The “informed consumer” and “rational actor” of economics doesn't stand a chance against batallions of PhDs whose means of making a living is to manipulate us into “soon” parting with our money – and who is it, the butt of the aphorism, who is soon parted from his or her money? Their jobs are to make fools of us.

I don't know about you, but I don't need any help to make a fool of myself. It was even more so, if that's possible, when I used to drink. Consider who else may be employed to make a fool of you. We, no matter our background or education, or our means of making a living, are simply outclassed in some important area of our lives, by others whose means of supporting themselves is to make fools of us. The implications ought to be humbling if not enervating and even depressing. Humans are vain, proud creatures and not easily convinced, on the whole, of our own folly.

There was a psychological study, done in the last decade, that used smartphones to interrupt people throughout their day. The app asked them questions about what they were doing and how they felt. One of the conclusions of this study was that we are unhappy when we let our minds wander. Another was that we are unhappy when we feel as if life is very competitive. Did you know, also, that we are, on the whole, happiest when we are in the act of having sex? When our minds wander, are we seeing the competition and manipulation before turning away in horror?

Make love, not war. We are having less sex. We are told not to have sex with people whose politics are too different from ours; we are told to divorce our Trump-supporting spouse. If the government's laws should be kept out of the bedrooms of consenting adults, why should the politics of paid manipulators be allowed in? Many of us would benefit from outrage breaks – breaks from outrage-porn binging etc – and from unplugging altogether.

In The Lord of the Rings, the Shire is portrayed as a place ignorant of brutality, a place not so much otherworldly as unworldly. It is a land of innocence. With ubiquitous social media and non-stop news, we are welcoming Sauron, the evil political power, into our Shires. Our children don't deserve this. It was not a son's or daughter's idea to stay up all night texting “friends” and frenemies. It was the decision, made, perhaps, only implicitly, of paid manipulators. Manipulators who've convinced us to give them, if not our money, then our attention. They don't deserve it!

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