“Poets, priests and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no one’s jamming their transmission
‘Cos when their eloquence escapes you
Their logic ties you up and rapes you”
“Come one, come all! Watch the amazing snake oil cure what ails ya’. It’ll cure your cough, mend your broken bones and make the misses anxious to please you! It’s a floor wax and a desert topping!… and with it, I’m running for the office of President of these here You-nited States!”
It’s a con as old as time itself, and it’s easy to see how – back in the day – people of limited exposure could buy in to whatever they were being sold. Deceptive / persuasive advertising has been around since the Garden of Eden. Adam took one look at Eve and realized that he “had to get him some of that!” Which is, of course, what the snake was really selling. “Just bite this apple and all of this can be yours…”. I’m afraid we have not grown much – and every four years, We The People, confirm that fear…
Through out history, men (and woman) in power have taught us three things about ourselves. First; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Second; the balance of true power is exactly that – balance. Finally; we as human beings will believe anything and everything that is offered to us with a smile, a shiny bow and the empty promise of something better.
Whether you are an elected official with a poor approval rating or a dictator with questionable reinforcements, power is achieved through people believing that you will do certain things – for or against them. In a democracy we are fortunate that our motivations are not fear. Some may argue that point, but let’s be honest – fear of a bad investment portfolio or declining housing market is a far cry from fear of starvation, mutilation and persecution of religious freedom.
We have the RIGHT to vote. Not the obligation to – but the right to. I don’t take that inalienable right for granted, though I believe the people running for office do. My question is simple; “Why are we always voting for the lesser of many evils?” I don’t care what your party affiliation is, or if you even have one – the view appears the same. When was the last time you REALLY liked a Presidential candidate for what he / she is, said or done- as opposed to feeling confident that they are just better suited than the opposition?
For some time now I’ve debated what I call “content Vs. delivery.” (I don’t mean this in the physical sense – although as a member of the telco community I’ve had to – quite literally- debate the financial promiscuity of that question many times.) I’m talking about the well known and documented phenomenon has been constant through out our history and, with the age of media being what it is today, has never been more influential. Some of our most infamous leaders were powerful talkers. They promised you whatever it was you felt you were missing – money, compassion, freedom or acceptance. Like an evangelist in his first TV broadcast – they are persuasive, they are motivating, they are captivating.
In 1923 a man wrote a book about ‘his struggles’ that ultimately proved to be his ticket to leading the greatest army the modern world had ever seen. So powerful was his promise and depiction of what he thought was right and wrong with the world, that in less than ten years, he had inspired enough blind supporters that he came frighteningly close to conquering Eastern Europe – and some would say eventually the world. Adolph Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ remains an extreme and unfortunate example of what happens when you get caught up in the delivery of the message – not by what someone is saying, but in the way they are saying it.
Now I’m not saying this is always a bad thing. Some people have followed in the Marvel Comic tradition of ‘using their power for good, not for evil.’ A less poignant, and certainly more pleasant example crossed my path a few weeks ago. I was at a coffee shop with my sister who is currently pursuing a career using ASL (American Sign Language). We were outside with ten or so people – all signing – carrying on what I could only guess was about four different conversations at the same time. Not being able to sign myself I sat observing what I can only describe as watching a bunch of Jewish people on crack… with the sound turned off. The silence, if you will excuse the expression, was deafening.
While observing this cornucopia of communication, I was lulled in to watching one specific gentleman who seemed to be the focus of much of the interaction. He was a tall, thick man with kind eyes and a telling smirk. His bald head and jet black goatee were matched with a solid black t-shirt, and offset by a thin Superman blue long sleeve shirt button shirt – which was open all the way. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his arms were flying about with an economy of motion the likes of which is rarely achieved.
I’ve never witnessed a more charismatic display. He was warm, inviting, supportive, funny, charming, deliberate and non-chalont…. and he never spoke a single word. The fluidity of his motion, the language of his body, the inference of his gaze… Whatever he was selling, I would have bought right there – which, of course, was not his intent. Never before have I felt more motivated and less directed at the same time. I had no clue what he was saying. And I didn’t care. I soon realized that I was WAY more interested in the way he spoke than anything he actually had to say. Herein lyeith the dilemma….
As the litmus test of this particular philosophical phenomenon, every four years we are asked to choose a leader of our great nation. In the past we’ve elected some real smooth talkers, and we’ve chosen some who can’t seam to get out of their own way with a map and a flashlight – and I think it has some confused about what they are supposed to be looking for. Charisma is a nice feature in the leader of the free world, but electing someone because they are on MTV and can play the saxophone is just as wrong as not choosing one because he can’t get in front of a camera and complete a sentence. We have serious issues that need to be attended to here – global warming, our reliance on fossil fuels, a war with the middle east, the lack of our children’s education and the obesity level of our nation. Drugs, disease, economy, foreign policy…things that some of us have grown complacent in accepting should be on the forefront of any candidates agenda. Somewhere between kissing babies and bashing the competition they’ve lost sight of that. Or have they…?
Should we not choose a candidate simply because he may have Muslim ties? I’m not a big fan what some Muslims have done under the guise of religion lately. On the other hand, nailing Jesus to the cross was not the shining moment of my fellow tribe members either. As for the Republicans – at least nominate someone that can find Iraq on a map. It’s hard to be taken seriously when you keep referring to ‘the war we are fighting on the Iraq / Pakistani border’. Doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t make a good leader – but have ya’ heard of Google Maps?
Every day we are bombarded with messages enticing us. From advertising to stories we tell our children – the goal is the same; Find the right combination of content and delivery so that the message hits home…
“wear this cologne and you’ll get a supermodel girlfriend”
“your car prefers this oil”
“this deodorant will make you rich and popular”
“an apple a day keeps the doctor away”
“take this pill and your erection will last longer than four hours”
“all the cool people like monochromatic electronics”
“drive a car that kind of runs on electricity and you’ll save the planet”
I, for one, eat an apple a day. But not because I’m afraid of the doctor – I’m still hoping eating one will improve my sex life…
‘Course that’s just how it looks through my eyes. Your view may be different…