Saturday, February 4, 2017

This is What (Direct) Democracy Looks Like (Part Two)

(If you're new here, this column consists of weekly letters written to my grandchildren, who exist, to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead, and my great-grandchildren, who aren't here yet.)

Dear (Eventual) Stickies & Great-Grandstickies,

A bit of a review. In part one I stated my support for the electoral college, an ingenious invention that prevents the citizens of a cluster of megalopolises from ruling the entire nation. By extension, this forces a given candidate to craft a message (and stop by to say hello) that appeals to folks in sparsely populated states.

I brought/bring this up because one of the symptoms of the innocent victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS), a currently active strain of Global Whining Disease (GWD), is a fixation with the fact that the Hilliam triumphed over the Donald by almost 3,000,000 votes. That's a lot of votes.


If not for the electoral college system, if we were a direct democracy, the Hilliam would be living in the White House again and an outbreak of Clinton Derangement Syndrome (CDS), yet another strain of GWD, would no doubt be loose in the world.

The Trumpets would be jumping up and down and pointing out, at every opportunity, that the fate of the entire country had been determined by the citizens of a handful of our largest cities. We would still be knee deep in controversy.

The Infotainment Industrial Complex would still be doing what it does best. That is -- fanning flames, oversimplifying, and giving a bullhorn to anybody willing to work themselves into a near frenzy by playing the us v. them game in front of a camera. Infotainment and ratings are much more profitable (and fun) than reason, truth, and virtue. Ask the Donald. Anyway, we would still be subject to endless whining, debate, and punditry.

A large country where everyone is subject to the whims of the citizens of it's largest cities would be a direct democracy, but would it be a truly democratic country? Short answer -- no. Also, any given kid on the playground grasps that if you want any other given kid or kids to play with you and/or to avoid black eyes and/or shunning, perhaps even banishment, two universal social conventions must be recognized. The importance of fairness in general and respect for the rules of the game in particular.

I could sit in front of this keyboard and speculate on the subject of fairness till it's finally warm enough for the stink bugs to flee the premises in search of food and sex (have fun, see ya' when you get back!). While I could easily assemble a defensible case as to why we're obsessed with fairness, what is fair, in any given situation, is the labor of a lifetime.

However, for our immediate purposes, all that's needed is to acknowledge that fair is always profoundly important because it's hard wired. That the rules must be known and agreed to, before the game, by everyone involved. Most importantly, the rules can't be changed in the middle of the game, only after, and only for the next game. The Donald is the president, all the instant replays have failed to change the outcome of the game. There's another big game in two years. In the meantime, let us enjoy the most popular "reality" show yet devised.

Deep breath.

Retroactive rule changing is potentially a capital offense. I mentioned in part one that the founders, aware of the constant danger of a tyranny of the majority (51%  voting to delete the other 49%), set up our playground as a republic, a representative democracy, to avoid this and other threats to the life and liberty of politically/socially/morally/etc. incorrect individuals.

I'm a bleeding heart libertarian. I didn't vote for either the Donald or the Hilliam. My candidate was quietly crushed. The Steelers lost. There's something wrong with both vans. I'm going to return to my crappy day job after several weeks of often painful physical therapy that will enable me to return to my crappy day job.

But I will maintain an (imperfect) attitude of gratitude, because I'm not only a grup, I've ascended the heights and become a Sexy Seasoned Citizen (SSC). I know that no matter how bad (or good) it seems to be at any given moment there's a meteorite out there with my name on it and one of these days it will find me.

While I'm waiting I'll keep picturing the picture I saw of a Syrian refugee family huddled together in a freezing, abandoned factory somewhere in Eastern Europe, hoping for a chance to sneak into Western Europe. Not welcome where they were, where they would like to be, nor even back in the Middle East by their fellow practitioners of The Religion of Peace, they hang on. Poppa loves you.

[But all is not lost. Patience. Patience snowflakes, social justice warriors, alt.right types of all stripes and members in good standing of the International Union of Professional Perpetually Protesting Protestors & Professional Victims of This, That and the Other Thing. Direct democracy is just around the corner. We've got social media. We're constantly developing new ways of being in contact, and staying continuously entertained, without actually having to actually talk to each other in real life.

We've got Twitter!

I have a mental image of millions of Americans and billions of Earthlings, standing on platforms that pop up and down as trap doors snap open and closed like jack-in-the-boxes. Everyone is busy yelling at everyone else. You don't have to make any sense, the point is to keep yelling. This is direct democracy. We're all part of a globe-spanning town hall and the idea is to yell something clever or ignorant enough (it doesn't really matter) to get a bunch of people to notice you and then yell what you yelled, at someone else.

The dead white guys that set up our playground were worried we'd devolve into endlessly bickering factions of the like-minded. We're already past that. We're becoming factions of one. That's a direct democracy for ya'!

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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