Effective contribution to civic discourse:
What I learned about being so right I might also be wrong.
The greatest American Heroes are those willing to learn about sharing opinion … and then share it. To my chagrin, I have not tried to be a great American Hero, rather a Johnny One-Note who encourages political polarization as opposed to genuine civic and civil discourse.
The town-hall citizens that I believe were the civic hope of our Founding Fathers have a need to understand and preach political wisdom with among other things, three tools of communication:
Rhetoric – The art of speaking or writing effectively
Reason – The power of the mind to think, understand and form judgments by a process of logic
Persuasion – The action or fact of persuading someone to accept an idea, concept or fact.
A Con is not one of those tools.
A Con – The act of cheating or tricking someone by gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that is not true. A con is also the act of saying to someone exactly what that person is expecting to hear in order to create the illusion that speaker and listener are “on the same page.”
The goal of political debate is not necessarily to be “right.” Nor is it an advancement of a particular view of “the truth.” Rather, political debate has as its goal that of causing someone to act in a way consistent with the speaker’s objectives. Fundamentally as campaigns roll-out, political debate’s most important pursuit is the winning of votes.
Many political persuaders decided long ago that truth and reason are irrelevant to political debate. With competing ideas in a supposed democracy in which free speech is a function of persuasion, those most easily persuaded tend to be mostly one-dimensional, simple-minded or in fact unscrupulous regarding ends and means of persuasion.
If you would persuade, maintain constantly for yourself a reverence for reason and genuine truth. However, understand that you yourself may not know what is true, whether or not your reasoning can be shown as flawed and your own priorities not necessarily of the highest importance in the over-arching political and civic reality.
Unless you understand that your assumptive knowledge and wisdom are not drinkable bathwater, you have little to contribute toward genuine consensus.
Reason may not be the most effect tool of perceiving the correctness of your own perceptual truth and is perhaps of greater value in discovering for yourself what is not true.
Bearing a respect for reason and truth according to reason, political debate ought to be then a clear-headed objective of reaching consensus based on commonality of understandings of truth and reason.
Political debate is at its least usefulness when the principal reliance is on talking points, canned stump-speeches and the broken record of “Johnny One-Note” candidates. The object of such political persuasion is the creation of a voting base of Johnny One-Note voters who are obsessed with single or merely one or two issues about which a candidate or its party are obsessed.
Such becomes the Johnny-One-Note electorate about which it the following has been written and this is a quote I have publicly posted previously:
Author Oliver Lange in his novel, Vandenberg, had this to say about American society in the 1970’s.
“We proved the lie, were served up with a gagging portion of our own vintage distillation of apocalyptic horseshit
— all the narcissistic swill about indomitable spirit, invincibility, courage and nobility of purpose
— and demonstrated once and for all to those who looked on with interest a fact long suspected:
that this nation, through a self-administered indoctrination of spurious righteousness, larded with the false rewards of superfluous luxury, had at last achieved the most tractable, malleable — let’s face it, spineless — people to walk the face of the earth.”
– Vandenberg (later published under the title, Defiance) – The Journals, 1971
Lange’s Cold War novel concerned a fictional lone American holdout against a Soviet occupation of America – hardly a liberal theme by today’s standards.
Yet the description still appears to fit this society to a Tee.
Our politicians of both parties thrive on tossing our way narcissistic swill about what America stands for and what the American People are truly like.
I’m reminded of G.W. Bush during his presidency expressing surprise that the rest of the world might not see America and Americans in the same light as our narcissistic swill and all those talking points celebrities of all stripes throw at us.
For all of us as a political audience talk is cheap, indomitable spirits are prompted by the cheap theatrics and propaganda of pundits and political personalities, movies and commercialized patriotism more interested in money than global peace, global honor or global respect.
If we refuse to seek consensus among ourselves our whole lives will seem like unsatisfying and unavoidable implementations of ideas and notions entirely lacking in substance and socially redeeming value.