Which is not a question whose possible answers admit of a whole lot of shades of grey, actually…either it’s cool with you or it isn’t.
And so maybe this is the essence of the “vote while holding your nose” thing?
I was thinking today about what draws young people to conservative viewpoints…that is, I mean, to Conservative viewpoints. If we can separate out local social factors like the politics you were raised with, the need to choose a “team” that is drilled into you among your peers, matters of aesthetics and the pressure to form your personality by forming your tastes in distinction to the tastes of others around you…if we can separate those local social factors out, what else is left that can explain the attraction?
I think it’s the promise held out by a certain type of intellectual rigour, a steeling oneself to the skeptic’s role, the rationalist’s role, against even one’s own inherent weakness; the promise of the crucible, and of the action of right choice. If one senses somehow that one would like to be better…well, I am not saying that isn’t a very great and rare achievement, to be capable of sensing such a thing, without any training, without any explicitly-delivered vocation, just out of one’s own personal feeling. And to wish to pursue a more encompassingly rational perspective, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Everybody who’s got the sense God gave a goose wants that, for heaven’s sake…!
Of course it’s much easier to play the role of rationalist than it is to be a rationalist…to play the role, after all, only requires the sort of discipline that is its own reward. Genuine rationality subjects its own methods and conclusions to scrutiny above all, and mistrusts easy reinforcement and the allure of positional superiority; to enact the role of rationality, on the other hand, only requires an intellectual justification for preferring one’s own biases to those of others. Not that just anyone can do it, you understand, not that just anyone can find their way to such justifications! Because it does in fact require intelligence, it does require a disciplined and an agile mind, it requires sterling effort to come up with an objective reason for why one happens to be always right, and never wrong. And in one’s novitiate days there is indeed much to learn from older and wiser heads; there are plenty of pitfalls one is tempted by, and the corrections administered are not few, and sometimes they are not gentle. So to do this may offer many rewards, but it is not easy; there is a species of humility that is active here. It’s not all just “I am the best, I should be the best, I have something inside me that is begging to be let out, and it’s something admirable!“, but there is also the idea that one can’t simply grasp at the key, one must be given it; and so one must be worthy of it.
Think I don’t know what I’m talking about?
Oh, but I do. Because I was recruited many times, when I was younger, over and over in fact, into the astonishingly arduous role of Young Conservative Guy…and I’m well-acquainted with the idea that the more you load on the back of the camel, the bigger a lion it eventually turns into when it gets out into the desert, and far from anywhere. That’s why I’m saying that young people who are drawn to the Conservative aren’t simply idiots — well, they’re not idiots! And they aren’t just purely venal hypocrites, tempted by riches. Often hypocrisy can be as hard a road as any, and harder than most; one may labour in the fields of hypocrisy for decades before being plucked out to sit at the right hand of that land’s king…and some never get there. Don’t be so naive as to think the hypocrites among us never struggle to conquer bitterness and disappointment; they do. The universe is the same in every direction, after all. The disinfectant properties of sunlight come to everyone equally. And people are not any less people because they happen to be smart, or loyal to an ideal, or willing to work hard against terrible obstacles.
But the question still is — as Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha all said — not whether lies can sometimes be preferable to truth, but what you’re willing to do about it when they are. And it’s a tough game, that. It is not so acrobatically-demanding, so gymnastically-admirable, Gold Medal Star, as finding a way around truth no matter what it is, that obvious exercise of virtuosity…sometimes the big accomplishment in this game is to be a nobody and a nothing, no different from anybody else, an unspecial person with an unspecial decision in their hands that they can simply make one way or another, and never with any hope of fanfare.
Does it matter if your guy lies, so long as he wins?
Well, it’s a trick question, isn’t it?
Because it’s not whether it matters. It’s what you’re going to do about that mattering, that counts.
Which is, of course, the part nobody ever sees. And there are no blue ribbons for. No red ribbons either, or white. No ribbons at all, in fact…
…See even those who only play at rationalism, have to be true rationalists at some point. Even if it’s only by themselves. A Sports Day nobody comes to; a sack race nobody can win. Don’t think for a second that it’s easy to be intellectually agile, or to have already wrung a disciplined nature from the world. It really isn’t. It never is.
The thing is whether it’s cool with you if your guy wins, by lying.
And no one is asking you to switch your vote just because it’s not…but is it?
Me, I’m an old guy, and I’ve had the biscuit. Evolution has spoken (in the form of the opinions of the girls I know), and I’ve got nothing to lose by saying that in 2011 lying is what we need least, in this election. This is a pivot-point, I’m pretty sure. I feel it all around me. The question used to be, how much do you care, if your guy has to lie to win?
But now it’s: how far are you prepared to take that?
You can take it as far as you want, of course. I’ll be dead before the daisies come up. But I’m voting Green, this election. And it’s only for one reason.
Because as far as I can tell (and believe me I’ve been watching!), Elizabeth May doesn’t lie.
Think that makes me stupid, to think that? Or to base a vote on that?
A member of my extended family (he was a Member of Parliament too, but I love him best for the other stuff) said on a birthday of his not too long ago that if you want good government it’s pretty easy. Just locate people of character, force them to run, and then move heaven and earth to get them elected.
I remember thinking, “wow, that is a crazily old-mannish way of looking at the world, super out-of-date, maybe the most naive second-childhood thing I’ve ever heard.”
And then I remember thinking, “oh no, holy crap, he’s right.”
That was the night I got drunk off a bottle of liberated vodka in the parking lot with Pat Carney and we broke some stuff, too — we broke some rules, too! — but that’s not germane to the discussion today.
That’s germane to the discussion tomorrow.
I am horrified by the way the debate went tonight. Last election we had a nice table, the leaders had cups of coffee, they sat next to each other, if they were pissed-off they had to bend their head and scratch at their eyebrow as normal people do. If they were mad at somebody they could reach over and lay a hand on their wrist. Tables are so much better. I felt this was something that Canadians could boast about:
“Oh, you have your candidates stand behind podia and emote to the camera? Right, we have them sit around a table shoulder-to-shoulder and talk to each other.”
You can learn a lot that way. But tonight it was so stultifying, the leaders just don’t have any guts, they can’t operate without the cue-cards. They’re supposed to debate the issues, not sell themselves. What a closed system. THERE WAS SO MUCH LYING.
I have really and truly come to be NOT COOL with my guy winning by lying. Your mileage may vary, of course. But I will just about vote for ANYBODY who doesn’t lie.
After all, the universe is the same in every direction. Either a person tells a lie because they think it will advantage them, or they don’t.
If they do, they’d tell any lie.
So please ask yourself what you’re going to do about that.
Dear Reader, I hope your thoughts remain ever with
Your true friend,