Thursday, June 30, 2011
The Balloons of Politics
Countries and their political systems are like balloons. The really repressive ones build up pressure from the inside much faster than the relatively benign corruption of a U.S., for instance.
The Russian of the Tsars blew up quickly; the USSR of the commissars also blew out quickly (although not as destructively); and now the Russia of the oligarchs is slowly losing air from a a thousand cuts.
China is already losing air, the Muslim strong man paradigm is half empty and flopping around as it loses more air; Cuba could meet the pin next.
But my cynicism does not allow me to attribute any of it to a universal desire for "freedom," and certainly not the democracy we pretend we have. It's increasingly hard in this gewgaw ridden and wired world not to see what one is missing. Good old human greed, the lifeblood of capitalism, has a lot to do with this political upheaval as well.
I'm afraid the status when the merry-go-round stops, will be that new names will appear on the lists of rich and powerful, many old names will disappear, and freedom will appear to be enhanced by a few more putative choices of little import; but, the limits on real options will not change.
At the local level, the balloons tend to inflate with the self-importance of the elected officials. When the balloon and the officials’ egos rub up against reality, the burst is painful but useful. Our challenge then, is to try to avoid the pierce that brings the burst, to avoid the over stretching that too causes disaster. The Ancient philosophers, oriental and occidental have told us all along: find the middle way.