Are you above this General Election season?

In my last installment of this usually sporadic and erratic writing experiment, I demonstrated what I felt were the probability and variables of an Obama presidency. One of the comments jarred me out of my six month long trance long enough to step back and question my own obsession with every facet of this faux democratic process faking about a third of America into thinking that there is more at stake than which face or name brand will CEO this business park nation of ours.

Howard Zinn’s words shook me enough to look at my own democratic political involvement in a process about as democratic as choosing between Unilever’s line of Axe products or Proctor and Gamble’s Tag. Either way, I am going to pay about the same price, smell about the same (that very briefly pleasant aroma that then makes people question what odor you are trying to mask. By the way, leave me alone, its medicinal).

“Well… this one has a prettier package and I like their commercials. I am going to choose Tag” Consider Yourself Warned. Also, consider yourself warned that the phrase ‘consider yourself warned’ is trademarked by Proctor and Gamble, oh and they own about 20% of everything in the Western Hemisphere. (Editor/Writer’s note: this blog has high journalistic ethics and the 20% figure was hyperbole and not actual data). According to PG.com:

Three billion times a day, P&G brands touch the lives of people around the world. Our corporate tradition is rooted in the principles of personal integrity, respect for the individual and doing what’s right for the long-term.

The prevalance and hegemony of one brand scares me and is it me or does the last part sound like they used the same marketing sloganeering as our current candidates?

I find the Axe/Tag analogy particularly apt because with either company/candidate you are going to have subjugation of environmental preservation to business profitability and a quiet acceptance of child and otherwise unethical labor practices abroad (for hard proof, Chumbawumba wrote a song about Unilever).

On this election process, Howard Zinn* writes:

This seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. It is a multiple choice test so narrow, so specious, that no self-respecting teacher would give it to students.

I totally agree, Howard, and in this case, its a multiple choice test with no right answer.

In the same vein that propaganda is most effective when it is not percieved as propaganda… the most effective way to eliminate our choices is through convincing us that choices in fact do exist. Whether it is cable television news programs, men’s body sprays or candidates for the US Presidency: its all the same and you do not have a real say. Let’s focus our attention elsewhere and try to make real changes.

Anyone have suggestions?

_____________________

Howard Zinn is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston University and noted author of “A People’s History of the United States”

 

 

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~ by Brad on May 15, 2008.

One Response to “Are you above this General Election season?”

  1. Really there is not a simple answer to this problem. Really, as I see it, there are 3 problems to overcome, each equally daunting.

    The first problem I see is the way the system is set up. The two party system is ancient and archaic. In the political spectrum the majority of people fall into the middle, thus both parties are going to be primarily fighting over these voters. This tends to lead to producing candidates that are more moderate. Yes, there are a few key policies that Obama, Clinton, and McCain differ on but the difference generally falls on how much they oppose or support these issues. Thus it comes down to who irrelevant factors that the public is easily swayed by.

    This leads to the next problem, one that we really can’t overcome… People are wired so that factors such as character, personality, charisma, etc will matter into their decisions. The media knows this and the candidates certainly know it, and they exploit it. Bush’s 2004 campaign was the IDEAL example of a candidate exploiting people’s cognitive processes. He still uses this too (I believe he recently claimed he gave up golf because he didn’t want parents of soldiers overseas to see him playing while their children were fighting for their country)

    The only way to overcome this is to not be so ignorant. If politics really matters, then these strategies will not affect your decision. Sadly, the majority of people I run into do not keep up with politics or even care. I remember a recent conversation with a friend about global warming, he claimed that the extremely low temperatures this winter were evidence that global warming is a crock. I asked him if he really knows how global warming works and he admitted he had no idea. When people don’t take the time to form their own impressions, outlets such as the media will be there to form them for people.

    So it comes down to whether we can a) change the party system, b) change the way people’s brains work, or c) motivate people to actually start caring more about politics.

    Since ‘b’ is not practical we have to look at ‘a’ and ‘c’. I personally think the system has to change; my biggest gripe about this upcoming election is that of all the candidates running, none represent my beliefs. Sure I can vote for someone other than the main candidates, but that vote really will mean nothing since I’m willing to bet that Obama will win my state.

    This turned out a lot longer than I planned on and I really didn’t think it out beforehand so sorry if it sounds like I’m rambling. But anyways that’s my 2 cents. I really enjoyed reading your last two entries and I hope you keep making more.

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