October 08, 2003

Childish diddling in California

Let's start with Governor Schwarzenegger. While some have characterized the California recall election as a referendum on the Democrats, or as a principled rejection by the voters of politicians-as-usual, I incline to an interpretation of the recall election as a sign of the decadence and desperation, not to mention flippancy and triviality, into which our democracy has sunk.

The voters of California certainly have a lot to be "angry" about. But what does it say about their maturity and wisdom that they so recently re-elected the guy that they decided to recall yesterday? If they had been paying attention, nothing about Gov. Davis' second aborted term should have come as a surprise to them. Gov. Davis didn't change overnight. The state of the California economy did not change overnight. I suspect instead that the California electorate has simply not been paying attention for years. They've been diddling away their time on the stream of corporate-produced "entertainment" while Enron was rigging their electricity markets and the stock market bubble was doing what all bubbles eventually do.

So the voters were angry. Angry like spoiled children, who don't understand that they bear some responsiblity for the mess California is in. And how have they reacted? Like naiive children. Ahnold avoided debates and refused to say anything substantive about his policy ideas (if any), and the voters have rewarded him with the Governorship, probably because, like small children, they remember that the big man with muscles has entertained them in the past with all the neat-o movies and cool explosions. Like children, the voters of California try to soothe their troubles with more entertainment.

Democracy, we forget, burdens us with responsibilities. We seem not to want them. And so, we deserve what we get. Let the Ahnold regime begin...

Posted by Carey at October 8, 2003 09:28 AM

Your comments seem to suggest that California voters, in their endless indolence, made a conscious choice to avoid educating themselves as to the political situation over the past decade or so. While in many cases I'm sure this is accurate, I'm also convinced that our society today is simply too hectic and stressfull for many who would otherwise take personal responsibility for their state's political climate.

Over the past century or more, we've been conditioned to "need" things that we really don't. Very few people "need" a cellphone, a PDA, an SUV, a plasma TV, or a GPS system. Yet somehow, we've been convinced that if we don't have instant access to any and all of the above, we're somehow less of a human being than our neighbor who has what he/she "needs" to succeed.

So we go out and work. We we work long and hard in jobs we hate for junk we've been convinced we need. Given this atmosphere, it's no wonder politics takes a back seat. After all, regardless of whether Simon, Davis, Cruz, or Ahnold sits in the Guv's chair, we still "need" that nifty new cellphone/videogame platform/pager/GPS/walkietalkie/camera secret decoder ring that just came out last week.

Don't we?

Posted by: Brian at October 10, 2003 09:04 PM

I'm also convinced that our society today is simply too hectic and stressfull for many who would otherwise take personal responsibility for their state's political climate.

I think this is a good point, and it reveals the intrinsic conflict between the requirements of democratic citizenship and the requirements of participation in a consumerist society.

What does democracy require? It requires what the California voters, in my opinion, haven't done. They haven't paid any attention; they haven't educated themselves; they haven't thought about the problem.

What does consumerism require? It requires what you describe: that you "need" a lot of things you don't have, and that you sacrifice all your time trying to obtain all the things you "need."

There isn't any room for democratic citizenship in the life of a consumerist.

This is a huge problem, and if we do not recognize it, we will sacrifice our democracy without ever realizing it.

Posted by: Carey at October 14, 2003 02:51 PM