Don’t hold your breath that good things will just happen

August 8, 2007 | By | 2 Replies More

E.g., Don’t hold your breath that the Democrats will save us.  Or that anyone will.  It might take something far more dramatic.  Perhaps something revolutionary.  But it’s going to require far more than sitting around watching our TV’s to make it happen.

Marty Kaplan is a really smart media-reform and political-reform guy who tells it like it is.  In this recent piece in Huffpo, titled “Our Years of Magical Thinking,” Kaplan worries that too many of us have the attitude that good things will simply happen.  It is a pervasive and dangerous attitude.  I agree with him.  For the most part, good things take planning, sacrifice and hard work.  Bad things often just happen.   It takes a lot of effort to build something.  On the other hand, mere decay and neglect can bring it down.

Politically, we now face many huge struggles but there is no indication that the key players (all of us are key players some of the time) are willing to do what it takes to effect real change for the better:

Today, magical thinking is the belief that a Democratic White House and a filibuster-proof Congress is all that stands between the country and meaningful political reform. Is it really credible that elected officials who got to Washington without making campaign finance reform and media reform their signature issues will risk their incumbencies to force the only kind of change that can rescue democracy from the dangers the Founders warned us about, no matter who’s in charge?

Why is “magical thinking” dangerous?   It’s because people who believe in magic are lazy and naïve.  They are all too willing to trust the next seller of political snake oil.  As Kaplan writes:  “What haunts me is the possibility that Americans will one day decide that there is something so inherently dysfunctional about our political system that rolling the dice on non-democratic change is the only hope to rescue it.”

I also agree with Kaplan that media reform and campaign reform are huge issues that urgently need help.  In fact, without first addressing these two festering problems, it will be one hundred times harder to have the necessary national conversation to fix any other complex national issue (there are dozens–take you pick).  Sorry to end this on this depressing note.  Perhaps I’ve just been reading too much about what the candidates aren’t discussing . . .

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Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Media, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I find it odd that people in the USA, even many that do not think of themselves as religious, believe int he concept of karma, that if you do good things the good things will happen to you. I believe in the concept of "paying it forward", that if enough people help someone out when they can, and ask the person being helped to help someone else when they can, can make society a better place. Karma is very unrealistic.

    Look at our society. You will see that it rewards the bad people, the liars, the thieves, the corruptible and the corruptors. Those that choose to ignore the rules reap great benefits. Those that play by the rules or do nothing are often punished.

    The media has become more than just the morphine of the people. It numbs the mind and tells them how to think. It gives them dreams of hope by perpetuating lies.

    I have followed events in the middle east since the late 70's. During the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, masses of American suddenly thought they had become experts about a country they had never heard of before, and about a city that they had previously believed to be a fictious place from the "1001 Arabian Nights" stories. The average American seemed to believe that all Iraqis lived in tents, road camels, and had no formal education. They believed that the Iraqi people were backward, unclean, and that all the women wore veils because they were ugly. (At the time, most Iraqi women did not wear "burkas" or veiled robes, they preferred tight bluejeans and turtle-neck sweaters. )

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Magical thinking occurs hand in hand with path dependent thinking. See here, on the issue of campaign finance reform. http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1504

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