• Vessuvius
    97
    Introduction

    Recently, I have sought to understand the factors which underlie the division that can be observed on political grounds, and between members of the American public more generally in terms of identity. The causes of which, that I have come to determine, though numerous, can be summarized through only a few, as much of them relate to one another in some way, and thus overlap. I will begin with an analysis of the foundations of modern media, and how it contributes to the viciousness of partisanship, and afterward, will illustrate why the public as a whole is likewise responsible for the decline of those virtues which have long been considered norm, and integral to the proper functioning of a Democratic society. What follows is the collective result of these efforts of mine.

    Addendum: I apologize in advance for the excess in length, yet there was no format by which I could condense these ideas further.

    Media

    The rise of modern media, as we define it, is arguably the most significant event of our time. It has rendered our communications with each other, instantaneous, and at no expense to ourselves. It allows one to be aware of all developments as they occur in real-time, and offers predictions for what the future might hold, that can be accessed with no greater difficulty. It consists in the sum of our knowledge of the world, with both its past, and present in full view; knowledge which can be imparted to one with little effort. When taken under consideration then, its effect has emerged, and made itself known within all aspects of life; sparing only those who avoid it, by intent, and even in the face of these circumstances, when one is consciously isolated, the surrounding landscape is still changed so as to be essential that one abide by the expectation of staying informed. The alternative to which, is to become shunned for having defied this rule, and in turn, one is said to fall under the perverse classification of ‘other'. A Luddite for the new-age. Historically, it was a question of duty, an obligation for the educated among us to remain familiar with what has taken place, to apprise themselves of the situation, and differentiate between what is relevant, and what is otherwise lacking in importance along these lines. Yet, with respect to any advancement there exist those who by design, and through a great ruthlessness, seek to capitalize thereupon; in disregard of the consequences so often associated with their own behavior, and to the detriment of the public-good. By this I wish to provide reference in particular to the rise of Tabloids, those methods of communication which present nothing of value to the broader discussion, and which in fact, depreciate its value. There was a time during which most of the public paid no attention to such things, with exceptions of course, and gave priority to that which is deserving of it, but this habit doesn't now apply as broadly as it did before. The reason behind this change is the pursuit of further profit, founded upon the notion that our attention is something to be commoditized; an item of exchange, that by any means, must be captured, and thereafter maintained for as long as is possible. This drove the transition toward a separate type of communication, infotainment, that gained in prominence as members of the old guard [Walter Cronkite, Walter Lippmann, Gabriel Almond, Bob Woodward ect] died out, or resigned from the spotlight in their later years, despite living still. To be replaced by figure-heads whose words are without meaning, and substance, and whose purpose, once recognized in and of itself, is to pacify the audience, to state conclusions that either aren't supported by the evidence, in part, or are otherwise wholly without empirical foundation; to replace an exercise of critical thought with what is palatable, and easily digested. Another factor to mention is the continuousness of the news-cycle; unceasing in its coverage of all affairs, which serves to elevate the banal to a level of attention, that it is not deserving of either. There is posed the difficulty of undue importance also, in matters of debate, to ascribe equal merit to the arguments set forth by both sides involved, regardless of whether one such side resists the tide of truth, and possesses no merit at all in its claims. This so-called reframing of the narrative is well-suited to elicit a response from those in observation, and actively creates controversy, and conflict, wherein both should already be settled. Accordingly, an atmosphere is formed from which no solution can be agreed upon even in the case of the most fundamental of issues. If there is no debate, margins of profit are reduced due to loss of traffic, and this is the underlying motivation. To dispense with statements of hard fact catalyzed this trend, or rather, accelerated its adoption within the mainstream; it represents however, a symptom, not the disease as a whole, which can be understood only within the boundaries of a fuller context, and it is with this aim in mind that I move forward onto the next section of that for which I argue.

    The Vice Of Partisanship

    A difference of opinion, and belief, which has persisted since the founding of our nation, and which in the latter-half of the 19th century nearly severed it in two, has been amplified through a conditioning of behavior, that itself is a more recent phenomenon. The divide by which we are separated, and so often consigned to our respective groups, is far starker, and more profound in its current state than at any period in our history. Few I think, would care to deny this point, ironically. As I made clear in the first section, the product of our divisiveness is a deliberate one, and just like most other products is manufactured for a certain purpose; an end for which it is the instrument of execution. Our shared ideals, the need for compromise and all other values which our predecessors came to cherish have faded into obscurity; in the past those who were at some time in opposition, still clung to the goodness of these things, and likewise, for the good of the country, accorded with them; notwithstanding even the grossest of differences did they choose to deviate from this path. Yet, with the shift toward modernity, the desire to pass judgement has reached its height; to scorn and disparage against all those who are so bold as to disagree or proffer an alternative to what one suggests is guiding; the trial then, which we now confront is a test not of conviction, or our resolve to dispute and fasten ourselves to the rigid beams of party-loyalty, but compassion. To reach beyond the walls of these trenches and exclaim with the utmost sincerity, ‘let us desist from this war', and through such expression, re-acquire what sense of unity has been lost, ought to be the object of our striving; only afterward, can we return to steady governance, and adapt as needed.

    Note: I realize that moderates, of which I am one, still wield a measure of influence; as is to be found both within government, and the public-eye, while maintaining a commitment to the ideals just described, but our voices are seldom heard, and with even lesser frequency are they heeded. From this, the conclusion that we are a declining minority may be drawn, and this is the issue which I hoped to bring into question, so that it may be analyzed for all it is worth.

    On The Public's Increasing Unawareness Of Policy And Proneness Toward The Tribal

    It should be apparent to most that the status of the public's understanding has been eroding for awhile. With instant access to any answer of which we may conceive, we are left devoid of any willingness to even ask, let alone to reflect. We feel content with the blind assurance, and misplaced certainty that breaks through insofar as the breadth of our view be restricted to the familiar. That the comforts of routine are sought, and cultivated within us, denies our right to the novel, and the unknown; with every piece of which, vanquished, and kept this way through a suppression of our deepest curiosities. Similarly, the need to remark upon how damaging these patterns of behavior are, is apparent. The maintenance of any society demands an educated populace, in representation of the majority at least, one that can draw conclusions from premises, and thereby demonstrate an awareness of the structure of an argument's evolution; just as well to distinguish fact from fiction, cause and effect, and know when the statements of a political representative, align with either of these qualities, and base their responses thereto upon which of these qualities is applicable in any such instance. The domain of their education extends outward, to encompass the machinations of government; how the state functions, and how each relates to the system of which they are part, carries equal importance. I don't mean to assert that there is the necessity for an understanding hitherto undeveloped, that is complete, and all-inclusive, on the behalf of every individual, only that our standards have fallen, with the barest of minimums expected, and for many, even that appears difficult to achieve. Were I to say that these failures have cost us dearly, would be to cast into the light that which is obvious. Having witnessed the consequences of this, it should be concerning to all who have vested an interest in our fate, that no great strides are being made in the resolution of this deficiency, nor that much attention has been devoted toward it at all in recent years. Yet, this decline continues unabated, despite our indifference shown through its dismissal, and which if for nothing else, affirms its existence. Following this line of thought to its logical end, if all clearness of argument is forsaken, and if indeed, appeals to the identification of party, and the group to which one ostensibly belongs, replace an articulation of the merits of one's point, as they are defined objectively, and if further, opinion becomes detached from all reality, with no firmness of grounding upon which to predicate it, something must be established to fill the vacuum left in its wake; accounting for this relationship is an association of the tribal-type, which once bore in mind, lends reinforcement to one's prejudices, particularly with regards to those which have been inherited generationally, and therefore given an appreciation within the confines of one's cultural life. Holding to an appreciation for the ideals espoused by those who came before, though essential, looms in the shadow of progress; to resist the changing circumstances is acceptable, if moderated, and balanced by the recognition that it is essential, also, to afford a degree of flexibility. It is thus unfortunate that few have proved able to strike a balance between these two things; either ideas of advancement and progress in general are impeded by the subsumption of ones of past within the public consciousness, or the pursuit of which instead takes priority, and advancement proceeds to the detriment of those who cannot keep pace, or we exceed all manner of sustainability, and soon reach the point of no return, with the world made barren, and lifeless, in consequence of our efforts; with these consequences going unrecognized by much of the public, and not given the consideration that one might otherwise assign to them, were there to be found a level of familiarity and personal concern, over the status of our future. Neither of these images which I portray can be regarded as desirable; hence there is cause for continued investigation, but I have exhausted myself in scrutiny of this subject, and again have decided to move onto the next.

    The Specifics Of Polarization

    The source of what difficulty we face as a nation, in mending this divide, and in making a return toward common-ground, is in large part, an effect of polarization; the process by which this gap is further broadened so as to at last align with the greatest of extremes, and with the maintenance of power, in the case of any one party, taking primacy at the expense of all other concerns. Along these lines, and through these means, all manner of compromise falls to the wayside, with only the most distorted of images, a veritable delusion, provided acceptance. Structurally, this shift of belief, occurs due to the evolution of political schemes; a self-reinforcing process that expands in its hold, once introduced, because of a resistance toward the needs of the moment, but at the same rate, as functioning if intentioned to overturn the status quo. If acted upon, and if there is to be any hope for preserving such a movement's strength, it must be continuously maintained, and at any cost. It is fed by the resentments’ of a majority, who in their efforts, feel themselves to have been denied that to which they are entitled; a form of recompense, or at times, even the barest necessities of life, inasmuch as they had been denied either. Vessels of ideological expression then seek to capitalize upon the forces involved herein, by lending appeal to the baser instincts of the majority, or even broad sects of a society without establishing a majority-hold at all, so long as the reins of power be transferred to those responsible afterward. As can be anticipated at the start, figure-heads seldom abide by the conditions of their promise, and upon the fulfillment of what personal ambitions they had laid claim to, whether explicitly or not, renege, and work to consolidate their gains to the detriment of the public-good. Shows of blind rhetoric, and the painting of an idealistic image with no bearing on reality, become means of this end; a way by which to enhance their own position, to project the world as they see it, and delude an untold many in the process, while also undermining any adversary they might have, grow into recurring events; thereby, the viciousness of this cycle is perpetuated. Though it is the case that many can be considered at fault for aiding in the rise of such figures, under the assumption that these events do take place on occasion, there are whose who in virtue of their respective integrity, stand on principle, and offer their protestations when warranted; the question then, is one of whether they wield enough influence to alter the course of things for the better. Thus, we are led to conclude that a large number of sects, each in possession of a similar level of power, but with disparate interests, whose purpose is collectively based, and necessarily desiring of compromise, serves to restrict the temptations of ideologues; such that no two parties find the foothold needed to ensure supremacy, and with no one representative being afforded the opportunity to, either. Within the context of a public-sector, the middle-classes have a history of occupying this role, of restraining the darker impulses of the electorate well, and redirecting them into more productive outlets; to keep the situation grounded in sensibility, while balancing those causes which compete for the public's sympathy, and attention, is their value.

    A Picture Of Where Our Current Path May Lead

    One can find without any effort that if these trends hold, questions of our fall from the world-stage, will be sure to occur in fact; no longer to represent an exercise in mere theory, and speculation. While there exists much which could account for these patterns of decline, in both our curiosity as a public, and more generally, one of the causes of which that seems to have the most relevance is the conflation that so often manifests, between those two central powers of human-perception; truth, and belief, wherefore the consequence is a loss of distinction, and a giving of impressions of credence to one's own view regardless of what is actually the case. This in turn, lends itself well to feelings of assuredness, and conviction, in the supposed merit of any point in particular, inasmuch as it lies accordance with that which one professes. To my mind, the root-source of this indistinction, of conflating the idea of an established theoretical construct which illustrates some aspect of the world in a fundamental way, and thereby, allows us to understand it also, among members of the public, with that which is informally based instead, and would more aptly be characterized as an act of intuition, is a failure of fluency; the willingness which has so often been shown then, by the same, to give undue primacy to questions of opinion, and belief, to the displacement of those forms of expression which are wholesome, and of substance, does contribute as well. Only those who at their core are unable to learn, to grow, or who have otherwise been brought up with no familiarity with the methodologies used in the sciences, or even what advancements have been made thus far, could commit themselves to as egregious an error as to argue that the whole of scientific enterprise is the product of empty suggestion, as too many do. On that account, I fear that as technology continues to infiltrate our lives, substituting a show of pure thought with easy answers, something that I similarly hold to be at fault for the decline of our system of education, and whereby existing prejudices’ are reinforced through echo-chambers of our own making, we will soon reach a point at which there can be known nothing beyond ourselves, and the ideals of whatsoever group with which we are aligned. That, will consist in the fullest boundary of the world of which we are aware, and with it we will find contentment in the certain, with just as well the banality of routine; finally rendered passive, and no better, nor more prone toward reflection, than automata.
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