Gregory Thornbury, president of King’s College in NYC made this tweet today:

thornbury tweet

This obsession with the central government system–why we follow national politics so rabidly while we probably can’t even name our local council folks–is troublesome. In our hunger for power at the highest level, we give our innate liberty away, and to a national political system that simply cannot operate on a human scale at that, then we wait for that liberty to be stingily parceled back out to us. Why? Because when the government acts in alignment with our own comfort and worldview, we feel almost like gods. Our democratic electoral process, all cynicism about it aside, enhances this god-like feeling since it gives us a sense of ownership, making us feel like we chose this mighty entity that passes across the face of society as a sword-bearing projection of our desire. Laissez les bon temps rouler. Laissez les têtes de nos ennemis rouler.

But, this is really stupid. When the tide turns, the ‘winning side’ quickly finds that it has armed a hideous giant who has come back to trample them and cast them out. On a long enough timeline, everyone only buys their own demise when they pay into a totalitarian power structure. And make no mistake. Government that operates at a great distance, as our national government largely does, simply has to reduce people into manageable ideological camps in order to comprehend them. This is a function of simple human limits. Such a level of dehumanization makes of the electorate a field ripe for totalitarian impulses that would move to wipe voting blocs off the map because they are no longer recognizable as people, only barriers.

Amid all the hysteria about the impending conventions for both major parties and all the increasingly loud crowing from the Libertarian camp, I think Dr. Thornbury is absolutely right. It’s time for some serious soul-searching about why we’re so keen to have the mirror of high power reflect our own face, and about the risk we take with this gambit. What if the mirror reflects something else? Or worse, what if it reflects right back at us our unvarnished lust for power?

 

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