Sunday, March 11, 2012

We Live in a Nanny State… Deal With It!

The title of this post must seem strange, coming from an admittedly left-leaning centrist like myself. But it is the truth. We might as well get used to it, because it is the nature of government – any form of government – to protect, coddle, and ultimately, control the populace. The real question we need to ask ourselves is two-fold: whom do we want to coddle, protect, and control, and how much?

In the current political dialog, you have the right, which despite angrily decrying our ruinous descent into nanny-stateism, constantly strives to expand upon the very coddling and protectionism they so publicly revile. At the same time they scream to get the government out of our lives, they demand that women be denied the information required to make intelligent choices about their lives. They demand that women be subjected to physically invasive and emotionally wrenching procedures designed to convince them not to terminate a pregnancy, and at the same time, push to allow physicians to withhold pertinent information that might lead the women to choose abortion.

And what about the whole Defense of Marriage brouhaha? Marriage is, at its core, a religious ceremony, deemed necessary by ideological dogma. That the state has also conferred legal ramifications is above and beyond the actual dictates of the ritual. Therefore, making a legislative decision about who may or may not be allowed to marry is as clear-cut an intrusion of church upon state – and vice versa – as anyone is likely to see. Perhaps the most logical answer would be to legislate guidelines for civil unions, completely separate from the dictates and dogma of the church, yet conferring the same legal benefits and constraints. Frankly, the church has no business establishing the framework of a legal contract, just as the state has no business establishing the framework of religious practice. This is certainly not a war on religion; it merely addresses, defines, and honors the rightful respective roles that religion and government play in our lives.

In blurring the lines between relevant entities in our lives, those on the right side of the political equation aren’t trying to eliminate government coddling and control; they are merely attempting to shift it so that the religious element – which makes up a significant portion of what they consider their “base” – is the one being coddled, and the individual citizen is the element being controlled.

The same logic applies to large corporations. The right screams about efforts to regulate large industries, even to the point of attempting to criminalize efforts to expose potentially unsafe and inhumane practices in which those industries engage. By conferring all the rights of personhood upon corporations, while simultaneously providing privacy protection that is denied individuals, the shift in coddling becomes startlingly transparent. Of course, the same applies to the far left’s apparent efforts to virtually eliminate industries whose products they deem unacceptable, and to give unlimited power to control some industries, while looking the other way on others.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that both “sides” of the political equation have usurped their primary responsibilities in their insatiable quest for power, position, and wealth. Political platforms are now based upon the demands of the most powerful groups in any candidate’s constituencies, whose power lies not in votes, but in influence. And as loudly as we might demand that the officials we elect act in the best interests of the populace, our demands will continue to fall on deaf ears for a number of reasons. First of all, too many of us shape our perspectives (and our demands) based upon information provided by the very entities whose interests are most susceptible to being diminished by any change. Take influence away from the corporations, churches, unions, and lobbies, and their power is diminished, their profits reduced. None of these powerful entities can be expected to go gentle into that good night. Industries will scream at the top of their lungs (and with the full power of their very large budgets), claiming that reducing their profits will cost citizens their jobs, kill innovation, and bring financial ruin. Churches will chime in on the whole “decay of our society” claim, reserving – as always – the threat of eternal damnation as a not-so-last resort. And the union bosses will warn of the re-emergence of the abuses that occurred in the earliest days of the industrial revolution of the 20th century.

Setting aside all the dire, doom-and-gloom prognostications and looking more objectively at how a government works, how it should work, and how it could work, if allowed, the most reasonable approach seems to be the elimination of all overblown sources of influence; anything that has a greater voice than does the individual voter. Of course, such a utopian revolution is unlikely to take place, since those who would foment such change are also the most deeply beholden to the very influences we would do well to eliminate.

So where do we start? Perhaps a good place would be for more citizens to recognize that compromise is literally the lifeblood of a democracy, and that the failure to compromise can lead only to tyranny or anarchy. Then, we need to accept the fact that a different point of view does not make someone stupid, lazy, or evil. In short, we need to get over the juvenile assumption that victory is defined as the destruction of an opponent. True victory can only be achieved when all concerned feel victorious, because when any one party feels that they have been defeated, their overriding goal will inevitably be to reverse their defeat and wreak the same upon their opponent. That isn’t peace, it is merely a forerunner to further conflict, and a terrible foundation upon which to build governance, much less the well-being of a populace. We need to let our elected – and would-be elected – officials know that so long as they continue to posture and obfuscate rather than truly represent us, they will not have the votes to propel them into the gravy train of power and money. If we can clearly communicate these simple criteria for governance, we won’t need to legislate undue influence out of our government. It will wither and die on its own. And the nanny that was so feared will be recognized for what it truly can be – an assurance that we are all of us allowed to prosper and grow and live as we see fit, without the fear of being crushed by the wheels of a machine that is larger than the dream upon which our nation was built.

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