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A Hole In The Ocean, Can we change the formula for the mother's milk of politics?

What is wrong with the mother’s milk of politics?

Politics itself has become a kind of autoimmune disorder, or some kind of bacterial infection like those flesh-eating diseases, devouring the body politic. My suspicion, however, is that it’s more likely an autoimmune disorder because I see almost no resistance to drugs in global, national or local politics.

It’s Sunday morning, Mother’s Day in America. If the Tea Party was not so deluded about the propensity of ‘open markets’ to produce anything that coincides with the general notion of ‘fair,’ there might be some hope. Instead, they choose to believe in an ‘invisible hand’ that directs commercial traffic and economic well-being into normal"">fair deals. They really ought to read their history. Achieving asymmetry of information and then doubling down by passing the risk onto anyone else, is the singular skill of the dealmaker (e.g. see Goldman Sachs, or look under “Ponzi game,” in Wikipedia –or better still, read Niall Ferguson’s, The Ascent of Money).

The one thing the TeePee-ers are right about is the moral turpitude rampant in both of our major political parties, Republican and Democrat I’m not necessarily talking about the ‘stance’ some Republican senator may take in an airport restroom, or the ‘tickle me homo’ congressman or philanderers and pedophiles in both parties. I’m talking about the endemic structural corruption that provides the sad distinction between the two: The Republican Party panders to anyone that will leave the 1-percenters (those who hold the bulk of American wealth) alone, while the Democrat Party cultivates those who believe that “helping the people,” like all charity, should begin at home (the closer the better, like keeping $90K is the freezer was just a pilot for a program to put $90K in every refrigerator, you know…an updated version of a chicken in every pot).

Look no further than the New York State Legislature to see what I mean. What passes for bi partisanship is an Alphonse and Gaston routine without the politeness, as party hacks bend over each other to scoop up the people’s money in the interest of their own enablers, friends, family, and mistresses. (I have to say, former Governor Elliot Spitzer is practically a saint -- he used his own money for his hookers.)

So somebody out there tell me how we can possibly change these outcomes without changing the structure? We all had (biological) parents. Is that what has to change? If you think it can’t change, think again.

This morning’s Mother’s Day factoid was this: 41-percent of US births in 2008, were to single woman, compared to 28 percent in 1990. We’ve known for years that sales of Mother’s Day greeting cards far outnumber the volume of Father’s Day greeting card sales –presumably sad evidence of irresponsible male sexual behavior, higher levels of young male mortality, broken marriages, and so on. This trend, however, is also evidence of pregnancies effected medically, in which not only is coitus unnecessary, but the male contributor is officially absent and “anonymous.”

Evolutionary social psychologist, Geoffrey F. Miller (University of New Mexico) writes, “Culture, rather than a system for transmitting useful technical knowledge and group-benefiting traditions down through the generations, can be considered an arena for various courtship displays in which individuals try to attract and retain sexual partners (normal"">The Evolution of Culture, Dunbar, Knight, Power). According to Miller, courtship displays are extremely “costly” (all that plumage and dancing about) but produces almost no discernable ‘survival benefit’ to the off-spring. On the other hand, the “cost” of “courtship display” does help improve the chance that mating will take place and, at the same time, keeps competing suitors at bay.

This courtship explanation, better accounts for the behavior we actually see in society than does natural selection. If males and females choose mating partners largely based on their energetic courtship displays (fancy clothes, good grooming, fast cars, big expense account, and robust bumping and grinding) this explains much about the behavior of our politicians (if not our bosses, friends, and ourselves).

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the end of matrimony also spelled the end of corruption?


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Comment by David Hawthorne on May 10, 2010 at 16:28
It's a perfect metaphor actually, since the original connotation is the equivalent of "throwing good money in, after bad...." or "bottomless pit," or similar.

My use of it in the blog however, is meant to be a bit more ironic. When I first started thinking about "complexity theory," I need not only a metaphor but an empirical model. That is when I took up sailing.

As a sailor at the helm of a boat, I could better grasp the sense of being s purpose-driven, conscious being, inhabiting a fragile bubble, pressed between the powerful and tumultuous forces of the sea and the atmosphere. My conscious intent to navigate this position, from here to there, it seemed, was the entire basis, themodus vivendi, providing the only substantive explanation for me and "it" (or them). In fact, minus the my intent the boat would cease to exist, Wind and water would rush in to exhaust the little bubble and I would become undifferentiated from everything else.

So, the question really is one of 'human intent'. The 'bubblin crude' is innocent, the ocean is innocent, the birds, fish, etc. are all innocent. There are many "intentional" players on this stage each in a 'boat' of a different size and capability. There BP, there are the various regulatory agencies, there's the market for energy, and there's you and me and the rest of us out there bobbing around in our dinghies. We're in the situation we're in now because of the all the decisions we made up to this point. Organized as we are, there are bound to be conflicts. Their are no divider lines on the oceans, or curbs, or overpasses and underpasses, or exit signs, or any of that stuff that imposes orderliness. There just a bunch of people in vessels of every description bumbling around in the a dark and stormy sea.

What pisses me off is that we've been sailing toward this collision forever. With the discovery of 'fire' we could imagine what 'might happen' --like sailors spotting a wisp of smoke from a distant funnel on the horizon. The potential for disaster may have been faint, but the possibility was explicit.

Unfortunately, those of us with "intent" chose to keep laying on more steam, more power, more energy; steering relentlessly toward our individual goals as if, the fact that the goals were individual would in and of itself prevent convergence, collision, and disaster.

Even ancient sailor in galleys and sail boats understood that there needed to be 'rules' to avoid collisions at sea. Two vessel vectoring toward the same point had to have 'rules' about which one would 'give way' and which would 'stand on'. Over the years, workable rules arose that sailors of every nation understood and obeyed in his/her own self-interest. Invariably it required each sailor in command of a vessel to honor an a priori arrangement for one of them to slow down, and 'give way,' enabling the other vessel to 'stand on' (maintaining it's current speed and heading). Even illiterate sailors and venal pirates understood and mostly honored these 'rules of the road.' After all, they had to share this ocean. It was in their mutual best interest, even if one of them had to alter his speed or course a bit.

So what am I saying? BP followed (as far as we know) the 'rules of the road'. The culprit here is 'the rest of us.' This is not the philosophical conundrum known as "if everyone's to blame, then no one is to blame." The way I see it, the blame lies in a system of thinking that is predicated on a fiction and relies on a belief in a falsehood. We have imagined ourselves in a 'race' from point A to point B. The fiction is that the race means something, and the falsehood is that 'winning it' is more important than our destination.

Civilization has tapped into wind power and solar power for a far longer time than we have tapped into the earth's oil reserves. We knew one was virtually infinite and the other limited. We knew one was plentiful, the other scarce, one clean the other filthy, one safely accessible the other dangerous to extract. But look at the one we chose to build our civilization upon. We devoted little of our brain power, and little of our time and financial resources to developing the alternatives to carbon fuels. We chose to stand on rather than give way.

Now, that BP has its prow stuck in our gunwales, and our rigging is in a tangled mess, who do we blame? Self-governance is a great idea, if we watch out for the other guy. If all we care about is beating the other guy to the finish line. we're screwed.

When I raised the question of the relationship of matrimonial law and its potential role in creating the conditions for 'corruption' of the body politic, I was raising a general issues about so-called 'natural law' and 'moral law.' If marriage is natural, we wouldn't need 'statue law' to maintain it.
If, as some psychological anthropologist suggest, expensive and risky mating displays are really about courtship (sexual opportunity) and not 'natural selection' (preservation of the species), then we might want to rejigger our moral compass a little and see if horny politicians became less vulnerable to corruption. The further implication being that current trends imply that our social mores are changing in that direction anyway. (I might have asked instead: why is a 300 year plan so unreasonable?)

Comment by Rebecca Pearson on May 10, 2010 at 2:42
OK, how about a commentary on BP's enormous "hole in the ocean" that's destorying the Gulf of Mexico?

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