Politics: Are You Happier?

(Update: I’ve backslid since writing this blog post. Arkansas politics has been brutal to liberals, secularists, or anyone interested in sensible government.)

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 Why aren’t I more interested in politics?

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(Note: politics and staying informed are not synonymous. Politics tends to focus on the demagoguery and platform ideals of our government’s working and influences. It is the quintessential “us versus them” or “right/wrong” system at work.)

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Years ago, I overheard someone asking another person the following: “Does knowing all that or worrying about it make you HAPPIER?” I didn’t hear what the other person said… and I had read and heard a million variations on the same sentiment. It never “connected” with me personally before. But the person being asked stammered and stuttered and probably realized that he had been called out to recognize the implicit truth in the question.
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Like so many other revelations, it struck me that the answer regarding politics was “no.” Just like that, I suddenly gave myself permission to stop worrying about whether I was informed politically enough. Politics is an infinite loop of entropy in action. Fix one problem, another arises; fix two problems and unintended consequences thrive. Politics tends to drain one’s energy toward reprisals and a “I’ll show you!” philosophy.
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Where once I felt obligated to stay informed and aware of issues and the points/counterpoints of the world, I no longer had the urge to feel like I needed or even wanted a ‘platform’ about every single subject or idea.
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All things being equal, honestly, who cares what I personally think? It’s not the most appealing conclusion to realize, but it is almost universally true – for everyone. (Even you, right now, the person reading this post: your years of thought and beliefs about how things ought to be are and will always be overshadowed by the millions of differing opinions working against you.)

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Due to being able to stand back from the fray for so long has given me the ability to appreciate just how obligated people feel to have an opinion and maintain it. And they never seem to think about the relentless obligatory fatigue of it.(I’ll let you in an open secret about politics: most people don’t want to hear your opinion – they want to express theirs. It’s selfish, I understand. But it is mostly true. As strongly as you feel sometimes that someone is an idiot about an idea they hold, rest assured that someone else you know feels that your opinion is just as ridiculous. I’ve often speculated that one attribute of a developed mind is to be able to know that this is true and still be able to listen to someones else give an opinion without attacking.)

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Try telling someone caught up in their own opinions and the maintenance of same that an obsession with politics isn’t making them happier or healthier. When their tirade starts, try asking the person the following: “Is the time you are spending trying to stay informed making you happier? Do you think your intensely voiced opinions have any effect on others? Is the world a better place?” Usually, you get dead silence. Once they start talking, pay attention to the level of defensiveness of the response.
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Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy politics to a degree. It can be fascinating. Do I feel defensive about political topics? No. Am I passively informed about a lot? Yes.
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Do I laugh a lot at people who get worked up, frustrated or angry about the current state of things? Sometimes, yes. It’s narcissism past a certain point. They are so convinced that their opinion makes one iota of difference. They also often feel that anyone who isn’t upset is either stupid or doesn’t care. This is ego in the most pure form. Almost NO ONE I know well takes direct action based on their political opinions – most people are passively trying to convince other people that their opinion is correct. It is mostly talk, chin music, and much ado about nothing. Political opinion is akin to sports to me – both keep a large segment of the population from ever really doing anything substantive in society.We are much too busy going about the business of developing and maintaining our own version of the political truth.The reality is that most people’s most ardent political opinions have no effect in the real world, nor do they make the person holding said opinions smarter or happier.