What Is The "Cancer On The Body Democratic"?

Considering that the McSame-Obama race remains statistically close, despite eight years of Bush-Cheney lies, abuse of power and incompetence and despite all the McSame-Palin lies, gaffes and outright goofyness, and considering that things are not much better nowadays in my country Canada, I thought that it would be quite à propos to dust off an old post of mine from last year - one which I reference all-too-often in my current posts - and therefore repost it here (along with updated links) at The Peace Tree:

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A Cancer On The Body Democratic

(Updated below) (Update II)

Alternative title: The Root Of All Our Problems - In Real Life And In The Blogosphere.

Democracy is slowing rotting away. There is not only a cause for this wasting disease, but as well a potential cure - if we commit ourselves with courage, diligence and determination to apply such a cure.

Intellectual sloth is a human character flaw with numerous ramifications, and which constitutes the gravest threat to our democracies.

On the one hand, intellectual sloth pushes any person who is afflicted by it to wallow in ignorance, finding security in absolute ideologies, philosophies of thoughts, tenets of faith, various dogmas or views of the world, without seeking to understand them fully or even less to question them. In turn, ignorance festers fear which, as we know all-too-well, acts as a powerful motor in driving irrational thinking and actions. Furthermore, a person afflicted with intellectual sloth refuses to accept any fact of reality which confronts, rattles, or even invalidates, the comfort of one's “convictions”. To this effect, such a person will be often deluded by intellectual vanity, being arrogant, if not contemptuous, towards anything and anyone that confronts his/her ignorance generated by intellectual sloth.

On the other hand, a person afflicted with intellectual sloth is continually in search of the quick-and-easy and of instant gratification - in fact, he/she craves such things. Incidentally, a person afflicted with intellectual sloth is egocentric, selfish, greedy and covetous, even paranoid, in his/her immature search for facility and instant gratification. Consequently, intellectual sloth-driven people invariably become slaves of expediency. That is also why such persons will all too often want (consciously or not) to be serviced an opinion, like being served fast food, rather than to make the effort of actually forging an informed one for themselves - they search for easy and absolute answers.

In short, intellectual sloth transforms a supposedly adult (and thus mature) person into an irresponsible, reactionary, judgement-impaired, and comfort-craving child or adolescent, who lives only in the “now” while remaining blind to “yesterday” and “tomorrow".

Therefore, intellectual sloth renders those afflicted by it incompetents - as thinking, reasoning human beings, as well as in dealing/composing with reality (or at least in trying to understand it).

One direct consequence of the prevalence of intellectual sloth is not only voter indifference and apathy, but as well the complacent acceptance of the "dumbing down" (and disinformation) of the news and of the political discourse - after all, journalists and politicians are from the same culture as the voters's ... thus our current tabloid journalism and politics (Assault on Reason, anyone?).

Hence, the "it's all about me", "not in my backyard", "who cares? ", "we're the best", "not my problem", "we're good, they're evil" and other such selfish, uncaring, absolutist and/or uninformed attitudes that have been prevailing among the citizenry since at least the 1980's.

Case in point - I give you these two poll questions (and results):
Gallup Poll. March 11-14, 2007. N=1,009 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"How closely have you been following the news about the recently completed trial of Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the former vice presidential aide: very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?"

Very Closely: 13%
Somewhat Closely: 30%
Not Too Closely: 26%
Not At All: 29%
Unsure: 1%

CBS News Poll. May 16-17, 2006. N=636 adults nationwide. MoE ± 4.

"How much have you heard or read about the special investigation into the possible leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity to reporters in 2003? Would you say you have heard or read a lot, some, not much, or nothing at all?"

A lot: 18%
Some: 31%
Not Much: 23%
Nothing: 28%
Unsure: 0%
And there you have it. Essentially the same question was asked twice, almost a year apart each time, and in both instances we are faced with the sad reality that less than 50% of Americans paid significant attention to this grave scandal.

Not convinced that this applies to all (current) major scandals? Then try this for size:
CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 20-24, 2007. N=1,052 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).

"How closely have you been following news about the recent firing of several U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department? Have you been following it very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?"

Very Closely: 15%
Somewhat Closely: 35%
Not Too Closely: 36%
Not At All: 13%

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. April 18-22, 2007. N=1,508 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"How much, if anything, have you heard about the firing of eight federal prosecutors and questions about how Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the White House handled the firings? Have you heard a lot, a little, or nothing at all?"

A Lot: 33%
A Little: 44%
Nothing: 22%
Unsure: 1%
Should we be surprised then that the poll answers to the follow-up question (or similar questions), "Do you think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign or otherwise lose his job over the issue of the firings, or not?", were less than 45% (on rough average) for the resignation/removal of Gonzales?

Should we likewise be surprised that only 39% of Americans favor impreachment for Bush and Cheney - despite everything that has been revealed/reported/analyzed/discussed so far? Or that only 14% of Americans "believe" in evolution without any Divine involvement?

Call it scandal fatigue. Blame the MSM and the politicians as well, if you will.

But I call this intellectual sloth-driven incompetence as citizens.

As I wrote before: "We prefer to wallow body and mind into reality-tv shows and the local version of American Idol (Canadian Idol in Canada and Star Académie in Québec). Thus, therein now lies our democratic passion, whereby we discuss, analyze and evaluate which participant to support and then vote for him/her".

But, to do such things in the exercise of our duty as citizens of democracies? Forget it. We act like ostriches in the face of it. It is too complicated. Too discouraging. Too unsettling.

And don't you dare blame the Media Corporations - since they have no qualms at yanking shows that have poor ratings, why do you think they keep serving tabloid infortainment, news, reality shows, game shows and other such tripe? Because. These. Have. High. Ratings.

The intellectual sloth-driven search, if not need, for instant gratification craves entertainment - on TV, in movies, in music, in videos and in games. This in turn is the root cause for tabloid news and politics - a society-wide dumbing down. That is why (and how) Bush was elected in 2000 and again in 2004. That is why most candidates (GOP and/or Democratic) are often timid, "dumb and dumber" or "uber triangulators". We face the same problems in Canada with regards of our main political parties.

They are only responding (or trying to respond) to. The. People.

Unfortunately, the same problem has crept up in the blogosphere - and yes, including the progressive one.

Take for example the blogging tip of "keep it short and straight to the point" (not my forte, obviously!). Or the idea that "Blogs can have a shopping mall effect: everyone goes there because everyone goes there (...)"

In other words: the blogosphere not only enables but also (knowingly or not) encourages instant gratification.

Case in point: remember the backlash against Democratic representatives posting diaries at DKos, demanding that they actually leave Dkos (one example here), after the war funding bill was passed? How many took their ball and went home (one example here)? Or those who rant and rave because there is no impeachment of Bush and/or Cheney "now"? Yes such things are very disappointing, if not maddening, but such destructive backlash constitutes (sorry to say this) intellectual sloth-driven immaturity. It is short-sighteness. It is incompetence.

Consequently, such is my diagnosis: we are faced with a highly metastizing cancer on the body democratic, and it is called intellectual sloth. Heck, this cancer has spread through the whole body society already.

And it is this cancer that must be fought/eradicated, at its very root.

The solution? I wrote about it before: "Education. Yes, it is through education that the character flaw which is intellectual sloth can be countered (...) the inculcation, beginning in childhood and throughout the educational process, of the need for questioning, for reasoning, for discerning, for gathering information, for contextualizing, for criticizing, for evaluating/re-evaluating, for thinking - in short, for the need of intellectual activity - constitutes the best vaccine against intellectual sloth".

It is a given that this solution requires time and much effort. But it is the only one which will effectively fight and eradicate this metastizing cancer that is intellectual sloth, and which is destroying not only our body democratic, but also our bodies politic, economic, and society.

As I am fond of saying: "Living in a democracy is a right and a responsibility. And yes, this responsibility requires effort. But which is better: having your back bent by the effort required to keep on living in a democratic society, or letting leave for complacency and find yourself one day with a back bent under a totalitarian regime (however benevolent it may be)?"

Or, if you prefer: Patience trumps expediency. Patience and determination are the hallmarks of competence as citizens.

This recent DKos diary (one example among an ever increasing number of such examples) illustrates what I mean by this: patience and determination in convincing people and representatives (a clear majority at least) of the need for investigations leading to impeachment.

The same can, should, and must be done to enact the means necessary to eradicate intellectual sloth.

In the meantime, we must continue to expose, document and discuss incompetence - but we must also be willing to get off from our couches and convince those outside of the blogosphere to join in, or at least to make the effort to keep themselves critically informed. At the same time, we must keep organizing and pressuring to make the changes required to save the gravely ill patient that is society - and stop acting like intellectual sloth-driven immature adolescents while so doing.

It is a long and winding road indeed - but competence as citizens requires (nay: demands) this from all of us.

After all, our revolutionary participatory democracy is not just about ranting and raving, eh?

Update: 06/25/2007 - 41% ... the proportion of Americans who still believe there is a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11. Q.E.D. ... once again.

Update II: 06/26/2007 - Remember this poll from 2005? By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans favored impeachment of President Bush should it be revealed that he lied about the war in Iraq. And what has happened since then? Nothing. Zip. Nada. The cancer has spread so much, looks like it is time to activate the democracy life-support machine folks ...



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