Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Quid Pro... No

We hear the word politics, and we think about… well… politics. Someone running for office, or making a deal to get a bill passed, or seeing a mayor appoint his brother in law, Del, Head of the Traffic Dept right after he gets fired from Dairy Queen… again. And while those are all prime examples of politics, they don’t quite cover it all. There is politics in almost everything we do, all day long. There’s politics at work, in the schoolyard, sometimes in the family, (I’m sorry if you’re not the Golden Child… But there is one, isn’t there?) There is politics behind what you listen to, what winds up on TV, or in the theater. How about what shelves in the super market certain foods go on? In the 80s, we even had the Politics of Dancing! (Never dreamed I’d ever reference a Re-Flex song… Ah well, at least I stayed away from Wang Chung!) Miriam Webster defines politics as, ‘the use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control’. Intrigue, and strategy… talk about your wide open parameters. Intrigue can be achieved by pretending I’m who I need to be in order to appeal to those who will ultimately give me what I want. And strategy can be everything from shaking more hands than my opponent, to having him killed! So let’s call it what it is; pretentiousness, and craftiness… Sounds more familiar, doesn’t it? I just described a person or two that you know, who has probably achieved a certain position, or salary, or something, they probably didn’t deserve. And they did it through the use of… SURVEY SAYS!… Politics.

It kind of starts in grammar school. You let the cool kid in the class sneak a peek at your test so he can find out that the Gettysburg Address in not in fact where Abraham Lincoln lived. He subsequently passes the test, and gratefully picks you for his kickball team at recess… You’re ‘in’. That’s politics. The same is true through high school. What you wear, the bands you listen to, who you make fun of, sometimes even the grades you get, can all have to do with impressing the people by whom you want to be liked, and accepted. Acting a certain way to achieve a certain position, or status… That’s politics. And in a perfect world, the workplace would be governed by the simple premise of ‘he/she who works the hardest, does job the to the best of his/her ability, and takes pride in every task, no matter how large, or miniscule, will advance the fastest in status, and compensation’. But that just ain’t how it works, is it? Having the right connections, hanging out with the right people after work, flirting, even dressing a certain way can have more of an effect on advancement in the workplace than doing your job well. Oh I’ll admit it, I’ve tried that route… The flirting, the clothes… didn’t work for me. Apparently, I wasn’t Ted’s type. Plus, I found out that a guy wearing short skirts to work every day throws up some red flags in the HR department! On the bright side, I got out of any duties involving climbing ladders… and the severance package was ok. Plus, I’m almost done with counseling. Haters! They were just jealous because I had the legs for it… Politics!

The thing that really gets me, is politics is based on favors… Quid pro quo. Aren’t we supposed to do unto others as you would have done unto you? The golden rule – we learn that pretty much from the time we can comprehend actual words. Are the rules of politics written in the Bible anywhere?

“And the Lord sayeth, ‘thou shalt scratcheth the back of thy neighbor, and gain promise through such favor that he shall scratcheth thine, even whilst thinking thy to be a scumbag’. The word of the Lord.” Hypocrates – 29:2.

How did we get stuck with this lunacy? Why can’t we just do something because it’s the right thing to do, instead of expecting some sort of compensation, or favor in return? Politics, in all its forms, breeds distrust. We don’t trust our elected officials anymore, because they are politicians… Yes, they’ve made a life of this sort of behavior. I can spend months bashing my opponent, and telling perspective voters that he is not qualified, or experienced enough to do this job. Only to completely reverse my stand later on, because now I’m out of the race, and he is a member of my party. These things are always overlooked because, “that’s politics”. No matter how crazy, or disreputable, or downright dishonest these candidates, senators, governors, mayors, or presidents appear to be, “that’s politics”, is like a get out of jail free card… We’re just accepting of it. We just think, ‘That’s how they are’. How crazy is that?

There are those who think politics is a necessary evil… a way to get things done. I see no positive side to it, in any aspect of life. I’ll say it again – politics breeds distrust. You want to know another way to get things done? Caring… (No, I don’t need a hug, or a tissue). Simply giving a shit about your community, or your neighbors, or your child’s quality of education, healthcare, etc., and doing something to effect positive change without expecting something in return. I’ll scratch your back, and hopefully, when mine gets itchy, (though it shouldn’t, the cream worked really well), someone will be there to scratch it. Seems like a better system to me. There is a good movie called ‘Pay it Forward’ that portrays the enactment of this type of philosophy. If something nice is done for you, do something nice for someone else one day, and so on, and so on… Sounds simple. Interestingly enough, the concept was actually first written about in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin… A politician!