I covered a Corpus Christi city council proceeding recently for a local newspaper and a grassroots community organization. The experience seemed to me a microcosm for a regressive political trend evident in American politics. The council debated what to do about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) finding dangerously low disinfectant levels in the city water mains for the second time in as many years. The mayor and two council members utilized all of their time attempting to target the TCEQ for allegedly overreacting to Corpus’ repeated failures to measure up to state water standards. A fourth council member began her like-minded comments as follows, “I am not trusting of government.”
Think about that for a moment. In essence, she said to voters, “I, your elected government official do not trust the process you entrusted me to direct on your behalf.” It is a common sentiment often expressed in myriad, if covert, ways at all levels of politics in Texas and the United States. It got me to thinking about where we are heading collectively and the kind of thinking that is leading the way.
Government is the act of governing. Govern is defined as follows by Merriam Webster: “to control or guide the actions of (someone or something).” You obviously govern your own body. When you share space and resources with another or others, you establish agreements as to how that space and those resources will be shared. Roles, duties and responsibilities are assumed or assigned as means of assuring those agreements are kept. It applies to families. It applies to clans. It applies to tribes. It applies to interaction between tribes that share space and resources.
Quite obviously the more people occupying a given space and sharing a given amount of resources, the more agreements – read, governing – is required in order to maintain peace and order. Any fool – even an inbred hillbilly confined to interacting with his growing clan on an acre of land – understands that natural equation. The more people and the consequent less space and resources, the more agreement is required and the less self-centeredness is afforded. Or, the more people occupying a given space, naturally the less individual freedom of choice to ‘do as thou wilt.’
It has been observed and thoroughly documented clinically that early stages of infantile thinking begin with the assumption that the child is the center of the universe. Developing awareness of others and the fact that they share space and resources – and cooperating with others in that regard – is incident to the process of maturation. The math becomes intuitive as intelligence evolves.
It is an interesting and potentially enlightening exercise to contemplate the above-offered equation against one’s own experience and values. Think about the political ideas you have accepted or synthesized against that equation. Do some of your cherished ideas make an awful lot of sense after all? Think about the role models, ideals, and dreams you look to and harbor and how you came to accept them and where they are leading you. Do they make you – and those you share space and resources with – feel happier or more fulfilled? Were they influenced by interests, factions or ideologues working at odds to the simple, natural math? What were the purposes of those (educators, politicians, film makers, media, employers, mentors, etc.) seeding such ideation?
Think about the firmly-set ideas you may have developed over the years about certain classes of people (political, social, philosophical, religious, national, racial). Are they fair? Or are they expedient? Are they healthy for you and those with whom you share space and resources? Have they led to evolution or have they had a regressive effect?
This essay is not a promotion for nor condemnation of any particular political faction. If you engage in the suggested exercise above earnestly, and follow up with some objective homework, I think it will become evident that political extremes – on either side of the aisle – fueled by greed are the most abundant feeders of the sort of regressive thinking addressed.