November 12, 2000
12:04 PM   Subscribe

I hate politics. What irks me the most about the current state of affairs is that I had hoped the election would be over by now, and I'd be able to turn on the television, read a magazine, or partake in a conversation about something BESIDES Al Gore and George Bush. Supposedly, "smart" people are interested in politics. Which must make a minority of smart people who AREN'T interested embarrassed to admit to their distaste. But I've recently discovered that I'm not alone: these people feel my pain, but unfortunately their pages aren't very interesting. Anyone know any better links for those of us who are sick and tired of hearing about people counting things in Florida?
posted by grumblebee (26 comments total)
Here's a link to a page of handsome Russian Revolution-era posters at affordable prices. Enjoy!

Grumblebee, I too am burnt out on the constant MeFi seesaw battle to one-up each other or to be the first to post hype-feeding links about how George is dumb and Al is wooden. Boring boring boring! It's nothing I couldn't simply go to and read about myself. And the subsequent conversations are so middle-brow and predictable I feel like I'm standing around the world's largest water cooler on a Monday morning.
posted by Karla at 12:29 PM on November 12, 2000

Well, no one bit at my attempt to at least MIX design and usability issues with the current political madness.

Guess most people would rather bitch and kvetch than make a proactive attempt to improve things...
posted by rushmc at 12:36 PM on November 12, 2000

This is the most interesting thing to happen in american politics in the past 50 years or so and yet people are 'bored with it'. Sad. I'm delighted to see all of the political discussion on Metafilter because at least people seem to have been awakened from their apathy.The only people I consider 'stupid' are those apathetics who don't give a shit!
posted by Mr. skullhead at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2000

Cool. Being middle-brow beats being low-brow!
posted by gluechunk at 1:08 PM on November 12, 2000

yup, there's nothing apathetic about a bunch of people hunched over their respective computers, sounding off their warmed-over opinions on a message board.

Mr. Skullhead, i definitely 'give a shit' about what's been going on, but it's typical of people in this country to immediately deem this sort of thing 'fascinating' and abet the media in turning it into a ridiculous spectacle. Confusion & chaos accompany elections all over the world, but only in America would we create a self-important circus of the whole thing.
posted by Karla at 1:12 PM on November 12, 2000

"Guess most people would rather bitch and kvetch than make a proactive attempt to improve things..."

The national ballot design contest seems like a lame idea to me, as a "national" ballot would have to support at least 4 languages (if not more like 6-10), and getting some states to support/use that could be a bureaucratic nightmare (I could imagine hearing "we don't need no stinking chinese ballot!" in the deep south).
posted by mathowie at 1:22 PM on November 12, 2000

yup, there's nothing apathetic about a bunch of people hunched over their respective computers, sounding off their warmed-over opinions on a message board.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but having an interest in and discussing a topic are the opposite of apathetic, are they not?

Dull? Quite probably, though this like so many other things really is only a matter of opinion. Some people find it interesting, these people are talking about it. Some people don't find it interesting, and they're either avoiding everything, or talking about how annoying all these political posts are.

When there's some two thousand people sharing an area to talk about things, there's going to be difference of opinion, and difference of interest. Is that a terrible thing? I don't think so.
posted by cCranium at 1:37 PM on November 12, 2000

This may take your mind off politicks. Adorn yourself with a pleasant vulva amulet carved from fossilized walrus ivory. Rub the talisman religiously for the next four years and chant "Cher, Cher, Cher, Cher".
posted by Poop(*)Head at 1:41 PM on November 12, 2000

The national ballot design contest seems like a lame idea to me...

I agree that it would be impossible to have a single ballot nationwide. For one thing, most of what people vote for, candidates and issues, are not the same from district to district, much less across the entire country.

However, the idea here is to generate some attention to the problems created by the fact that almost all ballots currently in use are archaic and needlessly complex or confusing, some interest in creating new and better designs, and some ideas for how this might be done.

It seems to me that some good ideas generated in a general design could be adapted and adopted across the country, at least by those who wished to do so.

America is a nation of pragmatists, and the internet is the often promoted as the ultimate tool for creating solutions. Are people more creative and better problem-solvers than the government? I think so, and I think this contest might demonstrate the potential of citizen solutions.

First, of course, it has to attract enough interest to get a decent number of entries.
posted by rushmc at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2000

not to sound all love&brotherhood or anything, but the fact than the community here can discuss these topics politely is awesome...

The subject is getting old, yes, but this really is one of the most important times in the history of our political system...because regardless of the outcome it is becoming clearer and clearer that things need to be changed. Apathy is death....claiming apathy or not wanting to vote because it doesn't matter is horrid...and claiming that its all irrelevant is naive. Discussion can be--hopefully--a route towards change thru Action.

I'm going to go read more about Vulva amulets now.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:29 PM on November 12, 2000

There are many cures for political apathy; I recommend getting into a line of work that's heavily regulated, where a year's profit can vanish with a single regulation. Woke me up, I'll tell you that.

posted by lileks at 3:35 PM on November 12, 2000

which line of work is that?

posted by rebeccablood at 3:45 PM on November 12, 2000

Now, just because I hate politics, it doesn't follow that I think it's unimportant. There are many issues that are important to me. For instance, I am very concerned about any Supreme Court appointments that will most likely be made by the next president.

But just because I admit something is important, that doesn't mean I have to LIKE it or be interested in it. Exercise is important too. So I ride my stationary bike every day. But I don’t like it. It bores me. As does politics.

I get bored when I hear the same analysis over and over again; when I hear guys at the office saying, "you know what I think..." and what they think is something they plagiarized from a Times article they think no one else has read.

And I get disgusted when I see people’s worst, most competitive traits get paraded out in public while they congratulate themselves that they are acting in the best interests of the country. EVERYONE knows that if the vote-counts were reversed, the republicans would be acting EXACTLY the same as the democrats are acting now (and vice versa), yet both sides claim to hold the high moral ground. We all know it's bullshit, but it's all part of the game...

Well, I hate the game. What's wrong with that? We can't all like everything. I hate football too, but no one ever accuses me of being "apathetic” because I don’t watch the Superbowl. That's because football isn't "important." Politics is. Which I admit.

And some people LOVE it. Which is fine. Some people love football. But football fans don't act superior to people who aren't interested in the sport.
posted by grumblebee at 5:15 PM on November 12, 2000

it *is* fascinating. what we have here is history in the making, and the potential for much-needed changes to the way this country's political system works. there's lots of places you can go where leadership is forcefed you and open criticism of the government is discouraged---I bet you wouldn't have to suffer these 'boring' conversations there---I for one am immensely pleased to be witness to and part of this 'circus', because to me it's a huge part of what freedom is about.

I find it absolutely saddening that there are people who don't see this current mess as a maybe-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect positive change. I keep downshifting my expectations of the American citizenry and keep finding that I *still* overestimated... it's people like these who barely deserve the liberties granted them as Americans, and if I may go out on a limb, who have contributed greatly, with their complacency and self-centered wish to not have their comfort disturbed, to some of the very problems with this far-from-perfect nation that those of us who *do* give a damn would seek to fix.

if I may also say, before I go, to make sure I've made the most of this ill-tempered rant against the apathetic whiners who just want their sitcoms and their lifestyle-section articles back---get used to the political discussions---the issues brought up by this election are *not* going away anytime soon.

bet y'all didn't know I was a patriot :D we now return to regularly scheduled dour cynicism.

*note: none of the above vitriol is pointed at you poor beleaguered souls enduring this uproar from outside the U.S.
posted by Sapphireblue at 5:32 PM on November 12, 2000

Sapphireblue, are you in complete control over what you find interesting? Sadly, I'm not. I don't dispute most of your claims about the historical import of this crisis, but that STILL doesn't make me interested. WHICH I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER.

You seem to be implying that I am bad because of something I have no control over.

It would be one thing if I knew nothing about politics, if I hadn't given it a chance, but I grew up in a very political family. The news was always on the television, and we subscribed to Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, etc. I read that stuff because I thought it was important, but I didn't like it. I didn't CHOOSE not to like it. I just didn't. And I still don't.

Does that make me evil or apathetic? Or just honest?

You can't accept that I don't find politics interesting, because to you it *is* interesting, and apparently you can't conceive of someone being different from you.

Are you passionately interested in Calculus? How about chemistry? How about Arabic? Are you diligently studying Arabic and reading the Koran so that you can better understand the Middle East peace issues?

My point is that one can't force oneself to be interested in everything -- even in every important thing. You can lie and say that there are no important things that bore you, but I don't like to lie.

To be fair to you, politics is SO fascinating to you that you obviously can't imagine how it can't be equally fascinating to someone else. Perhaps politics is your religion.

That may sound strange, but consider this quote:

"Politics in America is the binding secular religion."
--Theodore H. White

In the latest issue of Openletters Magazine, there's a terrific letter by Sarah Vowell, who loves politics as much as you do. In it, she writes,

"look up the word 'suffrage' in the dictionary. In mine, after noting the main meanings – the privilege of voting, the ‘exercise of such a right,’ the third interpretation of suffrage is this: 'A short intercessory prayer.' Isn't that beautiful? And true? For what is voting if not a prayer, and what are prayers if not declarations of hope and desire?"

For many Americans, politics is a religion -- or something very like a religion -- and for me to claim I'm not interested sounds sacrilegious.

But it's not.

I haven't gone into a church and cursed God. I've just gone into church and admitted to being an atheist.

posted by grumblebee at 7:08 PM on November 12, 2000

The difference between politics and the Super Bowl, grumblebee, is that you may or may not be a participant in the Super Bowl. (After all, on the Internet no one knows you're a quarterback, eh? :)

But in America, you're a particpant in politics. Even if you stay at home and never vote, even if you avoid every media outlet... You're a part of the process. (And, arguably, the stay-at-home folks are the ones most beloved and trusted by the political professionals.) Voting with your feet is just as much of a vote as any other. Spectacularly inefficent, perhaps, but still...

If that's middle-brow, so be it.

posted by aurelian at 7:28 PM on November 12, 2000

Boring boring boring!

Translation: "Nader Nader Nader!"

Cheap shot. I admit it.
posted by ethmar at 7:36 PM on November 12, 2000

There's a difference between an interest in politics and an interest in government. Since the latter impinges upon all the things that you do find interesting, such as... well, living. (And the "oh, but Libertarians believe in diminishing the influence of government" line doesn't work with me, unless you're a keen supporter of the situation in Somalia.)
posted by holgate at 7:44 PM on November 12, 2000

When I posted this topic, I knew (of course) that it would be controversial, but I wasn’t exactly sure what form the controversy would take.

Many of you are obviously VERY angry with somebody (or some group of people) you think of as apathetic. Or as not doing their part. Or whatever.


Aurelian, I never said ANYTHING about voting or not voting. I said, "I don't like politics," which is simply a psychological truth. I don't like taking out the trash either, but I do it. It's important, so I do it.

Many of you love the PROCESS of politics. I truly respect you for that. I wish I did too. But I don't. I am interested in the RESULTS. And I sometimes choose to work towards certain results (which I don't enjoy doing, but sometimes it's important).

Let’s say I voted on election day. (I'm not telling whether or not I did, but for the sake of argument...) Now there's nothing I can do except wait. If I watch CNN all day, will that help Gore become president?

Sure, there are things I COULD do. I could expend a huge amount of energy lobbying to get this-or-that done so that such-and-such will happen in Florida. And I'm not doing that. I'm not marching on Washington or writing tons of letters to my congressman.

You can condemn me for that, but have you done EVERYTHING you can to save the whales? Do you go out every night and give homeless people your leftovers? Maybe I'M passionate about that.

posted by grumblebee at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2000

There's a difference between an interest in politics and an interest in government. Since the latter impinges upon all the things that you do find interesting, such as... well, living.

Good point, holgate, but here are some other things that implying on virtually every aspect of living:

the sewage system
etc. etc. etc.

One can be a polymath up to a point, but some important topics will slip by.

Politics just happens to be an important subject that is interesting to many people. It is one of the Icons of discussion. One is "supposed" to have an opinion on major political issues, just as one is supposed to have an opinion on The Subway Series or The Phantom Menace. These are the topics of our group discussions.

But is someone bad if they don't find one of these things interesting.

This will probably get me into even deeper trouble here, but I never saw The Phantom Menace. Star Wars means nothing to me. I don't hate it. I don't like it. I have no opinion about it. I'm opting out of that bit of public discourse, because there are other things I'd rather do with my time.

Same with politics. Except I don't opt out altogether. I recognize that I have certain responsibilities. But that's all I recognize.
posted by grumblebee at 8:03 PM on November 12, 2000

grumblebee, I am not persecuting you for being Different. I am marvelling at the fact that a seemingly huge citizens of this country, whose government is a *huge* factor in your life, lives of your family and friends, lives of people you don't even know, don't want to be bothered with it.

that you compare elections of representatives of your voice in government to such things as the Super Bowl and The Phantom Menace and the World Series really just puts a finer point on it than anything I could say.

I've never once claimed to "love politics". Politics is ugly brutish and frustrating stuff. but it is a means to an end, the ONLY means I have or that most of us have of making sure the government's interests share at least a passing resemblance with the interests of the citizens. I don't look as politics as a hobby or a pastime, I look at it as something that's going to shape my life by its forces whether I have any say in it or not---and it boggles my mind that there are people who are more bothered by having to think about those forces than they are by what they can or could do, if we all just washed our hands of it and went on with our lives of entertainment and distraction.

i'm totally not saying another word in this thread :> sorry if you took what i wrote as a personal slight, grumblebee; it was really not intended that way.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:54 PM on November 12, 2000

As Sapphireblue says, "politics" isn't really important: that's simply an extension of the school debating club, a world of backroom alliances and power struggles, involving generally immature individuals who struggle to maintain the semblence of authority. (Deep breath.) But...

Government extends from the people: it can only be adequately sustained from the pooled authority of each citizen. So if you're not taking part (a big hello to the 48% who didn't vote in the US) you're getting nothing back for giving that authority to your leaders. You're being robbed of what's yours, of something more important than your "tax dollars".

That's why it's different from physics or economics, or the sewage system. Because it extends from your consent.

(As ever, references go back to Locke's Second Treatise of Government, favoured text of Jefferson and yer Founding Fathers.)
posted by holgate at 10:32 PM on November 12, 2000

I don't look as politics as a hobby or a pastime, I look at it as something that's going to shape my life by its forces whether I have any say in it or not---and it boggles my mind that there are people who are more bothered by having to think about those forces than they are by what they can or could do, if we all just washed our hands of it and went on with our lives of entertainment and distraction.

I used to think I was pretty smart and had this political thing pretty well figured out. Then I came on here, got my iron-clad arguments pretty forcefully rebutted once or twice, and realized I didn't have it all figured out after all. This all happened in the past couple of months, since I discovered this site and started reading it every day. But it's not the first time something of the sort has happened in my life; at 18 I realized everything I thought I knew about religion was probably very wrong (through discussions on a BBS, a forerunner of this very sort of Web site), and I still grimace when I think about my days as an unquestioning but ardent supporter of the Libertarian Party. Every time I engage in a political discussion I gain a little better understanding of the issues and the process, but at the same time I become less and less sure of what I as a citizen should do.

Every time I think I'm beginning to understand people, politics, and government, I discover another, deeper layer that makes most of my assumptions invalid. Each time it happens it becomes more and more difficult to even figure out what should be done, let alone how to go about getting it started. At many times I fervently believe that there are no solutions to any of our country's problems -- hell, we can't even agree on what the problems are! I despair of ever attaining a level of wisdom that will allow me to take action and know that my action is right. And if I can't know whether I'm doing good or not, then my action is at best morally neutral and is very likely no better than doing nothing at all.

People are so damn confusing. On my more cynical days I go so far as to say they're stupid. But at the very least, they make important life decisions based on thought processes I cannot begin to fathom, even if I allow that thought processes are involved at all. Given this roiling, churning mass of more-or-less randomly-behaving humanity we call America, I find it astonishing that our system works as well as it does. But I don't understand why or how it works, and I fear I never will, and I'm loath to start tinkering with something I don't understand. The Constitution is merely paper until the unpredictable human element is added, and then somehow a sort of order emerges from the interactions between the two. Our entire country is apparently powered by magic. I despair of ever understanding it. I fear I will never be able to understand how to make just the right input to change it for the better. I'm just one butterfly flapping my wings; how can I ever know whether the chaos I generate will be for good or ill?

How can you not be paralyzed by fear of the effects the choices you make might have? How can you not want to curl up into a ball and hope it all goes away? And how can you not sometimes, selfilshly, give into that desire?
posted by kindall at 12:00 AM on November 13, 2000

Matt - point taken, although this is meant in fun... But you do bring up some interesting challenges.
SO - which languages are ya using on your posted by mimi at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2000

should read "your ballot design."
Link still works.
First the coffee maker and now this; it is not a nice usability morning in my world.
posted by mimi at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2000

Good news: Sapphireblue and I AGREE with each other. She says, "Politics is ugly brutish and frustrating stuff" and I (as we all know) "hate politics." And we also both agree that, hate it or not, politics is important. Perhaps it is SO important that even if you hate it, you should bite down hard on something and participate anyway. Perhaps not.

This is a decision that each person must make for himself. If you feel like you are able to get over your hatred of politics, maybe you don't hate it quite as much as some other people.

This morning, I saw Lieberman on the Today Show. I generally like the guy, but this morning he was playing politician. Katie Couric asked him if the Democrats would go to the courts if Gore loses the recount. He nodded while she was talking and obviously understood the question, but instead of answering, he said, "the Republicans were the ones who went to the courts first..." She asked him the question a second time, and he dodged it AGAIN.

This wasn't a major play. It wasn't a lie. It was just a slight dodge. BUT IT INFURIATED ME! I was still angry about it hours later. Which is why *I* hate politics. It raises my blood pressure. And if I get that upset about a tiny little dodge, imagine how I feel about the big stuff.

I think most people deal with this by laughing it off, by enjoying the game as much as they hate it. Or by satirizing the politicians. None of which appeals to me. I just want the damn job to get done, and done well. I don't like competition. I don't like lying. I don't like dodging. I don't like hypocrisy. So NATURALLY I don't like politics.

And I have to decide whether all this stress is worthwhile. Wouldn't it be better for my health if I just opted out?

We've all agreed that politics is important because it affects our lives -- but how MUCH on an effect does it actually have? I'm pretty entrenched in the middle-class, and I've lived through Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush & Clinton, and my life hasn't changed much. Whether Gore or Bush becomes president, I will still have my job, my home, etc.

Even if abortion is made illegal (which would be terrible), I would have enough money to fly with my wife to another country where it IS legal.

Now please don't fly off the handle. I KNOW that's selfish talk. People less well-off than me are VERY affected by the political process. The elimination of ONE social program might mean life or death to them. And that's important.

But I'm just trying to point out that for some lucky people, politics might not have that big of an every day effect on their lives.

So one might choose to opt out because (a) it's painful to opt IN and (b) it doesn't seem to make a difference anyway. I'm NOT arguing that one SHOULD opt out. But if you know someone who has, you should try to understand his reasons. It helps no one if you call him an apathetic fool. They will just get upset and think political people are mean. You need to attack the problem from some other angle.

And you need to realize that it's a COMPLEX problem.

For instance, how many of you have insisted that people vote? How many of you have gotten mad at people who have chosen not to vote? Most of us "smart" people live by the dogma that one "should" vote.

But why? Have you ever thought deeply about this? Or have you simply divided the world into the smart/concerned people who vote and the yokels who don’t (the ones who would rather watch sit-coms)?

Again, I'm NOT arguing against voting, but I'm pointing out that pro-voting arguments are usually weak and ultimately come down to "because you just SHOULD!" Or "because that's what democracy is all ABOUT!" which is really the same as "because you just SHOULD!" It doesn't really explain anything. Are all people supposed to be democratic? What if so-and-so doesn't believe in democracy? Should he still vote? What if he hates all the candidates? What if he hates them all EQUALLY? Who should he vote for?

When you tell someone it's their duty to vote, do you care who they vote for? If you're being honest, don't you really mean that you want them to vote because you assume that if they DO vote, they'll vote for the candidate YOU want to win? Did all you Gore supporters urge Republicans to vote?

Or do you really not care who people vote for as long as they vote? Is the act of voting SO important that people should vote even if they're woefully uninformed? Even if they flip a coin? If so, why?

These aren't easy questions. So if you know someone who opts out, do him the favor of RESPECT. Tell him that you think his decision is wrong, and explain why (without being rude). Also, ASK him why he didn't vote. There are other alternatives besides political activism and sitcom-watching. I hate sitcoms almost as much as I hate politics. There are many worthwhile things to do and not all of them involve flipping levers in a voting booth. And some abstainers might not be lazy apathetic losers. Some might actually be concerned people who have given the matter a lot of thought. Some might be people who realize that they live in a country where one has the right to vote -- and also the right NOT to vote. They are exercising that right.
posted by grumblebee at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2000

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