Friday, August 05, 2011

Politics, Attention, and the Squiggly Line in Your Eye

I share the opinion of many, that the recent political hullaballoo was pure theatrical fabrication, an unnecessary debate about a decision that was a foregone conclusion, and does very little to actually help the country recover from our financial crisis.

My guess about the motivation for the whole thing is a bit different than those I have heard. It is related, but comes at it from a slightly different angle. I don’t think it was votes or money or power that led to it, but rather simple attention.

People act differently when they realize others are paying attention to them. A lot of the time, we do things we normally wouldn’t do and say things we normally wouldn’t say when there are people looking at and listening to us. We get nervous or excited or distracted and end up looking and/or sounding silly, stammering our way through a bit of ridiculousness that we probably could and should have left unsaid. Some call it "stage fright."

It is the same reason that silences feel awkward to us in conversations. When we feel like someone is counting on us to hold up our end of the conversation, we sense a pressure to speak. That pressure causes us to say things like, “Sure is hot lately” - “Yep, but it’s not so much the heat as the humidity” - “You got that right!” about a million times even though we already all know it’s not so much the heat as the humidity since we have spent the last two months telling one another that, but when someone else is paying attention to us we can’t just not talk, can we?

Now, multiply that scenario by one-hundred-forty-twitter-thousand and add that to a 24-hour-news-cycle and then factor it to the power of internet-million and you will then begin to sense the awkwardness Washington politicians must feel in the vacuum created by attention.

After all, they would feel like they weren’t doing their job if they didn’t talk about stuff. And sometimes, when they become aware that we are all paying attention to them, the pressure of that attention causes them to say stuff they would never dream of saying in ordinary circumstances.

The bad thing about this situation was, there really are some important conversations that need to be happening in our nation’s capital, and yet we’ve spent the last few weeks on this one. Hey I know! Maybe if we all agreed to stop paying attention to them, they’ll talk about some stuff that matters.

It would be kind of like the squiggly line in your eye; in order to truly see it you can’t look right at it. In order for our government to truly function, we need to not look at them, or listen to them, or pay any attention to them whatsoever! Sounds like a plan to me - who’s with me?


LilMissSassyPants said...

I'm with ya!

bob said...

It sounds good in theory, ignoring congress but what kind of mischief would they create without an informed populous keeping them in check.