"I'm As Mad As Hell"
by Daniel DiRito, Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 02:28:21 PM EDT
I tend to think most of life can be understood by looking at relationships. The exchanges that occur between people tell us a lot about the mechanics of power and persuasion. It is within those mechanics where one is most likely to find the forces that influence the bulk of what takes place in society. For me to understand and explain this best, I start by looking at the fundamental relationship...a marriage or other love relationship between two people. What an individual does in these relationships is often a good predictor of their actions in the larger society.
As I've watched these relationships over the years, one equation has piqued my attention. It's what I would call the accommodator phenomenon. In this model, one can usually determine which partner does the majority of the accommodating in order to make the relationship functional. Granted, this is an oversimplification, but I think its one that holds up to the analysis. This accommodation can be subtle or it can be pronounced...but it is often the defining characteristic of the relationship.
It may take simple forms like spending the majority of the holidays with one partner's family or sports events become the primary form of entertainment or maybe its merely whether to live in the city or the suburbs. In some instances it is even more pronounced. In these extreme cases, one partner may actually abandon the majority of their prior relationships or one partner may give up a lifelong hobby. Basically, in these extreme cases, those that know the individual making the accommodation will often find the change wholly surprising.
With this background, I am most fascinated with how this construct translates to the larger dynamic of society. Again, I will oversimplify in order to make my point...but I think it will withstand the scrutiny. In a basic sense, how societies interact in the fundamental relationship will often explain the larger social structures. I am particularly interested in looking at politics. To give an extreme example will help demonstrate my point. In Saudi Arabia, women are primarily accommodators. They don't vote (although that is changing) and their function is primarily subservient or secondary to the male partner. Societal decisions are therefore made by men, meaning they control the politics.
American politics can also be explained with this model. Our two party system has a large role in how this unfolds. To fully understand my argument, some assumptions must be made. I tend to look at the far left and the far right as the partners in the relationship who want to be accommodated. In the larger middle are those who act as the accommodators in this relationship. The role of the politician, for better or worse, becomes determining how to court enough of these people to win a majority and get elected.
Given that the middle is the largest single segment, it would seem logical that politicians' should first court this segment of the voting public. Save for a two party system, they might. The obstacles to this approach are the caucus and the primary systems where participation is typically skewed to the extremes. In essence, those individuals at opposite ends of the spectrum that are seeking to be accommodated make the most demands. By their nature, they actively pursue and participate in the struggle to obtain the promises or concessions they desire. This pushes the candidates of both party's away from the center as they each battle to win their respective nominations.
I think this goes a long way towards explaining the typically low American voter turnout. The middle is seemingly neglected (or at best taken for granted) until the general election and by that time they likely feel neither candidate represents their moderate positions. In many ways, this is the predictable outcome. Independent and moderate voters are under represented in the process which means the candidates they might prefer probably won't even make it to the ballot. Additionally, I find that accommodators become quickly disenchanted with the rampant rhetoric. Not unlike the personal relationships mentioned above, the accommodator is constantly barraged by signals and manipulations from those that are intent on obtaining the desired acquiescence.
I for one am fed up with the process and the outcome. The question is what to do? I think the answer is found back at the beginning in the fundamentals. Everything starts with basic relationships. Much like the marriage or love relationship where one partner routinely accommodates the other, the solution is relatively simple. Stop doing it and start saying no! There is one miscalculation that hinders taking these steps. The fear is that in doing as much, the accommodator will become the demander. Nothing could be further from the truth. Innate to the accommodator is a sense of reasonability. Demanding the same remains reasonable...but more importantly...forces the demander to move towards reasonability. You can demand reasonability and remain true to its construct.
I already hear the naysayer's...they are saying nope, you have it wrong...my demander will just leave and find another accommodator. In saying as much, you have proven my point. Here's why. If today, accommodators collectively said no more, demanders would be defeated. All that would be left for them would be those at the opposite end of the spectrum...equally demanding and intransigent individuals looking to be accommodated. Frankly, I'm happy to see both extremes forced to meet the other side face to face. You see, the middle has for far too long served as a convenient buffer...brokering a peace that serves both ends of the spectrum at the expense of the middle. I say bullshit! I'm reminded of the movie Network, which was released in 1976. I cannot think of any better words to say to all of us in the middle, all of us accommodators, than this poignant soliloquy from the movie:
We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, `Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.
You've got to say, `I'm a human being, Goddamnit! My life has value!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, `I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell...'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad...You've got to say, `I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
It is time for the middle to take its rightful position in politics. So long as we allow the extremes to dictate the dialogue, rhetoric will prevail. As with a pendulum, in order to find the center, conflict tends to first reach the extremes. History is the virtual seesaw of this process. Groups who see the resolution of conflict as simply a matter of power are destined to see their own power wane because they fail to persuade those over which they exert power. Over time, it is only persuasion that prevails. Until society rethinks its methods to resolve differences, tomorrow will merely look like today...the only difference will be whose in charge. I'm suggesting that its time for the middle to lead.
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