If you were a ruler, how would you control a relatively affluent and “democratic” population? Being overtly dictatorial wouldn’t work. You would be seen for who you are and what you are doing. No, you would need to use finesse. Distract them. A disarming smile can work wonders when gun control isn’t an option. It’s not unlike handling children. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.
You don’t really need to medicate them, just foster a party mood. Give them all the fantasy they can absorb. The stuff that dreams are made of doesn’t have to be opium. It can be their voyeuristic obsession with the personal lives of their favorite celebrities. Rock stars. Movie stars. Sports heros. Royal families. The endless stream of “reality” shows that are nothing more than a substitute for living your own life.
With electronic technology being what it is, everyone is pandered to, from gaming to social networking. The Age of Information is more about keeping us busy with pleasures of the moment than keeping us informed.
Joe Biden has been in the news lately, for dozing during the President’s speech. This was reported as if it had some real significance. I am more concerned that Congress, sans naps, still has yet to pass last year’s budget. They have plenty to do. Debt and deficit loom overhead like Damocles’ Sword. But rather than doing anything, they eat up our precious resources with endless talk and political posturing.
I could understand the serious consequences of falling asleep if, say, Biden were an air traffic controller. But as long as he is asleep, he can do no harm. It’s not as if he actually needs to accomplish anything. Notable politicians of the past were also criticized for nodding off while “on duty”, including S.I. Hayakawa and Ronald Reagan. Such occurrences remind us that our leaders are human, not that they are incompetent. But when politicians are portrayed as fairy tale caricatures, the natural response is to laugh at them, not think critically about their policies.
In government as well as media, style over substance is the watchword because as soon as real substance percolates up into their consciousness, it’s like people are trying to wake up without a cup of coffee. They aren’t so entertained anymore and things can get quite ugly. So, prevent that, and, as the song says, “Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh!”
It is quite evident that the most successful politicians are schmoozers, not moral paragons. Though “honest Abe” was held in high regard in the mid nineteenth century, today’s fashionable attitude is that everybody lies. As far back as his college days, Joe Biden has been known for his plagarism. President Clinton’s sexual escapades in the White House served to underscore the value society places on style over substance. Moral virtue took a back seat to the ability to charm.
It isn’t even a matter of having charisma. It’s just having people skills — controlling them by charming their socks off. It has little to do with leadership, honesty, intellect, education or administrative aptitude. All of those factors can be optimized by lawyers, good coaching, managing and an effective political machine behind the scenes. Charm is the foundation of fund raising. But charm puts others at ease. Charm hides a multitude of intentions. Charm can create deceptive fantasies. Charm can look like leadership.
After the last election, Vice President Biden had the job of swearing in the new Representatives. C-Span televised the occasion. He would warmly invite each new Representative along with family members, to come into the room, and while directing each person where to stand would smile and pleasantly put everyone at ease, making them feel welcome. He shook hands, hugged mothers, patted babies’ heads, joked with teenagers, all the while possessing the qualities of a good pastor at a baptism. He was the master host for a high society do. He knew what he was doing and he was good at it.
When it comes to my political leaders, I don’t want to be won over by their charm or entertained by their storied lives or laughable foibles. I just want them to do their job. I don’t like the price I pay in taxes to see their performances. They act more important than they are and they cost more money than they’re worth. I, for one, have not been lulled into unawareness by their charm. I know the difference between the make believe of a fairy tale and the reality of a federal republic. But then again, I’m not typical of society in general. There’s no telling how effective the soma will continue to be in our brave new world.