Monday, December 29, 2014

On Staying Positive About Politics

One of the things about paying attention to politics (and mostly, that's what studying at for a living involves) is that it's incredibly easy to get cynical.  

There was a bit earlier this year on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart tried talking about Israel/Palestine, getting yelled at, and throwing up his hands and moving on.  Here it is:


That "debate" is one that's predictable and mind-numbing.  So if you understand the issue in general, you don't bother with the specifics, because the quality of argument you're going to find is terrible.

That's a great example, but it's far from the only one. An awful lot of debate revolves around two clearly articulated but poorly understood positions voiced by loudmouths.  And since just about every issue involves a certain amount of nuance, it's very easy to just switch off and stop paying attention.  Even for political scientists, who are supposed to live and breathe this stuff.  

None of this will be new to you.  But this is an end-of-year post, and I don't like ending on a sour note.  So let's talk about the opposite.

It can be all too easy to fall into cynicism, but it is, in a way, just as bad.  It's a third option that's more of the same.  There's a kind of sophistry in pretending that everything's terrible.  It can fun, like a warm, comfortable blanket of grumpiness, but it's ultimately just as much of a fantasy.  More to the point, hating the world gives you a hollow energy.  It doesn't give you the strength or the will to get back out there.  

So enjoy yourself.  Sit with a cat on your lap.  Have a drink.  Be like this guy:


And then get ready to get back out there, because the rest of us need you.  Unless you're shitty.  Then stay home.       

Happy new year.

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