Handling of Realism
August 29, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta
When examining politics, I adhere to the school of Realism.
It's a personal curriculum; my Dad and University taught it,
but I basically ignored their parameters. Base a vital part
my world view upon repressive patriarchal views and stale
institutionalized conventions? As if.
I like the enforced skepticism inherent in the premise of
the model. Forget what is said or what you wish for in politics,
observe only what is real. Set up the players in your head
according to their labels and observe empirical behavior for
the issue in play, not the smooth talk or preconceived assumptions
of the labels.
Lofty aspirations to the best in human character are all
well and good in personal applications, but human tactics
that achieve political objectives are respected more in the
school of realism than noble ones. Machiavelli, a very good
man who will be eternally misunderstood for it, knew that
reality dictated political behavior, not a perfectly just
solution or tactic magically ready in the human mind, instantly
ready for any political need.
Fortunately I don't have to be a journalist. Realism of course
demands rigorous observation and tested objectivity, but I
get the luxury of swimming my soul through the mental pillars
of observation, outcomes, principles, and ethics to then make
various analyses and judgments. Some journalists are so dedicated
to objectivity they even refuse to vote, fearful their own
conscience will distort their mission of reporting without
bias. I respect the dedication greatly, but voting is a duty
I could never relinquish. Realism does not mean abandoning
the positive influence a soul is supposed to contribute to
Realists always consider the worst possible outcome in a
given scenario. Let the sappy optimists paint those syrupy
smiles on their faces with the foolish faith it will all work
out-realists look at worst possible outcome with the grim
knowledge that the worst is always possible, no matter how
remote, and that the risks involved in any possible action
or tactic should keep that worst possible outcome firmly in
Failure in politics used to have war/conflict as its worst
outcome (environmental degradation may soon take its place,
if it hasn't already). If a political philosophy or tactic
results in mass conflict, internally or externally, that's
about as worse at it gets.
When I set up that parameter in my head a number of years
ago I made a bad mistake. The words "war" or "conflict" didn't
seem to do justice to the horror they represented, so I decided
to pick more powerful words to better represent them. I chose
Gettysburg. Chosin. Tarawa. Tet. Normandy. Plenty to choose
from. Dignified, principled men, once cherished infants all,
screaming the crashing reality of battle searing horror into
their souls with limbs torn off, viscera ripped out, literal
creeks of blood staining an exploding landscape of flames
and hot metal. Screaming men, pleading for any miniscule mercy
so that they could escape the hell come upon them, their lives
snatched away in ghoulish, horrifying bedlam.
There was no error in choosing the possible worst reality.
The problem was that once I worked the model through a couple
of times I felt so bad for those men each day was in serious
danger of being completely overtaken in an overwhelming sorrow.
I'd end sitting in my gardens, aching for those men and their
families, bewildered that such a wondrous thing called life
could actually produce such scenes.
In an attempt to alleviate the sadness and sense of obligation
to those men I began personal and civic behavioral judgments:
is what I do as a citizen worthy to those screaming men? Is
what we do as a country worthy to their legacy of sacrifice?
Approximately 70,000 legal votes are eternally uncounted
which would have revealed the true outcome of election 2000.
What would the souls of Tarawa say? Critically important energy
policy is crudely used as a crony payoff and the truth in
the documents forever hidden. Good enough for the men of Tet?
American citizens are locked up simply of the basis of words
with no charge, no lawyer and no release date. Did the screaming
men of Normandy die for that?
Needless to say running this model with the political events
of the past 21 months is not exactly the way to get a cheery
and sunny outlook on life. It's a damnably necessary thing,
My wife informed me recently that if I didn't cheer up, that
exhilarating snip-click of bra snap, that scintillating sibilance
of 100% ribbed cotton sliding off shoulders heard so wondrously
in the dark after a long day, well, that would be totally
ancient history, buddy. If she didn't soon see a smile on
my face I could forget about seeing enchanting red patterns
left on peachy flesh from elastic seams, evidence of freshly
peeled clothing, for a long, long time.
Outraged at the bullying but admiring the gritty realism
in the tactic, I went along, of course. She meant it.
Corporate life, too, demands cheeriness. People like working
with happy people, and because I want to be a good worker
and fulfill my duty to my family and boss I cheer up when
I log in. It's not too hard, really. I think of all the good
people I've known and what they would wish for me and I just
feel better. So many good people in this world.
But when I wake up at 0330 or 0400 to read the latest news
before work the utterly stark prism of realism often yields
those screams lately, screams I cannot make go away. I read
about Mitch Daniels lying
about the latest White House budget numbers and think about
those men. Or see some vicious flak like James Baker advocating
war with Iraq - without ever once even mentioning Congress
- and wonder how that could ever be good enough for the men
No, in those cold, grim dark hours I am not a cheerful person,
not at all. For all those who would steal elections from the
will of the people, for those who would rob from our security
to pay off their cronies, to those who would lock up our citizens
with no charge, know this: I am forever watching you. I will
write, protest, proudly place bumper stickers and lawn signs,
work in campaigns, and vote until you are gone.
Gone forever so at least whenever I hear the screams of those
men, I'll know I did everything possible to stop the sorry
excuses for humans who ever dared to disregard their legacy
and sacrifice. I will not rest or waver until it is so.
Joseph Arrieta is a writer and web producer living in San