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Taking Proper Aim

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Can I summarize Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt this morning for you? — Things are screwed up, really screwed up, we blame just about anybody in power, but we are clueless about how to fix it.  Whether it be the state of the GOP POTUS nominee race or the race for Speaker of the House, we know it ain’t workin’ but we have not got a clue what to do.

To my mind, that means one of two things.  Either there is no solution for the problem or we are trying to solve the wrong problem.

There is an argument to be made for the former explanation.  I have been reading up on narcissism lately.  There is little doubt in my mind that Obama, and a significant portion of his constituency, suffer from this character trait.  The conclusions of my reading are that you cannot really coexist with a true narcissist.  Nor can they be “fixed” in any way.  All you can do is protect yourself from them.  That means that while Obama is in the White House, there really is no solution.  It also means that, provided we do not repeat our mistake, the election will take care of a lot of the problems that currently befuddle us.

But there is also a case to be made for the latter explanation.  In a democracy like ours, politics is a mirror, not a leader.  If politics are broken, it means that in some sense we are broken.  We, after all, elect these people.  Often we blame the media for our ills. But media is also a mirror.  The sheer number of selfies in social media are strong testament to that fact.  Mainstream media is in business – that means they show us what we want to see because that is what we will watch and therefore how they will make money.  If media is broken, then somehow, we are broken.

Trying to fix politics and media may be trying to fix the wrong problem.  Maybe we are what needs fixing.

Traditionally, as a nation, we have turned to two institutions to improve ourselves, religion and education. But here is the thing, you only really ever get out of such institutions what you put into them.

This cartoon has made the rounds a lot in the last few years, mostly because it speaks volumes.  We are no longer putting into education, we are demanding from it.  But an education must be acquired, it cannot be granted.  I wonder if most people realize that the pinnacle of education, the PhD, is not about what you have been taught, but about what you have learned.  A PhD is all about the thesis, that is to say the research.  It is not about a teacher telling you what is known, it is about you coming to know new things.  The pinnacle of educational achievement comes with some guidance, but no teaching, only learning.  It is an extraordinary effort.  The cartoon illustrates how most people approach education now, as the very antithesis of reaching its pinnacle.

One of the hallmarks of the success of Evangelicalism has been finding out where people are and gearing church to meet them there.  In terms of numbers, the success of the approach is well demonstrated.  But what about in terms of really changing people?  If your focus is to meet them where they hard, it is pretty hard to move them forward in any way.

Both institutions have largely morphed themselves into mirrors just like media and politics.  Both have achieved enormous numerical success in the process.  We churn out more graduates than were ever thought possible just a few decades ago.  Evangelical megachurches burgeon with attendees and have frighteningly large budgets.  Both seem quite successful.  They have achieved this success because we like mirrors a lot more than we like being invited, or lead, out of our comfort zones.

And yet we all know something is wrong with the nation.  So I’m thinking maybe we need to change our aim a little.  We need to quit demanding that THEY fix things and start asking them for help in fixing ourselves.


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