I don’t have Cable TV – or subscription TV of any sorts. Overseas, as we are, we make do with Netflix. So to a certain extent I am fortuitous to be somewhat sheltered from the boorish: “Nightly News” I think they used to call it.
I do have social media – Facebook and Twitter; although I’ve found myself going on them less and less. It’s a little hard not to – stuck as I am constantly in a faraway land, they are effective tools to stay connected with family and friends. But I don’t scroll anymore, you know that weird little finger spasm up, up, up as the clock ticks by – Facebook has become boorish; people have become boorish, haven’t they? Boorish, like the way the English used to mean it, lip turned up. Soren Kierkegaard said it best, “I begin with the principle that all men are bores. Surely no one will prove himself so great a bore as to contradict me in this”, followed quickly by the wisdom of Voltaire “The secret of being a bore… is to tell everything”.
Have you noticed that everything in our lives is getting better… except for politics, which is in turn making everything worse? Our computers are faster, our diets are better, our entertainment is more varied. There are more books being published; more options for shopping (Farmers markets, Whole Foods or that awesome Mexican Grocery called Ranch Market in downtown Phoenix). Movies are getting more sophisticated – we can still watch “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage” if we want; but now we can temper that with Amelie or Timbuktu.
Even the world over – more people have access to entertainment, poverty has been halved and places like Bollywood and Nollywood are making new movies and creating new opportunities. Even where there are problems like food crises, these are man-made created by the boorish for political reasons, and not some Malthusian disaster we were warned about. Hills are being reforested, beaches are being better protected. We may even be slowing the mass slaughter of the species called the 1980s. But politics – bitter and angry; taking everything we’re attaining, and turning it upside down. I write a lot about Venezuela – those few of you unfortunate enough to read me frequently know quite well. Politics is what ruined that country – Hugo Chavez in the soup and slapped on the side of rice bags and in hours-long television takeovers: now HE was boorish; marching, marching and more marching, boorish rivers of red to the closest voting booth to vote, and vote, and vote again. Families turned against each other; businesses going under; boycotts enacted; money wasted.
And what was all the politicking about? We have been told that politics, that process by which we choose upon who to bestow that most perilous right of holding a gun against us, is important because we must make collective decisions to make our lives better. I could sort of buy that, if it were true. But those things are not exciting or controversial – where parking meters should be installed, how many lanes a road should have, how many police officers to deploy at a parade. What kind of school system makes for a more educated citizenry. “Public Administration” this is often called – and it’s boring (not boorish, do not mistake me).
So what are people fighting about? Turns out everything – because it’s tribal now; that’s what politics has descended into. The possession of a blunt object with which to beat random strangers as we walk down the street or troll their social media accounts. That’s what happened in Venezuela – they took a messy and uneven democracy where people spent their weekends at the beach and partying in night clubs and poisoned everybody – making them all boorish.
So – we need to stop.
My advice, such as it is – understanding I’ve probably bored you too – I’ve taken from Harlan Coben, “When I’m writing (or in our case posting), what I pretend subconsciously is that we’re cavemen, we’re sitting around the fire, and I’m telling you stories. If I bore you, you’re probably going to pick up a big club and hit me over the head.”