Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Authenticity in politics

A recent article on Sarah Palin brings to mind Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker" set from a few years back about people who just love to not know under the guise of "keeping it real."  As if being ignorant is another way to be authentic (as authenticity is a big goal of hip-hop).

Another comparison is the "unfrozen caveman lawyer" bit that Phil Hartman (pictured above) used to do on SNL.  After going down a long list of things that he doesn't know (flying airplanes, answering machines, a solar eclipse) he mysteriously jumps ahead to a complex and difficult decision easily.  Usually that his client was "entitled to several million dollars or more in both compensatory and punitive damages for an injury." (wikipedia)

"He was portrayed as a selfish, well-dressed attorney who repeatedly claimed to be a simple-minded caveman, and would employ simple folk wisdom to win his cases."

This introduces a strange double-standard: in medicine, we all demand someone who's gone through an enormous amount of training before we will let them so something relatively simple like set a broken bone or stitch up a wound, but someone who can run the country can be an everyman / everywoman?

NYReviewOfBooks site sums it up well:

Commonsense Conservatism hinges on the not-so-tacit assumption that the average, hardworking churchgoer, like the ladies at the booth, equipped with the fundamental, God-given ability to distinguish right from wrong, is in a better position to judge, on "principle," the merits of an economic policy or the deployment of American troops abroad than "the 'experts'"—a term here unfailingly placed between derisive quotation marks. Desiccated expertise, of the kind possessed by economists, environmental scientists, and overinformed reporters from the lamestream media, clouds good judgment; Palin's life, by contrast, is presented as one of passion, sincerity, and principle. Going Rogue, in other words, is a four-hundred-page paean to virtuous ignorance. [source]

(Thanks Silver)

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