Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy, Part five
By Joseph Randolph
We detest war and will not have recourse to one. This is no problem, as we remind everyone that in war there are no winners. We seek diplomacy to resolve our disagreements, and we need to project our image as one who resolves conflicts with words, not with weapons of violence. Any external enemy of course for which our words constitute no stoppage to his onslaught, we simply delay meeting the difficulty until our political opponents are in office, and they can do the messy work of war.
That difficulty of course means that we simply cannot be in office all the time. This fact is a bit of realism we have to face, but even if it sends us out of office occasionally, as soon as we return we can return to our old message, and tell the voters that if we had been in power, we could have negotiated an understanding that would have made the war unneeded. This consolation is not as thin as it may appear because the truth of the matter is that there is less and less need for war in our increasingly civilized world, and thus the need we have for our political opponents due to the messiness of war, will disappear when the wars disappear.
Yes the wars will at first dissipate, as we have begun to see for some years now, and then, however slowly, go away. So the need for our political opponent to clamor and thrash about in need of an enemy to go to war with--all the time showing his resolve to "defend" the country--will simply be impossible and finally anachronistic. He will be seen as a cave man, with his club and all, and we will be seen for the truly enlightened people that we are. Remember we are the politicians of the dinner table, and people will always have to eat. The need not ever go to war. Our opponent who exists to meddle in the affairs of houses not his own, and across vast oceans, will have no reason in time to "bring the peace," because it will be there without him. Thus, he, unlike us, will have no reason to be.
Neither do we have to do all the work to expedite this warless world. The people, as indicated by the mounting protests over our recent war mongering, are decreasingly ready to fight in any war, and when we affirm their point of view with a few more adjectives than they, they line up behind us to vote with us. Remember, you do not want to disrupt the dinner table. In fact, you can use that table to make your point about no need for war. That is, instead of meeting our foreign "opponent" with a weapon, why not invite him to dinner. Even some of your sympathetic listeners will not have taken their own protest to war that far, and when they hear you utter such a suggestion, they will forget that they ever associated our opponents with the word moral, for they will be convinced that anyway who could make such a suggestion is a saint, indeed perhaps a divinity.
Indeed, to further solidify the point, quote a little of their religious text to them, about heaping coals of fire on an opponent by kindness, and I dare say, any listener who suspects you as the party of the irreligious will never entertain that thought again and will being ashamed for ever having had the idea. That day he will have found a new politician, one that he has missed for a long time, because our opponents have tagged us with that word. Even that, however, is not the end of the heights to which your new or reconfirmed voter can help you. Having sufficiently swooned him in the direction of your moral compass, remind him how our opponent proposes to save babies from the abortionists tools, only to confirm the lethal injection to the inmates. This will let your voter know that our opponent cannot make a sufficient distinction of difference, such that he can save one and kill the other and call himself moral for both.
A contentious opponent of course will challenge you, but you have nothing to fear from an opponent who treats his enemies like unreformable criminals. You remember all the hype they got from their "three strikes you're out" campaign some time ago. Once again, quote their own text to them, tell them three times is not enough, that it will have to be seven times seventy. Your opponent will scarcely be able to speak, and not because he cannot calculate the product of that multiplier, but you will have shown him to be only forgiving on his figures, and not to the heavens. Indeed, if the audience is right, tell him that forgiveness will only stop with an infinite number, and the right audience may loathe him for you if you are fortunate. But, so as to never miss an opportunity, save him from the stoners, if such should happen, and indeed, he may come to your side. Do not, however, let him see the ingeniousness of our posturing.
The disenfranchised are valuable capital for us, for with them we can wag our finger every time at our opponent, as being responsible for these left out and neglected, even maligned members of our society. They must not, however, be merely presented as forgotten but as shoved out and shunned members of society. However, some new tactics, indeed new stories are needed about them to illustrate this. Some of the stories I heard from some campaigns ago sounded like stories from a century ago, where whole streets of voters on their way to the polls were blocked by highjackers standing in the street to physical impede voters. I dare say, even in this age of a camera in every other car, I saw not a single piece of reel confirming anything of the sort.
Much better is some technical sabotage that blocks vote counts in districts likely to vote for us. The sky is the limit on imagining things our political opponent would scheme to have his politicians in the closets of power and away from the people he would deny the right to vote.
Yes you will invariably hear the opponent clamoring about the "rule of law" endlessly. Here again you can quote one of their heroes about men made for law, not laws made for men. And sooner or later, you will hear talk about our nation being a nation of laws and not men. Indeed we are, but we are the men who made the laws. It is us therefore we who are in charge of laws, and not the reverse. We are running and promulgating laws; laws are not making us. I must insist upon obedience to this scenario, for our opponents will sound as if their notion of law is derivative from that of Zeus or heaven knows who else in heaven. This is a scary, indeed a terrifying notion, for by it our opponents would bring heaven to earth; I mean, oh yes, a theocracy. Except of course their absentee god would rule by abstention, placing his most obedient in charge so that we could be obedient to him, who in turn will be obedient to Him. It is a fairy tale without a happy ending; our job is to make sure it never comes to fruition.
Our notion of law--which must be worded carefully so as not to provoke the mob to turn on us--is that we make it up as we go along. There is no heavenly tablet from which our law on the ground is to derive. Our laws are of the dust from which we come and to which we shall return. Gravity is with us now and will be then. We aren't going up because we came from below, and to below we shall return. You take us upwards far enough we either freeze or suffocate; we never lived there nor were meant to live there and our laws do not come from there anymore than we did. They came and will come from us; there will be no law after us, for there was no law before us.
That is our position, and mark it well; teach it to your sons and daughters, and teach them to teach it to theirs.
You see law is not made in front of us, but after us. You see we are the measure of all things and this is the safe and humane position. We oversee ourselves, and this is why, with justification, we rise above our fellows, in their interests of course. We are in charge of ourselves and them by default but we need to make it look like providence, except we refrain from that word so that the religious amongst our voters do not venture that our laws come from above. They come from below and behind, and in time, with sufficient care, can be brought to the front to govern with.
The misty law, the law from on high as the pious speak of, is killer law. Our law has no such intention; it brings peace, not war, not violence. It keeps us alive as best it can, and keeps us away from smoke manmade and natural so that we can live upon this planet as long as the air is clear and clean. Our causes do not rise much above that and clean water, but that is sufficient for now, though of course we do not live lives with even a pinch of the excitement of yesteryear. Were it not for the opponents we have, which give us reason to be, we would have none.
Yes we are risk averse. And it has taken a toll on us, but the masses need not be told, nor I dare say have they even noticed. A kitchen table outfitted with what comes with a table will keep them contented for quite some time, and maybe blind for a bit before that. A full meal will send more blood to their stomach than their brain, which gives unmentionable advantage to the table server after the meal and before the next one. You see there are apples falling off the tree for us, and we only have to pick from amongst the plenty.
There was a time when we lived for challenges and obstacles. We of course did not gleefully scamper about to find them, but when they came in our vision our cultural adrenaline rose to a point that the obstacle scarcely looked so formidable as to cause us to shudder and hide with paralyzing and inconsolable fear.
Now we encourage it, and we have so eliminated the discomforts of life that we are constantly invented new ones, claiming ones that are not, and all so that we have something coming at us, so that we have reason to arise the next morning.
Perverting justice should be apparent. I word like justice already gets a safe pass whenever we use it; to object to such a word today is like admitting you are for injustice. Instead of revered terms, however, we call them conversation and campaign stoppers. We mean that you should use them deliberately and often, because when you do you will find your opponent starting to mimic you, and then you know that he knows. He cannot, as I have told you before, beat us at our own game. I mean then you know that he knows you have the ideas and the strategies to win, so he by some circuitous route attempts to steal them. Steal them he may, but he will never be able to keep them because he can never deliver more than we. Remember, we will open the spigots as wide as the number of revolutions that we can turn the handle. Too, you will notice that he is simply copying you, and that means he has not the wherewithal to catch or pass you, that means to promise more to the voter than you can. Should he by some fluke happen to do that, don't take him as your fool anymore, just simply take him under your wing. You must be very selectful, however; we cannot extend the hand of welcome to everyone.
By no means do we have to abandon the charge of colonialism because most of it is gone and now belongs to bygone eras. Since we missed out on virtually all of what our European brothers enjoyed for quite some time, we have not have had as much opportunity to grovel because of a sin we missed--until now. You see you can now charge your opponent with never having abandoned the idea, indeed having resented an opportunity he scarcely ever had until now; he only gave it up because the clamor against it become so great then. Now you see we have already started that charge about empire again, and in doing so, we make our opponent look like a Neanderthal or worse. [The fact of the matter is that everywhere we defeated our foes in a conflict the past century, those foes eventually prospered and became allies in time. The opposite is the case with the skirmish in the 60's and 70's; everywhere we lost, our enemies stayed our enemies, and these countries have spiraled downward. Their victory against us was their loss.]
We understandably want to portray our opponent in terms of a gun-toting, swashbuckling kooky cowboy, ready to shoot first and interrogate and torture later. And, as you have surely seen, we have had not a few opponents, who in their style and their actions, fitted our caricature to a tee. The more swagger they have, the less intelligence we surmise. The public is a sucker for such portraits of our opponents, and soon you will hear the ignorant masses picking up our very language about them.
So the thrust for colonialism is back, so once again we portray our allies across the ocean as light years ahead of us; while we are returning to the slime from which we have come while they have moved beyond their past mistakes, having little need to extend their experiments upon their own people beyond their own border.
Yes, you will hear the opponent clamor about democracy while toting his gun and firing en masse at anything that does not suit him while he intrudes upon another country and their right to kill their own people. You can begin by telling him to get off his high horse of democracy and then tell him that he totes his weapons not on missions of mercy but on missions for peoples who want nothing to do with us or our style of government. Of course what we mean by that latter phrase (though of course we refrain from it in public situations) is that democracy is not for everyone. We never want to appear parochial.
Naturally we have a tense relationship with the military. I mean people like us who want to see weapons taken from citizens are not going to love the people who keep the remaining ones. We have scarcely ever been an advocate for this group except for reasons of prudence and expedience, and they do not in large numbers vote in our direction. I think the only hope we have to draw them to our side is to show the futility of the whole war thing. In many ways this should not be hard, and one wonders why we have not been more zealous with our soldiers to enlist their votes.
First, we might point out, like a few of our own have suggested, that the choice of the military is really is no choice. One has to be very careful here, as some of our own have got into trouble with such an insinuation. Words, remember, words; the right ones in the right places doing the right things can work wonders for you—I mean votes.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.