The internet & elections. It’s a good news/bad news situation. The Good news first. The internet, and our constant access to it, keeps us awash in information about the issues, candidates, and the times. It makes sense that a better educated electorate might to lead to better options in leadership.
Channels of communication are opened to an extent unthinkable by our ancestors. We can email, facebook, blog, tweet, and comment on issues close to our hearts and others can respond instantaneously. Progress right?
Of course there’s the bad news. We can email, facebook, blog, tweet, comment and others can respond instantaneously. Introduce a presidential election and bam!, passion and keyboards meet and it gets ugly fast.
The internet has been a learning experience in discourse over the past 15 years. From our first email to our most recent tweet, it’s been a medium to express ourselves without many of the strings attached to face to face communication or written letters.
I’m not going to write about how we should be more civil to each other on the web (though I don’t disagree with the idea), but I am going to talk about how we can use this new medium as a call to mindfulness.
There is no enlightenment outside of daily life – Thich Nhat Hanh
I have an addictive personality. Amongst other habits, I used to be the best smoker in the world. I am no stranger to that twinge of reckless desire. Reaching for a cigarette and clicking that link to another web page on a mindless journey around the internet are not very different in terms of quality of experiences.
For anyone who’s taken on an addiction, this stuff rings loud and clear. For others maybe less so, but the fundamental truth is that we’re all addicts. We’re addicted to short term gratification and we’re reticent to deal with the fact that, in truth, it doesn’t make us any happier. More often than not, we act on impulse or habit. To consider doing otherwise seems exhausting, even impossible. To consider doing otherwise surfaces anxiety and resistance, the stuff of addiction.
This is the fundamental material we have to work with to gain insight into happiness. How we enjoy our experience in this life is a function of how we are enjoying experience right now. There are many layers of complexity in how we engage life and we have options.
Polly Want a Cracker
Cut back to the election season. I invite you to look back on your voting record. Precious few of us vary from our standard party affiliation. Our political opinions are as canned and consistent as twinkies. Yet we hold them with such passion. An attack on our political position is akin to an attack on our children.
Political discourse on the internet is most commonly a parroting of party talking points. The most vocal proponents are reactionary. As an addict myself, I recognize the addict responses. We have our habitual perspective and we’re quick to be defensive when challenged to consider that our way may not be “the right way”.
Addiction is sustained by the rationalization that just one more hit will make it better. Even more insidious is the belief that to do without would make things worse. To ask each of us to budge from our particular political perspective is like forcing an addict to quit.
Give Up (The Addiction That Is)
Should we give up on politics? No. Should we give up being active in promoting a candidate who reflects our values? No. Are our leaders often wrong? Yes.
But we should give up the addict behavior, the desperate and pitiable leap on the bandwagon of political charlatans pitching the latest damning half truths about the other parties candidates. Give up citing Rachel Maddow and Ann Coulter to bolster the validity of your parties platform. And give up the “the Country’s going to hell in a handbasket if such and such is elected” frame of mind.
As a friend who called me on this type of behavior just a few years back said to me, “you’re better than that”. That’s exactly right. The Buddha instructed us, that when we identify with transient things, we invariably suffer. When we attach our happiness to the outcome of an election, we will suffer. We are so much more than that.
Take a look around you, especially in nature. The beauty of the trees and the sunsets are just as beautiful, regardless of whether there’s an election going on. Get out and vote your conscience, but don’t let a thing like politics prevent you from enjoying what’s important.