We’re not having the right discussions

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Author, Ed Bowie, Executive Director for AOC Community Media

We’re not having the right discussions.  As we continue to strive for a better society here in our little community we are continually frustrated by people on “the other side” who presume to think a better society is somehow not exactly what we ourselves have determined it to be. At least that’s how it seems.

We all say we want many of the same things. Few people argue against better streets, more safety, better education, healthier people, more efficient services, kind and accepting populations, a wide variety of entertainment options, affordable housing. Who doesn’t want to live in a community that provides all of the above and more? Who can argue that a healthier population is bad, or come out against filling potholes? It’s hard to figure but nevertheless, it happens everyday.

For example, nobody wants more smog. But, one side thinks lessening smog should be done by strict upfront legislation and tries to push that method, and the other side thinks the problem will be solved by higher profits for smog generating industries who can then use those profits to reduce smog. The ensuing fight leaves us with an amount of regulation and profits and smog commensurate with political expediency rather than pure efficiency.

I’m not sure if we’re actually on opposite sides of the issues themselves, as much as we are stuck in poses of opposition relative to our perceived "home-team" in the duopoly. The late George Carlin had a routine about the US, operating within the frame-work of the so-called "two-party system", having just one more political party than the old Soviet Union. Often the truth finds expression in jest. In a country of 300 million souls, two choices feels like too few.

Friction isn’t generated by stating our goals, but by invoking the "fear of change" our respective methodologies for achieving these goals represent.

Most of our societal goals are uncontroversial. The controversy arises from proposed policy specifics, policies which (if they are to have any chance of addressing root causes of systemic dysfunction, corruption, and/or misuse of public resources) are likely to threaten the present revenue models of the ownership class. Never mind the fact that seeking to solve big problems has, historically, generated brand new galaxies of revenue potential.

More insidiously, these controversies are inflamed and perpetuated in the public arena precisely by manipulating factional allegiances latent in the citizenry.

We need to adjust our conversations to aim at our goals and work to make our methodology discussions more honest and results-oriented. In this light, the two sides are not the old canard of Red vs Blue or Right vs Left. The two sides become those seeking immediate electoral victories versus those working for the long term betterment of civilization.

When winning is seen as an end in itself, we all lose.