Gnomicon 113

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  113
Thursday 30 August 2012

Read gnomica 1-100 here!

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Change will not come if we wait for some other person,
or if we wait for some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek.
Barack Obama (4 Aug 1961 –  )

Change, as I have very recently noted, is a constant.

In and of itself ‘change’ is a neutral concept, but one that is variously realized in that it is ambivalent: change can be positive and a good thing, it can be negative and a bad thing.  And the topic of change is a crucial aspect of the kind of thematic luxuriance we expect during a presidential election year.  But – needless to say – just what kind of change is being promoted is left (I believe) purposely somewhat vague.  And vague it is meant to be because, depending on your general view of the state of the nation and the candidates, change in, say, the tax code that seems good to the one-percenters may appear less so to a lot of the rest of us, and change in, say, bail-outs for those under water on their mortgages that may seem good to some of the rest of us may appear less so to others.

When politicians grind on about ‘change’ they can safely trade on the Rorschach quality of the word – each of us reads into it whatever signification comes closest to the change(s) we want for our advantage.  Thus, ‘change’ can mean that welfare benefits will increase and that welfare benefits will decrease; that my taxes will go down and that my taxes will go up; that illegal immigrants will be accommodated and that illegal immigrants will be shipped ‘back where they came from’; that medical costs will become affordable for me and that medical costs will price me out of the market; and on and on.

Given these polar understandings of this one word, and concept, the candidates safely rely on our defining the precise meaning of ‘change’ – and defining it in such a way that for us it inevitably becomes a very positive thing, and, believing that the candidate will, if elected, bring about that very change benefitting us that we have defined in our own minds, we vote for the person.

Now, how about when it comes to ‘change’ and its application to all those other high-octane concepts and thousand-volt words like spending, abortion, job creation, foreign aid, wealth, deficits, … .  In vote-whoring mode before a given audience, campaigns can safely shout out the appropriate ones up for ‘change’, secure in the recognition that we will each bring our own private understandings to bear on filling the inexhaustible vacuity of each.

I’m not sure there is necessarily anything wrong or evil about this – in my view it’s just the way it is.

But should we really be so infantile as to be surprised when, upon election, the candidate sort of forgets those once earnest promises to you and me that delivering the moon and the sun to us would be his first priority on inauguration day?

It’s kind of predictable, then, that four years on – all the magnificent and uplifting oratory of hope and change by our forty-fourth to the contrary — we still “are the ones we’ve been waiting for” and are quite likely to remain so regardless of the outcome in November.

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