You’ve heard the old saw, oft-repeated, with variations, in many different contexts: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” It’s sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein, but I’ve never seen any documentation proving he actually said it. It does appear in the book Sudden Death by Rita Mae Brown. For what that’s worth. Ms. Brown is not somebody I’d look to for guiding principles, but I like the quote.
Along those same lines, there’s another simple bit of wisdom that I live by, even though the source of it is also not someone I’d ordinarily look to for life guidance. The guy who said it is a long-time acquaintance, a former co-worker of my husband; not exactly a brilliant and discerning individual, but likeable enough and reasonably dependable…at least until that point in time, a number of years ago, when he managed to almost totally screw up his life. There was a messy affair with a woman who was married to somebody else, and attendant peripheral involvement with some illegal actions on her part. Unfortunately for him, there was video. The guy lost his job and was completely disgraced.
Several years after all that happened, my husband ran into him. Surprisingly, he was doing ok. He had found employment in a different kind of job and was working hard. He had repaired his family relationships and was supporting his grandchildren. Using typically simple words to describe his path back from the brink, he told my husband that he had made the decision to “do things different.”
Do things different. Grammar aside (I always hear the voice of my English teacher mother adding the “ly” to the end), there is profound wisdom here. It’s a mantra that I call to mind most often when things are completely FUBARed and the stress level is at its highest. Accompanied by a few deep breaths, it has the effect of pressing a mental reset button. It stops gnawing panic and impending imprudent outbursts of anger. On a couple of occasions, it has stopped the escalation of situations which I’m pretty sure might have otherwise resulted in actions which would be classed as an assault. It almost always results in an improvement in circumstances.
Now there are a couple of caveats: First of all, I’m not talking about giving up. One of the signs of maturity, of being a grown-up, is to possess that ability my dad used to call “sticktoitiveness” – the tenacity to work through the frustration that comes from poor results arising from lack of knowledge or experience. I talk to my daughter about this a lot. You can’t expect perfect results the first time, or even the first several times you try something new. The expectation of instant gratification is childish. But deciding to “do things different(ly)” is not the same as “giving up.” Giving up is when you quit entirely. Doing things different(ly) is, in fact, the opposite of giving up. It is the process of choosing better way to keep going.
Second, I am not taking about the kind of hope-y, change-y guff that the American public swallowed when electing the current president. Change merely for the sake of change is snake oil. One has to stop and analyze. When someone preaches “change” especially in the face of anger or frustration, I first want analysis. Why do we need change? Is the lack of good result we’re experiencing at this point coming from not having given the current course of action a chance to work or current course of action actually flawed? And, most importantly: to what, precisely, is it being proposed that we change? Is it going to work any better than what we are doing now? It is these vital questions that the public and media completely failed to ask in the run-up to the 2008 elections.
But having said that…once the analysis has been done, and assuming that the decision-maker is a grownup and not just seeking instant gratification…then at that point, if what you are doing is not working, you need to do things different(ly). Sometimes a small adjustment is all that is needed to get things back on track. Sometimes – when things are really “broke” – there needs to be a complete paradigm shift.
This is the basic appeal of the idea of a Herman Cain presidency.
While any of the GOP presidential candidates would be an improvement over the current holder of the office, all of the others besides Cain are, to greater or lesser extent, products of the political system. That is why they think like politicians and talk like politicians. They waffle and flip-flop and crawfish like politicians. They overreach like politicians. They attack each other like politicians, either inadvertently losing sight of, or frankly not caring about, Reagan’s 11th Commandment and the end game of defeating Obama in 2012.
And they protect their turf by constantly repeating the mantra that non-politicians need not apply.
If elected, they will govern like the politicians that they are.
Our political system, indeed our very government, has become a leviathan that exists to support itself and expects that the people will exist and work to support it. As I see it, our position as citizens has become not that much removed from that of a feudal serf; the only difference is that we elect our rulers, they aren’t born as such. As constitutional conservatives know, that was never the intent. Our system of government, unlike any other in the world before or since, was specifically designed to exist only to support the people in their individual (not collective) pursuit of those inalienable rights with which they were endowed by the Creator. The United States was designed to be a place where a man had the freedom and opportunity and incentive to make of himself anything he desired.
Yet we continue to elect those who have been created by the very broken political system that is strangling us. “They” keep telling us that this is the only choice we have. A non-politician is “unelectable.” We can choose a candidate only from those with “political experience.”
Cain’s S.C. debate zinger was, “How’s that working out for you?” Usually one-liners like this get stale and lose their appeal over the course of numerous stump speeches during a campaign. Yet I’ve heard Cain deliver it quite a few times since then, and it never fails to draw cheers and rousing applause. I think that’s because there is a realization – maybe even still unconscious or not fully formed in the minds of some – that a paradigm shift is needed. What we’re doing is not working. We need to do things different(ly) on a very basic level. Cain has recently put it another way, “Cain or more of the same?”
It’s an important question, not a one-liner.
To be clear, this is about Cain, but not just about Cain. It’s also about the need do things different(ly) when it comes to thinking about all potential candidates. Einstein actually did say this: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” And consider this, from Lao Tzu: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
Paradigm shift: What if we, the people, were to decide and declare that “political experience” is an actual liability, not in any way an advantage, for a candidate?
Imagine what could happen if we said to all potential candidates, “Unless you’ve created actual jobs through an enterprise which produced tangible goods or services within the last five years, then you need not apply, because you are unelectable.”
What if we elected our leaders not from among those who have been promoted from within the political system, but only from among those “self-made” men and women from outside the political system, those who have created themselves through exercise of the very freedoms, opportunities, and incentives our system of government was originally designed to foster and to protect?
That would be change I could believe in.
We need the self-made men and women. Excellent perspective, Kimberly. Thank you. (Lady P – Ed.)