Nation states, of course, do not form purposeless alliances. The purpose, itself, can be characterized as the will to survive, or the will to gain power, wealth, and control. It should not be a surprise for us to know that politics is driven by fear and greed. Man is driven by fear and greed. Why should politicians behave any differently? Are they immune to their own nature?
Most fascinating, however, is when the consequences of being greedy and fearful appear on the global stage, in front of the eyes of the world. We all harness those sentiments internally. The news headlines that characterize how politicians are currently behaving reflect our most intimate inclinations on a mass scale. That’s what is so captivating about it. In the same way that sexual or violent content immediately grabs our attention, so does fear and greed. We understand these things non-verbally. In fact, our understanding of them can be seen as we act them out in our daily lives.
Interestingly, there have been campaigns in the past to outlaw or severely limit any adult content that contains violence or sex. Is it not interesting, then, that there has never been an effort to combat fear and greed? The latter two sentiments can be just as destructive to the human psyche, but the packaging makes all the difference. When you watch the news, you think you are ‘learning’ about the world, are becoming a more informed citizen. Afterall, it should be one’s duty at the end of the day. The worst part is that watching it makes you feel like you have a part of it. It creates the illusion of agency in many, and the idea of ignoring the politics and the fear and the greed diminishes from their sense of agency. And yet, it is not a stretch to stipulate that the avid political follower is no more or less powerful than the carefree citizen who pays no attention to such affairs and does not intend to either.
This brings us to a fundamental point. Politics is entertainment. Watching a political story unfold, understanding the details of the shameful, scandalous acts (Fear) and the triumphs, deals, and victories (Greed) creates quite a powerful narrative. The narrative is this. There is a game being played. This game is bigger than you. It has many players, and the mechanics and dynamics of this game are infinitely complex. Every now and then, you will get an insight into a story, where you can now rearrange the parts and suddenly a new story emerges. Now you are an active investigator. You begin to find more clues. You think you’re clever, so instead of getting your information from one source, you get it from CNN, RT and everything in between. You then take your findings and start to build your arguments while you debate with friends, taxi drivers, and strangers. I specifically mentioned the “while” here to make a point. Most people do not deliberate over politics when they are alone, being thoughtful and quiet. People have conversations with others about politics and share information with each other. Once a position has been assumed, the other will assume a counter position by trying to look for evidence in a narrow, inaccurate, limited mental library of news stories and ‘facts’ that he has encountered over the past few weeks across a number of news channels.
This brings us to another important point. The news is not real knowledge. First, there is very little you can know from politicians themselves. They are, by virtue of being a public figure whose role it is to cajole, deceive, and manipulate, untrustworthy. This is not a blanket statement either. It is very difficult to imagine anyone who can maintain credibility when thrown into the political game. It is also important to remember that there is a reason for all of this. Sometimes, it is to maintain national stability and prevent any threats to the economy. Sometimes, politicians behave responsibly by deceiving the people. It is perfectly conceivable for a parent to protect their children by doing the same. The more important point, however, is to notice that many news channels are not motivated by informing the public, but rather, by getting higher ratings. There is an inherent flaw in the incentive structure that exists. There is no reason to even dig deeper into why it is dangerous to have a system that rewards news that gets the most eyeballs, not the news that is the most accurate or informative.