Posted by: MC | March 21, 2012

Game Change -or- Change the Game

“It might feel good
it might sound a little somethin’
but damn the game if it don’t mean nothin
what is game who got game
where’s the game in life behind the game “

Public Enemy

Since the dawn of the species – a moment we can only approximate since the missing link is still…well…missing — human beings have had stories.  Stories help us know how to live, how to endure.  Through these stories we’ve known that things like air, water, weather, other beings and the land have also endured.  Articulation and exploration of understandings like these linked naturally with  questions of change and permanence.  And all of this has been possible because of the presence in humans of self-consciousness and thought.

We know of this history of ours because of the stories.  Stories our ancestors told and painted and danced and sang and drummed and prayed.  Stories of philosophy and science.  Stories each of us tells every day about who we are, who they are, what matters and what captivates whether it matters or not.  Implicit in the telling is evidence that the humans, we humans, having all these storied experiences have endured – not individually, of course, but as a renewing collective.

We change in order to endure.  This is what Avishan Saberian (Voice #089) described as adapting.

In biology change occurs as organisms evolve.  They’re born and they adapt to their environment.  They learn to survive.  So, change to me is a way of survival.  Organisms acquire traits and pass them down to their offspring from generation to generation.  If they are able to survive by changing they continue.  The environment, the planet changes all the time.  In that change the skills and traits an organism has acquired may no longer be necessary or adaptable.  In those cases, the organism will die become extinct

Last week when I spoke with Ben Merens on his Wisconsin Public Radio show, At Issue (Wed 3/14 #120314M), a man called in to observe that constants are necessary, that sometimes change can be too disruptive.

He’s right.  I’ve been thinking more about this, since but have come to little resolve. I keep running into this. The changes and constants in human experience are at the same time inescapable and impossible to harness with any reliable formula for how much of which when.  The opportunity with what changes and what remains is to see if it’s working for us.  To keep it if it is, to change it if it’s not.

Here’s an example of how sometimes practices that become accepted as usual (i.e., enduring) can themselves be based on disruption and lying.  Earlier this month, a film was released on HBO depicting this game.  The film tells one version of the story of the last U.S. presidential election with particular focus on the introduction of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin into the race as the Republican vice presidential candidate, running mate to Senator John McCain.

Not surprisingly, GAME CHANGE, caused a stir.  The focus of most of the hubbub was the fairness of the representation of former Governor Palin.  I could argue that the portrayal of Palin was sympathetic.  She was held responsible for her behaviors, but the extreme expectations of the circumstances for which she was to provide the ‘game change’ were well drawn.  I could also argue that the only people who could begin to navigate such extreme circumstances are those who have been in the high-profile game of national politics for decades – people so well socialized by that particular culture as to be near-reflexive purveyors of it.   This is a focus of GAME CHANGE the critical hubbub seems, perhaps studiously, to overlook.

In the particular human experience of major electoral politics a dominant characteristic of its participants is the capacity to endure the media-shrewd, cut-throat, substance-be-damned, adrenaline-dependent game.  That capacity relies on holding central an at-all-costs goal, in this case the acquisition of the presidency.  The costs right from the beginning include relationship, integrity, and any human characteristics that make them possible — things like humililty, compassion, kindness, wisdom. Listening happens, but only as it serves to inform machinations that directly enhance probabilities for achieving the goal.

Enter Sarah Palin, her family and history along with her own complicated bag of experiences, values and motives.  She became a tool, flawed and flawless at the same time.  She could get the women’s vote by being a mom of 5, she could get the working class vote by downplaying the importance of knowledge and up-playing the pride and exclusivity of no-one-really-appreciates-me America.

There is a profound disrespect in the entire game.  Disrespect of the inside players to each and every one of us, but for themselves as well as they jettison conscience and consciousness to abandon themselves to the seduction of political power.  But the game goes on.  We say there’s nothing that can change it.

The TeaParty and Occupy call out for democracy, but it remains to be seen if the endurance of the game with its uncanny concentration of money, resources and co-opted minds will ever give way.

This is where listening comes in.  This is where it is vital to take time to see exceptions to the mania – to hear the wisdom enduring amidst the mayhem of opportunistic superficiality.  Listen to Meryl Streep speak about Hillary Clinton.  This is an exception to the game of work-it-to-get-it.  These women and their audience show that integrity lives, often quietly, but as a full-force with which to be reckoned.

The presence and force of everyday integrity is only validated by what I’ve seen and experienced over the 20,000+ miles I will have driven in support of the EX:Change and 100 Voices.  Across the country we all share there are still well more than enough people who join these women leaders as they live with wisdom and good will in thought and in action.  Alongside all the gaming, this too endures.

The question is which will prove to be adaptable?  Which will endure?  And if made increasingly aware of the choice – say, between annihilation and cooperation (if not permanent harmony) – can our self-conscious species move in adaptive ways?

Following on the speculations of numerous thinkers before him, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus suggested a then novel response to the question of change by proposing that the only permanence is change.

Could be.  And in the meantime, astronomers of the highest order have come to demonstrate quite clearly that the universe itself was born and will die.

What’s a self-conscious species to do?

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