Ego

Recently, a very amusing Internet piece entitled 'A Message from the Ghost of General Patton' [http://www.endglobalterror.org/media/patton/patton.htm  or www.usncwo.com] has been making the rounds. Based on the opening speech delivered by George C. Scott in his seminal performance of Patton in the 1970 movie of the same name, this item depicts what General Patton might have said to today's American population regarding their increasingly softening and inattentive attitude towards the threat from radical Muslim fundamentalists. Essentially saying that we should wake up and redouble our resolve in the War on Terror, the piece is both highly entertaining and eerily topical.

But what's even more interesting than the Patton segment itself was the varied reaction to it that I observed, and the fascinating light those reactions shed on how and why individuals react as they do to different politically—oriented inputs.

One person e—mailed me after seeing it and said that it was 'excellent, right on the money.' This individual has an otherwise very liberal/Democratic political viewpoint, yet his take on the Patton piece—which is much more hard—line and conservative than President Bush's actual anti—terror rhetoric and strategic approach—was that 'Patton' was dead accurate in his take on the matter. However, if President Bush had said the exact same thing and used the exact same words, it's highly doubtful that this same individual would have agreed so enthusiastically, if he agreed at all.

What's the device that's at play here? It's political ego, pure and simple. Most individuals seem completely unable or unwilling to deviate even slightly from their carefully staked—out, line—in—the—sand party positions. If someone is on record as being virulently anti—Bush, then every opinion and position that ushers forth will reinforce that viewpoint, regardless of how they might actually feel.

This phenomenon is particularly apparent when watching any of the nightly or Sunday morning political talk shows. Political partisans—be they journalists, analysts, or elected officials—from both sides will unfailingly spout the party line, even in face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. To wit, when was the last time that a Paul Begala or a Frank Rich or a Harry Reid ever said anything even remotely surprising or original? Begala's blatherings, Rich's columns, and Reid's press releases could be scripted by virtually anyone far in advance, word for word, point by point. Being so predictable, are their opinions of any real value at all?

The current debate over Social Security is a perfect example. The Democrats are not opposed to Social Security reform—they're opposed to Republicans getting credit for Social Security reform, so they automatically utter pre—rehearsed anti—Bush lines, in perfect unison. Yet the facts are inescapable: By 2018, the SS system begins to pay out more than it takes in, and by 2042, it only has enough to pay 76% of its promised benefits. There are four, and only four, choices:

1. Raise taxes (by whatever means necessary, including raising the income cap, the retirement age, etc.)
2. Reduce benefits
3. Ignore it completely, and hope for a miracle
4. Revamp the system

Democrats would certainly favor any of the first three, and then only because President Bush prefers No.4. Most sane, rational people would also pick No.4, unless they just can't bring themselves to agree with Bush under any circumstances at all, regardless, because of their fragile political egos. Bush's proposal of private investment accounts would give younger people the option to invest in something better—even if it's only a nice, safe, conservative, secure 4% Government bond or a 3.75% bank CD. Beats the current 1.8% Social Security return, doesn't it? Why would someone object to that option, if not for purely political reasons?

The problem with people exhibiting arbitrary ego—driven adherence to a pre—determined position is that such a stance undermines their credibility on other issues. When one—sided predictability is the order of the day, the 'other side' tunes out, and meaningful dialog and exchange is impossible. Unfortunately, people are reluctant to step away from a pre—stated position if the threat of a public 'Aha! You were wrong!' looms overhead.

Getting back to my colleague's response to the Patton piece, it was a perfect example of a politically 'ego—safe' situation, since agreeing with it did not involve any public admission of a Democrat siding with President Bush.

What these people—politicians, especially—fail to realize, of course, is that if they reacted honestly to each situation on the merits of the specific case instead of bring driven by fanatical political ideology, their viewpoints would carry tremendous weight and be highly sought after. To have the courage to admit a mistake or to change one's mind and side with the opposition—when appropriate—would give any politician virtually unlimited credibility with the public, as well as leading to great deal—brokering capability with the other party.

Immoveable egos have become the primary stumbling block of real progress in today's highly polarized political environment. That has got to change for things to improve.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Recently, a very amusing Internet piece entitled 'A Message from the Ghost of General Patton' [http://www.endglobalterror.org/media/patton/patton.htm  or www.usncwo.com] has been making the rounds. Based on the opening speech delivered by George C. Scott in his seminal performance of Patton in the 1970 movie of the same name, this item depicts what General Patton might have said to today's American population regarding their increasingly softening and inattentive attitude towards the threat from radical Muslim fundamentalists. Essentially saying that we should wake up and redouble our resolve in the War on Terror, the piece is both highly entertaining and eerily topical.

But what's even more interesting than the Patton segment itself was the varied reaction to it that I observed, and the fascinating light those reactions shed on how and why individuals react as they do to different politically—oriented inputs.

One person e—mailed me after seeing it and said that it was 'excellent, right on the money.' This individual has an otherwise very liberal/Democratic political viewpoint, yet his take on the Patton piece—which is much more hard—line and conservative than President Bush's actual anti—terror rhetoric and strategic approach—was that 'Patton' was dead accurate in his take on the matter. However, if President Bush had said the exact same thing and used the exact same words, it's highly doubtful that this same individual would have agreed so enthusiastically, if he agreed at all.

What's the device that's at play here? It's political ego, pure and simple. Most individuals seem completely unable or unwilling to deviate even slightly from their carefully staked—out, line—in—the—sand party positions. If someone is on record as being virulently anti—Bush, then every opinion and position that ushers forth will reinforce that viewpoint, regardless of how they might actually feel.

This phenomenon is particularly apparent when watching any of the nightly or Sunday morning political talk shows. Political partisans—be they journalists, analysts, or elected officials—from both sides will unfailingly spout the party line, even in face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. To wit, when was the last time that a Paul Begala or a Frank Rich or a Harry Reid ever said anything even remotely surprising or original? Begala's blatherings, Rich's columns, and Reid's press releases could be scripted by virtually anyone far in advance, word for word, point by point. Being so predictable, are their opinions of any real value at all?

The current debate over Social Security is a perfect example. The Democrats are not opposed to Social Security reform—they're opposed to Republicans getting credit for Social Security reform, so they automatically utter pre—rehearsed anti—Bush lines, in perfect unison. Yet the facts are inescapable: By 2018, the SS system begins to pay out more than it takes in, and by 2042, it only has enough to pay 76% of its promised benefits. There are four, and only four, choices:

1. Raise taxes (by whatever means necessary, including raising the income cap, the retirement age, etc.)
2. Reduce benefits
3. Ignore it completely, and hope for a miracle
4. Revamp the system

Democrats would certainly favor any of the first three, and then only because President Bush prefers No.4. Most sane, rational people would also pick No.4, unless they just can't bring themselves to agree with Bush under any circumstances at all, regardless, because of their fragile political egos. Bush's proposal of private investment accounts would give younger people the option to invest in something better—even if it's only a nice, safe, conservative, secure 4% Government bond or a 3.75% bank CD. Beats the current 1.8% Social Security return, doesn't it? Why would someone object to that option, if not for purely political reasons?

The problem with people exhibiting arbitrary ego—driven adherence to a pre—determined position is that such a stance undermines their credibility on other issues. When one—sided predictability is the order of the day, the 'other side' tunes out, and meaningful dialog and exchange is impossible. Unfortunately, people are reluctant to step away from a pre—stated position if the threat of a public 'Aha! You were wrong!' looms overhead.

Getting back to my colleague's response to the Patton piece, it was a perfect example of a politically 'ego—safe' situation, since agreeing with it did not involve any public admission of a Democrat siding with President Bush.

What these people—politicians, especially—fail to realize, of course, is that if they reacted honestly to each situation on the merits of the specific case instead of bring driven by fanatical political ideology, their viewpoints would carry tremendous weight and be highly sought after. To have the courage to admit a mistake or to change one's mind and side with the opposition—when appropriate—would give any politician virtually unlimited credibility with the public, as well as leading to great deal—brokering capability with the other party.

Immoveable egos have become the primary stumbling block of real progress in today's highly polarized political environment. That has got to change for things to improve.

Of course, I could be wrong.