Call me crazy, but I really, really like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I like his drive, his ambition, his sense of sheer and focused will that has enabled him to succeed and dominate anything and everything he has put his mind to.
I also find his reign as governor fascinating, if only because it exposes certain interesting, flawed aspects of democracy that would otherwise remain overlooked.
Recently, everywhere he goes, Arnold has been followed by a traveling troupe of nurses, teachers and firefighters who are opposed to his policies.
Fine. All well and good. In a democracy, you are more than entitled to voice your opinion and campaign for your individual voice to be heard. (You are expected to, come to think of it.)
And yet, sometimes that’s what bothers me.
That individual voice.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you are a teacher, and you are pissed off at Arnold for doing whatever it is that he’s planning to do to the school system in California. (I’m not completely up on all the issues, but cut me some slack – I’m not a Californian, only a Canadian. Shit. Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Maybe that can be the title of my autobiography: ‘Cut Me Some Slack: Not A Californian, Only a Canadian’. You think?)
And so to show that you are pissed you travel around the state and campaign around the state and do whatever it is that you think is necessary to ensure that the Austrian Oak won’t be elected again.
All well and good.
But let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that in all other regards, all other respects, Arnold is a whammo, bammbo, super-duper guv. Let’s imagine that his policies are, on balance, when you consider the whole, exactly what the State of California needs.
Would you still not vote for the guy, if only because his policies are going to affect your job in an adverse, negative way?
I’m betting that you wouldn’t voite for him. If he’s doing stuff that directly affects you personally, there’s probably no way in hell that you’re going put an X beside his hard-to-pronounce name.
Sometimes that troubles me.
Because in a democracy, an open society, we have the freedom to look out for ourselves. And yet, all too often, that becomes our rallying cry, our mantra, our credo: Me, me, me.
This is natural. This is human. This kind of individuality is to be celebrated.
Living in Asia is a crash-course on how to give up your own desires for the sake of the common good. Countries like Japan do not exalt and elevate the individual; they embrace and expect contributions to the whole of the society. What you feel about a certain matters as an individual is irrelevant; what matters is your family, your job, your culture. ‘You’ bring up the rear.
It’s not that I’m against all those folks protesting Arnold. They’re looking out for their own interests. They’re fighting the good fight as they see fit.
I just wonder, sometimes.
Sometimes, so much of what we anatagonize against are forces that affect us and us alone. Me, my family, my block. Somebody is bad because they are doing things that affect me; the fact that those same actions may very well benefit the person down the street, or the long-term nature of the community as a whole, well, too bad. Fuck ‘em.
So I’m hoping Arnold can bring people together, is what I’m saying. I don’t think it’s likely – but, then again, was it likely that that little boy from an Austrian village would somehow transform himself, step by step, curl by curl, into the best bodybuilder in the world, the biggest movie star in the world, the governor of the most powerful state in the United States?
It wasn’t likely.
It came about through individual will, a will that was indifferent to the numerous naysayers that stood in the way of his unlikely path to success. A will that must now do battle with all of those citizens who disagree with who he is and what stands for. A will that somehow must harmonize and find a happy-medium for all of those other individual wills that are pleading that their concerns, their unions, their jobs, are what matter. Theirs and theirs alone.
Sometimes I’m with Churchill (or was it Cher?) who said, I think, more or less: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”