Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This is Power (Wednesday LINKS)

One of the most popular commencement speeches of recent history is Dave Foster Wallace's speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  It was later published as an essay with the name "This is Water".  You can fund the full text here, but I've had two paragraphs rolling in my head for the past two weeks:

If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

When you read something profound, you should ask yourself: Is this something I want someone else to read or is this meant for me?

I'm currently reading two books on my Kindle: Game Change (very little of which is about Sarah Palin or even the McCain candidacy) and Game of Thrones (Book III -- best one so far).  I write a blog about politics.  For as long asI can remember, I have been fascinated by how mere mortals handle the big problems our community faces and the policy discussions that underlie those decisions. 

In that frame, many would say that I worship power or at least have an unhealthy obsession with it.

Those who worship power, and have been fortunate enough to wield it, are so often afraid.  Who is trying to take this power away from me?  Who is standing in the way of me getting more?  Most elected officials would never admit this, but in the deepest recesses of their hearts, its the reason they have occasionally thought of wrapping it all up.  They are tired of watching their back.  They are tired of caring so much about what people say about them.

But that's the amateur pol.  The real pros are on the other side of DFW's tipping point.  They have become numb to their own fear and see life as a collection of power.  Life is a video game with points counted at the end.  Power is no longer a means to an end, it is the end in itself.

I wish I could remember who said it, but I once heard a quote that said: Most political lives end in disaster.  It sounds jarring at first (particularly for those with friends in politics), but most likely true.  The more successful a politician is, the higher they go.  But the thing about political office is that one rarely gets to leave on their own terms.  While many of us can expect a nice retirement dinner followed by a week on a beach, our friends in politics can expect a concession speech and campaign debt.

I don't say this to slam politicians or discourage others from seeking elected office.  Rather, I'm writing to discourage those from seeking power to do at the expense of fear.  The rewards are not so great.


O's Win.  The series with the Red Sox is now 1-1, which matches the number of balks each team has had over the last two days.

That conglomerate of geography, history, and finance that is "Social Studies" will now be taught and tested under the Maryland educational requirements signed by Gov. O'Malley this week.

Those interested in addressing the problems of Baltimore City crime have to be disappointed by the manner in which the waters were muddied by racially charged statements.  The bottom line is that those who were working to solve the problems of Baltimore City are going to keep on doing what they're doing, while those who wish to take a podium and talk about the peripherals will do the same.

The Baltimore City School Board passed it $1.31 billion budget yesterday, which decreased per-pupil funding for charter school students.  This is slightly misleading, since the overall funding for charter schools has increased, while paired with increased enrollment.  Red team advocates for charter schools will have to speak carefully on this, after spending the last three months decrying "cuts" that were actually increases.

Sara Toth has a perfect lead:  "As the Board of Education went into dinner recess during its meeting Tuesday, Allen Dyer served four of his fellow board members with legal complaints, suing them over alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act during the board's recent search for Howard's next superintendent." If that doesn't get your blood pressure up, you live in a different world than I.

Lindsey McPherson notes that the County Council's sole Republican, Greg Fox, may be voting for Ken Ulman's budget this year, which would be the first time since arriving on the Council in 2006.  This is all the more unusual in light of the fact that many of Greg's previously objections with regard to Healthy Howard funding, OPEB, Executive Protection Unit, etc., would seem to still be present in the Budget for 2012.  Maybe he's just tired of the fight.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Matt Wilson attended the Pre-Submission meeting for Howard Hughes's new proposed development, which has taken the title of "The Met".  Great observations and another attestation to what additional voices in the blogosphere bring to the community.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!