Puppets of Politics

By Emma Petasis
April 17, 2012 | Blog

Most people believe that politicians are puppets, or at least that they behave like puppets: that someone else is controlling their movements and dictating their decisions. That someone else in control could be political parties, financial backers, corporations, Wall Street, or just influential groups of constituents. We generally don’t know who or why, but we believe that it is bad and not in our best interests. Unfortunately, there is a way in which we are all becoming puppets of politics, often without our even realizing it.

Think about how you get your political news. In the eight-second sound bite and page view world of today, so-called news spreads virally across the nation in the time that it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Instead of being informed about the background and ideas relating to a political issue, we are simply made aware of a point of view, in the blink of an eye. And along with most points of view come labels.

Labels take the place of thoughtful reflection and independent judgments. Labels become the way we communicate with each other. Labels become synonymous with our past experience and our future projections. Labels substitute for what we believe to be considerations of fairness.

We are now in the label wars. Everyone wants to define, control, and spread their labels, before the other guy. Conversely, politics has become a game of label the other guy, the other side, or the other belief before you, your side, or your belief can be labeled. Just think about Occupy Wall Street. It was all labels, not even an attempt at substantive proposals. And to some extent, it worked. It achieved its goal of label creation and manipulation. Most of us have become used to following the labels, and it is the labeling that can make us all political puppets.

Labels are strings, and strings are hard to see. When we label a person or a group, we tie a string to them and to ourselves. Labels define, and thus control and influence, actions. Labels manipulate behavior and outcomes. By acceding to labels, we allow ourselves to become puppets of politics. We permit ourselves to be manipulated. We let ourselves have our strings pulled, our points of view manipulated, and sometimes we don’t even recognize it. We do not always see the strings pulling and tugging on us, directing our movements. And just like a puppet, we can sometimes move too easily, jump too quickly, and take steps too abruptly. 

In a World Working Well, we would all cut our strings – the strings we have and the strings we impose. In a World Working Well, there would be No Labels. There would be no strings.

Art Bushkin is a writer, philanthropist and social activist. His principal causes are Harnessing the Power of Technology for Social Good and Devout Politics: A World Working Well. For more on Art, check out ArtBushkin.com.

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