Friday, April 29, 2011

Let the sparks fly

What's going down in our little dot these next few days is the showdown between the two main factions of people that comprise our national electorate.

In the Champion's corner is the lightning bolt -- a spark of electricity that powers every comfort and convenience we depend on in modern society. With electricity, everything we want we get in an instant, at least those of us who are wired up into the system. Electricity operates safely only when insulated. It prefers being left to function on its own as the more resistance it encounters, the more heat it generates at the expense of work output. Electricity is determined to drag us kicking and screaming into the future, but with its relentless pace always pushing forward and outward, only those who can keep up benefit the most, while the rest get left behind.

In the Challenger's corner is the hammer, a symbol of manual labour, requiring human muscle and motor skill to operate. A hand tool for the individual worker building plank by plank, nail by nail, the hammer needs the community cooperation of the sort the Amish rely on to build their barns. Everyone rolls up his sleeves and pitches in out of friendship, kinship or some other social obligation -- no one is above his neighbour in this effort. The hammer builds a close-knit but closed-off society whose particular traditions and values identify others as unwelcome strangers and outsiders. But in the age of electricity, the hammer just seems a bit obsolete and slow as an implement of work.

Progress vs tradition; individual opportunity vs social solidarity; insulation from the people's views vs insulation from the world's realities. In about a week's time, we will again get to choose our path for another political term. As always, our choices seem so mutually exclusive.

No comments: