Saturday, April 2, 2011

Differences between Actors and Congressmen

     In a recent article ("Common Sense, Benefits, and Peaceful Resistance"),  I wrote that advertisements tend to distort our sense of reality versus illusion; which distorts our sense of value and benefits. I then proposed practical solutions.
     The nature of politicians creates similar distortions.
     There are several significant differences between congressmen and Hollywood actors. Actors sometimes stop acting, but congressmen never stop. Congressmen expect you to believe that their performance is reality. Actors often venture into the real world and find out what it’s like, but congressmen rarely do so.
     Between the two, I prefer the actors. I think it’s high time that somebody stood up for actors who grab headlines for activist causes, and I think it’s high time somebody told the truth about congressmen who grab headlines for acting as if they care about causes other than themselves.
     If that sounds a mite harsh, try presenting your concerns to a congressman. I’ve spoken with congressmen many times, and the result has always been the same. Maybe your experiences with congressmen have been different.
     Congressmen, like actors, depend on cues to aid their performance. When you’re presenting your concerns to “your” congressman, take a close look at his face. Doesn’t it look more like the face of a salesman than that of someone who really gives a hoot about you? He’s not trying to understand your concern; he’s trying to locate your hot button. As soon as he thinks he’s located your hot button, he reaches into his store of sound bites, pulls one out, and plays it for you.
     He couldn’t care less about you and your problems, unless you’re a well-heeled lobbyist with a briefcase full of campaign contributions. He’s trying to boost his image in your eyes. Otherwise, he accepts campaign contributions from the malefactors of great wealth and votes from the poor and middle class on the pretext that he’s protecting each group from the other.
     It’s no coincidence that most congressmen or either lawyers or salesmen. People in both professions are noted for their acting ability; and people in both professions succeed by acting as if they care.
     Let me tell you a true story.
     A well-to-do man decided to build a second home in Wyoming and bought a ranch there. Locals were concerned about the loss of their way of life, but they were mollified by the fact that the rich man kept the land as a functioning ranch. One day, an eleven year-old boy got lost in the area of Jackson Hole, a canyon in that area. By the time he was sighted from the air, a storm had come up and rescue choppers were grounded. The boy would have to spend another night in the wilderness. The outsider would not accept this situation. He took his own helicopter and flew into the canyon, fighting strong winds to rescue the boy.
     Who was the hero in this story?
     A. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY)
     B. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
     C. Representative Cynthia Lummis
     D. Harrison Ford
     That’s right. It was Harrison Ford, an actor. A congressman would never have stuck his neck out like that.
     When the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trample innocent populations under their merciless hooves, where are the actors and where are the congressmen?
     Look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and other disasters. Brad Pitt helped built temporary shelters. Angelina Jolie and Sean Penn did grunt work, hand-carrying supplies to disaster victims. They were getting down and dirty, helping people who needed help the most.
     Where were the congressmen? If congressmen step into a disaster area at all, they prefer to do it dry shod, like Queen Elizabeth I stepping from her coach onto Walter Raleigh's cloak.  Well, some congressmen were getting down and dirty, but not in the same sense of the term.
          Then-Congressman Richard Baker (R-Baton Rouge) crowed, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” He proposed what became known as the Baker Plan. Under his plan, the federal government would borrow a few hundred million dollars from the international bankers (to be repaid by the U. S. taxpayers) and lend it to real estate developers and other disaster capitalists. The disaster capitalists would use it to drive disaster victims from their property and make a bundle—all at U.S. taxpayer expense.
     That was too much even for President Bush to stomach. A million Iraqi and Afghani lives were a small price to pay for Bush and his chums to steal trillions of dollars, but Hurricane Katrina wasn’t profitable enough for him to sign on board. His Ferengi nature led him to balk at the idea.
In 2008, Baker resigned from Congress to go to work for a hedge fund. That was only a few months before the hedge funds did to the United States what they did to Southeast Asia during the Currency Crisis of 1997. (What next?)
     I said that actors often enter the real world, but congressmen seldom do. You see, successful actors work long, hard hours in bursts of about forty days at a stretch. Between exhausting assignments, they often have both the time and the money to go to the world’s trouble spots for weeks at a stretch.
     Congressmen never stop campaigning, and their so-called fact-finding missions are mainly campaign photo opportunities at taxpayer expense.
     Actors learn about starvation by visiting hungry people. They talk with the hungry people and with groups who are trying to relieve their suffering. Congressmen “learn” about starvation by attending $1,000-a-plate feasts at which speakers in Armani suits tell them that the American middle class should give up one meal a week.
          Actors learn about rainforest depletion by slipping into hiking boots and khakis and getting into the rainforest. Through translators, native guides give them the low-down.
     Congressmen travel in corporate-owned jets to international meetings in areas that used to be rainforests. That is, they had been rainforests before developers cleared away thousands of acres of irreplaceable resources to build the hotel at which the meeting took place. There, the same developers who cleared away the rainforest tell them the need to preserve the world’s rainforests.
     Actors learn about the tribulations of Gaza by venturing into Gaza. Congressmen get their information by visiting politicians—the same ones who order the shelling of civilians in Gaza. Actors get their information by visiting with real people.
     Obama? Oh, I can say a lot of bad things about him, but I’d like to wrap up by saying something good about him. When the genocide in Darfur needed to be stopped, Obama had the good sense not to send some idiot congressman on a phony fact-finding mission. He asked for actor George Clooney, who already had had his boots on the ground in Darfur for several years.
     George Clooney, Matt Damon, and other Hollywood actors, more than any congressmen could have or would have, played major roles in ending the genocide.
     Why do actors do a better job of representing our interests than most politicians do? I think it’s because of three more differences between politicians and actors:
     1. Salaries for politicians are confiscated rather than voluntary,
     2. Salaries for politicians are taken from every geographical area rather than just the area the politicians are elected to represent, and
     3. Campaign contributions, which are the only voluntary means of payment for politicians, may be given by people whose interests are at odds with the interests of the people that politicians are supposed to represent.
     By contrast:
     1. Actors don’t get salaries. They depend entirely on voluntary contributions, mainly in the form of ticket sales,
     2. People from every geographical area is a constituent or potential constituent of actors, and
     3. Actors depend on numerous and diverse individuals for their livelihoods and far less on interest groups.
     Perhaps we’d get better representation if political salaries and campaign contributions were voluntary and were limited to the price of a theater ticket.

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