I spent some of this last weekend with an old friend who is generally well informed and aware of current political issues (unfortunately, we don’t agree on most of them). He asked me if I had watched or listened to Obama’s press conference on Syria, and he seemed to be surprised when I said that I had not. This is actually a fairly common occurrence in my life. People generally know me to be interested in politics and current events, and are usually quite surprised when I reveal to them that I don’t watch presidential press conferences, I don’t watch any particular news program on a regular basis, or read any particular newspaper. I generally skip the state of the union, and any other pre-rehearsed speech written by a team of political flunkies.
And yet, I am able to stay well informed. I read a variety of websites (news aggregators on Facebook and Twitter are a lifesaver!), some blogs, and listen to some talk radio. While I didn’t watch Obama’s press conference, I had in fact already gotten the summarized version of it from a few different perspectives on Facebook. Bam! More information served up with less time and effort invested.
Some might suggest that I would be better served to go straight to the primary source myself, rather than relying on second-hand reports. Occasionally, if particular phrases or sentences end up being somehow controversial or disputed, I will do so, but for the most part, it’s simply not necessary. I don’t need to spend my time listening to Obama drone on and on (pun intended) about how much he respects the law and that’s why he’s deferring to Congress, I just need to know that he is.
But it’s not just about saving time. There’s another reason, a much more significant reason, why I never drop everything I’m doing to watch a politician give a speech (even if it’s Ron Paul, I usually just catch it on Youtube later). I like to live by my values as much as I can, and one of my widely stated values is that politicians simply don’t matter that much. Now, some of you might consider that a shocking statement. Lord knows that virtually every corner of society is constantly trying to convince you otherwise. Both political parties, nearly every mainstream news and media outlet, even a lot of libertarian-leaning folks live their lives as if the President really is the most important person on the planet and that our lives should come to a grinding halt whenever he feels like telling us something.
These people are all wrong. Politicians think they’re the most important thing in the universe, but they really aren’t. Mostly they just get in the way of things we like to do in our lives. Think of most of the actions you undertake in a given day. How many of them changed significantly because Obama is president and not Romney? How many changed when Obama was president and not Bush? How many changed when Bush was president and not Gore? I think if you really look at your life, you’ll find out that the answer is virtually zero (unless you work for the government or are in the military or have some other job that is majorly involved in politics).
These people just don’t matter very much. The illusion that they do is what allows them to continue to grasp whatever limited power they still possess. I once famously stated that if I had to choose between a competent president and a competent “girl who works the drive-thru window at my local McDonalds,” I’d take the McDonalds girl. I stand by that statement. The girl who works the drive-thru window has a direct, regular, and predictable effect on my quality of life. Elected politicians are just a bunch of wannabe dictators in suits who desperately desire to have a direct, regular, and predictable effect on my quality of life, but fortunately, they don’t. Don’t bother scheduling your life around their pronouncements. They aren’t nearly as important as everyone pretends they are.