Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
If you think about it, fighting for someone or something is predicated upon there already being a fight in progress, one in which to take sides. And that is one of the underlying problems in our current political environment. Our leaders, more often than not, become leaders by convincing us that they are best equipped to fight on our behalf. Yet, why does there always have to be a fight? The entire paradigm is based on the assumption that pretty much 100% of the time, differences in policies and priorities will always require a fight.
The fight paradigm is so deeply entrenched in the collective experience of politics that we now are watching it morph into an actual, gladiator-like cage-fighting between public figures of influence. By now you’ve no doubt heard of the supposedly really-gonna-happen cage fight between Facebook founder A.K.A. Caesar-in-waiting Mark Zuckerberg and the world’s richest person, Tesla founder, and Twitter’s legal guardian Elon Musk.
So, what does this tell us about who we are as Americans? If nothing else, it tells us that we love a good fight. What could be more entertaining, or profitable? Boxing promoters speculate that the income generated from ticket sales to a Zuck-Musk fight would set a new world-record. The proceeds would presumably go to some worthy cause (or why would the two richest guys on the planet want to charge admission?).
But in the end, what is this fight supposed to prove? That two elite narcissists trying to out-macho each other are willing to do it in front of the world, to prove that one has slightly bigger balls than the other? What are they supposed to be fighting over, anyway?
The story apparently begins as Musk guides his newly acquired Twitter into a sandpit, having already lost more than 2/3 of his original $45B investment, and managing to ongoingly sabotage whatever remaining value there is in Twitter at any given moment. So for Musk, there's an obvious motivation for participating in a public grudge match. He has a chance to settle the score, at least on the public humiliation level, by humiliating Zuckerberg in front of the world — just like Zuck’s introduction of Threads, the would-be “Twitter killer,” is rubbing Elon’s nose in Twitter’s free-fall.
Zuckerberg’s motivation is probably more narcissistic in nature. He’s “trained” with bodybuilders and martial artists, and seems quite willing to lead public attention away from his Multiverse vision (or wet-nightmare, as it turns out). He’d like to draw our attention to a public brawl to remind us that he really is a cool guy and Threads will be another Facebook (aren’t we lucky), and no one will even mind the massively abusive collection and selling of even more of our personal data than before. Ughhh.
Basically, it comes down to “if you can’t beat ‘em, fight ‘em.” In other words, whatever the real-world situation might exist between two adversaries, the best way to settle it must surely be by fighting. Naturally, this approach is an easy segue into politics, where it has mass appeal. It’s not enough for mega-capitalists to extend their marketplace competition into violent physical competition. If the self-made Masters of the Universe can do it, so can politicians!
In answer to a verbal prompt from showman Piers Morgan, Republican presidential aspirant Chris Christie stated that given the opportunity to fight Trump in the ring, he’d “kick his ass.” Of course, the likelihood of such a fight actually happening is probably nowhere near the more likely match between the two corporate nincompoops, but the very fact that the possibility even exists and that the possibility itself is newsworthy, speaks to the underlying immaturity level of those we have elevated as leaders and those we have elected to represent us. Not to mention the blind devotion of mass news media to perpetuating a good fight whenever possible.
The media supports political fighting the same way it supports fighting in the ring. It’s all about the size of the audience, because that’s where you make the money. You can charge more for a big-name fight, and who cares if it’s in Vegas or in a sustained election campaign, or ultimately in the halls of Congress. Fighting pays.
Like most anyone else, for any number of reasons, I’d love to see these two celebrity fights actually take place. I can imagine a certain satisfaction in seeing these miscreants pummel each other. If we’re lucky, the fights will go into overtime, and by the end of the match they’ll all be sweating of exhaustion and bloodied like so many other raging bulls before them, beaten to a pulp, then simply declared the losers. Beyond that, they will have accomplished nothing, other than entertaining us. Just like in Washington.
I don’t want our leaders to fight for me, I want them to work for me. They spent billions of dollars convincing me to give them my votes, and I did it, and now they’re in office (and/or in charge of valuable resources). But I don’t want them squandering their available hours as public servants fighting, no matter how entertaining or profitable the fight may be. I want them to get to work, to put in the diligent effort necessary to actually get things done for me and my fellow-Americans. There’s too much to do, our collective challenges are existential in nature, and they’ve been wasting your and my time, fighting.
So go ahead MuskMan and FaceBoy, duke it out in the ring if you like. Knock yourselves out, literally. Give us all a good distraction, some real entertainment. Hope you’re proud of yourselves afterwards. But when you’re done fighting, turn your attention to what needs to be done to benefit our society (and I promise you it’s not fighting). You need to demonstrate your alpha business skills by solving societal problems, not exacerbating them (for a profit, no less). Bring a new sense of self-respect and respect for others into the public dialog, and into the chambers of Congress. Can you even imagine doing that?
You can’t beat reality into submission. We need all hands on deck. The planet is on fire, people are starving. And you can’t fight your way into a peaceful world. You’ve heard “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” You want to be our leaders? Then please go ahead and lead, but not into a tribal war or a war against “woke-ness,” or a war on women, or any number of unnecessary and unproductive pastimes based on fighting.
Lead us into a coordinated societal response to income inequality. Innovate some powerful and effective new ways to ensure human survival on earth (Mars can wait). Stand up for the rule of law, and the institutions that represent and support democracy. Don’t lie. Don’t put AI in charge. And don’t take us for idiots. We’re willing to follow a good plan. Come up with one.
I realize that some fighting is unavoidable self-defense — in defense of basic human rights for all people. In defense of democracy itself. That’s the paradox — how to defend what needs defending without entering into a fight. It’s not an easy needle to thread. But at very least, while you presumably fight the good fight, also show us how to work together to get things done. Make us proud that you’re there to represent us. Go on, it is literally the very least you can do. So do it.
Meanwhile, good luck in the ring.