Have you ever, on your big screen HD TV, in the comfort of your own home, watched one of those life-in-the-ocean documentaries?
If so, you didn’t have to wait long before you saw a school of fish swimming all together as one. And shortly thereafter you saw solitary predators closing in and finally there was the climax where the tiny fish sense the approaching doom and swim even tighter together as if they believe that will save them. This is tragically exactly what the big fish want, because now all they have to do is lunge into the center of the mass with their jaws agape and consume as many of the bait ball as their gullets can hold.
These big fish, fascinating yet frightening predators are perfectly adapted to pursue their one goal—to mindlessly seek out food then eat their fill. They seem, at first glance, a near-perfect metaphor for political campaigns.
But, sharks are not like campaigns, they are superbly evolved animals. They are not machines operated by a thousand hands, yet driven by a massive single ego. They are just big fish that unthinkingly take what they need and move on.
And sharks—unlike politicians—don’t care about how many little fishies the other sharks consume; it’s not a zero-sum game for them. Also, sharks don’t lie; they don’t say to their soon-to-be-consumed prey, “I’ll protect you from…,” “I’ll fix this or that” or that “I’m gonna get your … back.”
Why do we, supposedly rational free-willed creatures, accept the lies and swarm like the little fishies? Fear it is. Mostly fear that something we have is going to be taken away from us. This is different from anger that something has already been taken, or envy that someone else has what we want. Those emotions are worked by campaigns, too, but fear seems to be the most efficient voter getter these days.
So campaigns make bait balls of us by exaggerating a shared fear into a shark-like predator; then offer an escape, but for a price. That price is an ill-considered vote, a vote against self-interest. Intelligence is no match for the visceral, yet mass, fear they’ve assembled. It doesn’t matter to your gut if the threat you feel is real, for in these post-truth times, fear is real even if the reason for is not.
I’d like to think in more rational times to come, when the passions of the electoral process have cooled, that we’ll see the error of our ways in time to correct the mistakes we made and fix them in a considered and fair to all manner. But, sadly, I’ve little hope for that. The fear-[anger and envy] mongers have won and now all they have to do is dive into the center of the mass with their jaws agape and consume as many of us as their gullets can hold.