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Rated: E · Essay · Educational · #2084598
A student tries to solve politics, and gets a lecture. Told from a unique perspective.
Problems with Politics

[h] = Prefrontal Cortex activity, or future simulations and schema representations
["h"] = Orbitofrontal Cortex activity, or moral and logical thoughts
<h> = Limbic System activity, or emotional and social thoughts
= Hippocampus activity, or Episodic/Semantic Memory recall
h = Sensory-Motor system inputs/outputs, or what the person feels and experiences.
The entire story is          told in a series of Episodic Memories
         If you wonder why I made the choice to write in this format, I have three reasons:
Dr. Michio Kaku's          "Space-Time Theory of Consciousness"
         The neuroscience of          memories and their effects on our experience
         "We          are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you          think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far."          -Swami Vivekananda
If the story seems a bit didactic (focusing on the educational and informative qualities of literature) I'd ask you to remember an important aspect of the story is education, and to consider how the didactic elements contribute to the stories' points.

Episodic Memory 1

I sat at the dinner table, brows pulled together. [I imagined evidence from a project I'd been working on in debate rearranging itself into an English paper.] ["I don't want to make that for my English teacher, I want something new."] I saw my Dad reading the paper. On the back was an image with the caption "Covidian bought out by Medtronic." <That's pretty great that Mom's company gets to grow like that.> {I remembered what John Stewart said about the merger.}{I remembered what John Stewart said about Fox News.}{I remembered what John Stewart said about the Government Shutdown.} I nodded twice, before picking up my fork. ["It'd be nice if there was a way to make the government better. The people better."][I imagined companies making decisions, and wondered how they prioritized things.] {I remembered they issued stocks, and that some people had more money than others, giving them more say in what the company did.} ["If only it wasn't money."][I imagined hundreds of old people in congress, and wondered what the currency of policymaking should be.]["Intelligence, of course. But how could we measure that?]{I remembered how schools measure intelligence: tests.}
I bolted up, dropping my fork and staring wide eyed ahead of me. [I imagined millions of people taking tests. I then imagined the poor having difficulty coming to a testing center.]["I don't want that."]{I remembered that everyone has access to computers, and libraries.}[I saw people logging on, entering answers to questions like 'how many Senators does your state have?']["That's dumb, that sounds like the only purpose is to exclude people. It should focus on the issues."] {I remembered taking the AP: US History exam, writing massive essays on political and economic systems}I nodded. ["I like that; plus, even if you get a 1 on the AP test, that's still a 1, so technically their vote still counts! I mean, if you can't organize an intelligible essay on the socio-economic factors involved in some topical issue--like transportation or spending or something--then maybe the national community shouldn't listen to you very much!"] I held a hand in the air and rubbed my thumb on my fingers. ["Politicians wouldn't worry as much about people who believe irrational things too."] I nodded a few times and began eating my dinner.
Episodic Memory 2

"So that's what I'd like to do."
Ms. O'Brian nodded twice, leaning back in her massive swivel chair. "That's interesting, but it doesn't really address some of the bigger problems with politics."
<What? Why would you say that? I spent a long time...>["Look, it addresses dumb voters, it makes politicians appeal to smart voters, it's great!"] I pressed my lips together. "What are the problems with politics?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Well, there are two big ones-- don't look at me like that, you juniors have been writing about this for years, of course I know what I'm talking about!--and the first is Gerrymandering. Do you know what that is? Well, it's--did you go to Woodland Elementary? Wow, ok, so your family must have a lot of money."
I blinked slowly, closing one eye at a time. <Why is she talking so fast?><I barely nodded and she's talking about how much money I have?><What does money have to do with anything?><I'm not rich.>["Well, I mean, my parents have a three story on a lake..."]
"You know how I know that? Because most schools just say that everyone within a certain distance from a school will go there, but what the founder of Woodland Elementary did was make the border lines stretch into weird shapes to get all the rich neighborhoods for himself; let the poor kids go somewhere else. That same process is Gerrymandering, where politicians chop up neighborhoods based on stuff like income because they know how certain types of people vote. Have you ever run for an office? Like Captain of the debate team or something?"
<Not yet, but elections are this spring!>{I remembered the time I ran for student council in Elementary school.} "Yeah, I ran for student council in Elementary school. One boy and one girl got picked from each of the fourth and fifth grade classes."
"Really? How'd that go?"
I yawned, rolling my jaw. {I remembered practicing my speech, and the moments just before my teacher announced that I'd won. I remembered the tension, the euphoria, the way I hid my euphoria behind a mask of bemused indifference.} I shrugged, waving a hand as I spoke. "Pretty well, I mean, it wasn't hard. Like a dozen other kids were running and they all talked about how they're great because of 'x' or 'y' and that's why you should vote for them, but I told them 'I fight for my classmates, and will do everything in my power to make things better."
"What'd you do for them?"
I looked at my fingernails with a raised eyebrow. "I mean, some kids came up to me right after the election saying 'hey man, can we get a ping-pong table, or maybe an ice-hockey table, or maybe some more free-time? I don't think we get enough free time.'" I shrugged. "I told them I'd do everything in my power, but of course they didn't get any of that. All we decided was which theme the dance should have, and we made the posters advertising it." {I remembered that getting free donuts at the end of the year had been the highlight of our sessions, and the only reason I ran the next year.}
Ms. O'Brian nodded, holding a hand to her chin. "I can't remember why I asked if you--right! Ok, so imagine you had fifteen friends in the fifth grade, and another fifteen in the fourth grade, but only four of them were in your class. What if, instead of being voted by the class, which is sort of a random sample of the whole grade, you could say 'I want all my friends to be in my class, and they'll be my voters.'
[I imagined hundreds of politicians snickering in dark, smoky rooms as thousands of others looked around in confusion, not understanding why they couldn't win.] I smirked. "That'd be great, assuming the people voting were my friends."
She nodded. "Exactly. And this causes some pretty obvious problems, the biggest one is people stop voting for individuals and start voting for parties."
I closed one eye, pouting my lip. <What?> ["I understood the first bit, but..."]
"I mean, follow the metaphor a bit. Your 'class' is a community of thousands of people. How do you get them to think you're their friend?"
"I mean, I don't..."
"You give them this button that says 'I'm officially an approved friend--according to your other friends. This is slightly unrelated, but I actually have a friend--he works at the Minnesota state congress--who got elected a few years ago. He voted for a bill the first day he was in St. Paul. He thought the bill made sense, that it lined up with the values he told his voters he'd stand for, and they elected him, so it made sense that he vote for it. The bill doesn't pass. Not enough support. He leaves, and the leader of the party says he wants to see him in his office. He goes there, and two tall people follow him in, shutting the door. The leader of their party yells at him; he says: 'Do you want to get re-elected? Then follow the party. The party is more important than you, and we need to work as a team to beat the other party. If I can't trust you to follow our strategies, then I'm going to support someone else and have you replaced next cycle.' What I'm saying is that, if you aren't sanctioned by 'the party,' it's basically impossible to get elected, because your county was gerrymandered so your party always wins. Then once you're in, you need to follow the leaders like you joined a cult or something." Her eyes were wide, and she wasn't looking at me anymore, just at the computer screen in front of her.
I looked around the lab, at the dozens of kids hunched over their screens, clicking and typing away. A few waited behind me in a line. They had their phones out as they waited to speak with the teacher and get feedback on their ideas. I scratched my temple with two fingers.
         Ms. O'Brian turned back to me. "I'm sorry if I'm talking fast or not making much sense. I just care a lot about this stuff, and it makes me really mad."
         I looked back at her. {I remembered she'd said there were two problems.}{I remembered the essay counted towards a third of my grade.}{I remembered my Dad saying 'be engaged, ask questions, teachers are people too.'} I wiped a palm over my eyebrow, swiping away micro-droplets of sweat. "Sorry, but you said there was another problem with politics?"
         She cleared her throat and sat up a bit. "Right, ok, so the other one is that politicians do very little work, and they do even less of it with the other party than ever before. About twenty years ago a bill got passed--this is only in D.C., but it's still a big problem--which made it so people would only work Tuesday-Thursday, and spend the rest of their time in their home states. The idea was that they'd keep connections with their constituents, but it basically cost them their connections with the other party. They don't do things on the weekends or nights together; they just show up and leave. Also there's a hell of--I'm sorry--so, um, they only get the three days to make deals and compromise and stuff. The other thing that makes them barely work is fund-raising, either at these banquets or literally telemarketing--you know what telemarketing is?"
         I blinked a few times. {I remembered a time my Dad yelled at a telemarketer that he 'wasn't interested in buying anything.'} "Huh? Oh, uh, yeah, they call at dinner and make my Dad really mad."
         She chuckled. "Right, professional politicians end up spending about half their time in Washington at fundraisers or just straight-up telemarketing when they're supposed to be making deals and governing.
         <Holy crap.>
         She saw my facial expression, and nodded. "Exactly. And why wouldn't they? It's not just about getting enough to win the campaign; it's also about getting enough to beat the other party. They'll fundraise even if they don't need to, because the party needs the extra money to win in places they might lose next time. Aside from wasting time, it also--" She paused a moment, putting down a pen I just realized she'd been tapping quickly on her desk. "Ok, it's not that politicians are getting 'bribed,' the problem is that the only people politicians ask money for are people who have money. So they start to get a very warped understanding of reality after even a few months on the job, and they remember what these people say more than what constituents might say, or even just what their own values and common sense might say. Plus, I mean," she chuckled. "People really don't email their congressmen very much, and they certainly don't go to their offices. The people who usually do those things are lobbyists, and in a lot of ways they're worse, because their agenda is often so much more forced."
         I nodded.
         "There are other problems, like the Electoral College and stuff, but fixing those would be like cleaning a dirty windshield that's got a giant log smashed through its center. So I'm not sure how--" She stopped, slowly blinked one eye at a time and began rubbing her fingers on her thumb. She was quiet for a bit. "How does this test work--multiple choice or essays?"
         <Why would she ask, unless...>["She already said she didn't like my idea, but if she's close to changing her mind..."]<Crap, what's the right answer?!> I looked at her, then raised a brow. "Both?"
         "Ok, good. And the essays, they'd be on current issues?"
         I breathed deeply.<That was a close one.> "Yes."
         "Ok..." She kept rubbing her fingers on her thumb. "Ok, alright, that's interesting because it could be... a way to give people more of a voice, to vote using lots of well thought-out ideas, and congress people would need to listen to it." She was nodding quickly. "Is that right? It's like a way to include the internet in the political system?"
         ["Sure, I can make it like that."] I smiled. "Yes!"
         She smiled. "Ok! I like it. It's unique, that's for sure. Go for it." She looked over my shoulder at the next person in line, waving them to walk over to her.

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