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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shutdown 2013: Let The (Blame) Game Begin

US federal government begins first shutdown in 17 years. Wowie.

Surprisingly, I think I've seen more articles and comments and reactions about Miley Cyrus VMA's act than the government shutdown, but it has only been 10 or 12 hours anyway. Unsurprisingly, the comments are distinctively: "It's all your fault!" and "No, it's all *your* fault".

The question is, do you really know whose fault is it?
The bigger question is, does it even matter?

You'll find pointing games in almost every aspect of life. You can find in in debate between religions (Muslim is the best! No, Christian does it better!), in music (Taylor Swift sucks! No, Taylor Swift is a true-blue-heaven-sent Diva!), in guns (Guns kill people! Guns don't kill people!), in vaccination (We need vaccination! No, Vaccination is unhealthy!), in food (Go go go vegans and save the world! I am not a bunny!), and now of course in politics (Republicans are at fault! No, Democrats are the goons!). In these discussions each side held their ground firmly and able to spout hard fact that establish/strengthen their opinion. But how reliable those facts were, anyway? 

We humans are short-sighted, and have a tendency to believe what we want to believe. It's like looking at a huge ship, we might not be able to see the whole ship on one glance yet we have our own opinion of the ship just by that small short-sighted glance. We might look at the barnacles on the bottom of the ship instead and deemed the ship is old. We might look at the rust on the side of the ship and deemed the ship is unsafe. We might look at the shiny white railing and deck and deemed the ship is majestic. We might look at how it floats and deemed the ship is graceful. Those who believe the ship is old and unsafe will not believe the crewman that said in terms of ship age it's still young and very safe. Those who believe the ship is majestic and graceful will not believe the boatyard crew that said it is just a big clumsy piece of iron. The fact is: The ship is just a ship, and only by understanding how it works in thorough can you get the correct description of what it really is.

Another good story is the one I found about a Christian mercenary who was killed in Sumatra a long time ago. The Muslim side of the story said that they had to kill the man because he was dangerous, and as he kept coming back after death they believe that they did the right thing by killing him and thus protecting their community. The Christian side of the story was that this brave man was killed for nothing and even though he was beheaded his head miraculously reattached to his body (even though he was still quite dead), thus proving how saintly and holy this mercenary is. One side claimed the attack as self defense, the other side claimed the attack as a martyr-like story, both used to further strengthen the claim that their side is better than the others. The fact is: a guy got killed. Whatever reason he got killed we will never know as it happens decades ago, probably even a century or more. All we know are stories and hearsay, and those can be easily tweaked to suit any side.

It doesn't take decades or centuries to tweak facts though. As a matter of fact we did it daily, either intentionally or unintentionally. The internet promise us (almost) unlimited information, yet it is far easier to take something that you have believe. We read and re-read things that we want to believe instead of looking farther away and see the whole picture. Our fascination on something can be easily fueled by more information that we found in the internet, or because we are actively searching for that information to justify our opinion. If you believe sugar is good for you, you can find numbers of articles that support your opinion. If you believe sugar is no better than crack cocaine, you can find numbers of articles that support that believe as well. It takes a lot of self control to step back and think: Is this true? Is this all there is to it or is it just something that I choose to believe, something that I want to believe? So very often, what you want to believe clouded your judgement and distracting you further from the real truth.

In the end, we can play Pointing Fingers all day long with this shutdown, but will it help the people? The company I worked with in Indonesia had one main rule: Always put out the flame first. In cases of emergency or a huge fuck-up the main goal should be to fix it right away in order to minimize the damage, i.e "putting out the flame"; the blame game can be done afterwards. It is relieving to be able to resound your opinion on this matter, expressing your belief that one side is to blame; yet observe carefully and you might find that, as always, all side share the blame. The real question is what will you do? A lot of people have expressed their concern though, and instead of doing the blame game they specifically wanted the congress to deal/stop the shutdown. In another word they demanded to put out the flame. This is how it should be, this is how it can help. 

I am not even a US citizen, and I daresay that the shutdown wont affect me very much. Yet I believe US has a great potential, I believe US can do so much better than to fall in another shutdown. Coming from a country where democracy is still a mere facade, it is a pleasure and a real treat to see how US citizens can held their representative responsible for their course of actions, to see real democracy and freedom of speech in action. People of USA have a great country, and a cozy one to live in as citizen. Let's not waste it.

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