Spontaneity

29Mar07

Stroll through any bookstore, surf the political blogosphere, or strike up a conversation with random pedestrians. All three can provide the same message- there’s something wrong with politics today. Of course there is an element of truth to this; the nature of our political system forces politicians to take into consideration views that don’t coincide with their own. But there exist a vast number of elements beyond this basic tenet. I experienced one of these, or lack thereof, yesterday. 

As I mentioned earlier, I attended an event at the JFK Center here in D.C. It featured a variety of Congress-people but only a few of them were “scheduled” to speak. Among them were Delaware’s Joe Biden, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and U.N. COS Secretary Vijay Nambiar. The event basically highlighted the Art of Living Foundation programs for Iraq war veterans and troubled neighborhoods across the U.S. 

Naturally, the prepared speakers were… prepared with speeches. They mostly spoke of their visions for human values over the upcoming decades, and commended ongoing service. However, there was something eerily cookie-cutter about them. The speeches were all different and yet somehow sounded exactly the same. (This being Washington, of course, they all received great applause). The night wasn’t to end on this same note though. 

The Art of Living Foundation’s founder Sri Sri Ravishankar, known for his spontaneity, suddenly requested numerous “unscheduled” politicians to speak. Most obliged, yet hilarity did not ensue. Instead, what followed was an epiphany for myself. Politicians by trade, they were all able to talk without missing a beat for at least five to ten minutes; however, a palpable difference could be detected. There were those who recited rhetoric, campaign lines, generalities on the importance of upholding human values. Then there were those who grappled with words, and didn’t necessarily follow sentence structure; their thoughts and ideas came across as far more heartfelt.  

What if all politicians went about business as normal, their words unscripted? Today, literally every action, every word, every visit is planned to the dot. Think about how hard it would be for politicians to support ideas they themselves don’t believe in by reciting “party statements,” if party statements didn’t exist at all. Mitt Romney’s had an extraordinarily easy time switching stances on a variety of issues by reciting GOP platforms. Hillary Clinton’s been able to “hide” her pro-Iraq war stance for so long by reciting the vague (before recently) Democrat platform.  

“Well, there is spontaneity today,” you might say. “Ever heard of interviews?” My response to that is that even most of today’s “spontaneity” is scripted. For example: if you’re Republican, I hear the Fox Station has some great backstage food. Not to mention interview questions. Democrats, may I suggest MSNBC.  

I think it’s high time a culture of spontaneity is promoted in politics. It fosters an environment of overall honesty. Dishonest politicians may inadvertently reveal their equivocal tendencies; in fact, the rigidity found today only serves to provide a wall for current prevarication to hide behind. I’m not suggesting everything be unscripted. Just more than now. A 40-minute speech made up and given spur of the moment is neither viable nor realistic. Not to mention absolutely terrible.

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