Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tomorrow, a Rant

Just what you've been waiting for, I'm sure.

Update: It's tomorrow.

With NH state budget crises continuing another highly-placed individual used one of my least favorite metaphors yesterday, the state budget as family budget. Conservatives may use it as often as liberals, and I don't like it either way.

Usually, these highly-placed individuals are content to stroke their chins and make coded references to "looking at the revenue side of things." By which they mean a broad-based task. But sometimes they go full out and feel obliged to explain that if a family can't make ends meet, sometimes cutting their personal budgets just isn't enough. What they need is to make more money. From the family side of the analogy, that's sensible enough. Here's the problem from the government side.

The government is not the parent in this family. The government is one of the teenage children we hire to do some work around the place (and if you keep screwing up, we'll give the job to your younger sister, even if she doesn't (yet) know how to start the lawnmower). The citizens are the parents, not you. This is the center of what you don't get - and neither does more than 50% of the electorate. You are not the parents.

The citizens in the NH family may be bad parents. We may even be very bad parents. I grant that possibility, and some days even agree with it. But I also know that teenagers are likely to believe their parents are doing things wrong, and even have lists of examples why they are, when the parents in question are doing reasonably well. The teenager's opinion is interesting, but not decisive.

Also, the teenager is sometimes right. There are bad parents with wonderful children. Happens all the time. But the teenager is seldom a good judge of that.

Teenagers have great ideas about all the good stuff the family should buy. They are in fact often authorities on that subject. Sometimes they are even right. But that's not enough to get to be the parent, and decide that somebody else (mom or dad) needs to work more hours.

We citizens need the reminder also. We have to be the parents, or the children will take over and rule the household. It's just reality, a law of nature. Power vacuum and all that. Citizens also have to be willing to step up and be parents, even under criticism and challenge.

Elected officials are teenaged children we hire to do work around the house. Hold that thought.

4 comments:

Erin said...

I'm waiting. If you forget yours, I have a good one on why 40 minutes of my life was wasted during our last staff meeting defining the ethical differences between eating a granola bar in class and a bagel, and that assembling bagels is probably over the line, but as long as the kid comes in with the bagel assembled, it's permissible as a non-disrupting eating experience. But forget texting and driving, are we now going to have kids shmearing and driving between Dunkins & school? I can't make this stuff up.

Simon Kenton said...

An attorney friend was on the board of a small private school attended by his daughter. A boy scout troop asked to have a monthly meeting in the basement. He said, "Fine. Let's let them."

A woman on the board said, "Well, we can't just say 'yes.' After all, the boy scouts may be homophobic and, they may believe in God."

So he said, "Fine. Let's tell them 'no.'"

She said, "Certainly not. We can't just tell them 'no,' because we need to form a committee to investigate what the beliefs of the boy scouts actually ARE, and get back to the Board, before we can make a decision about whether to let them use the basement. This Board can't just put its stamp of approval on the boy scouts without knowing."

Now it is easy to say that life's too short, or the woman was a passive-aggressive idiot, or even, a la M. Scott Peck, that in her tiny little way she was evil. Etc etc. But the real point is that my friend resigned. And left the board to her. In a similar moment, I left the PTA.

This is how they purge you, not with a bang but with your whimper. And then they end up running things. Small things. That is, small things to start with. So if you'll pardon me altering Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to throw up their hands in exasperation, and resign."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Simon, that is a great rephrasing of Burke. Heh.

Rather poignant, though, innit?

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