Monday, March 13, 2006

Local Elections -- Why So Boring?

Bjorn Staerk, commenting on our need for news, relates it to our attraction to narrative.

Yes, war, death and crime is relevant, but if relevancy is what matters most to us, why do we pay attention only to certain of these events, and not to others? Because they're good, familiar stories. We talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and devour all news about it because it is a good story, a continuing saga we follow from day to day like a favourite soap. We ignore African wars where the suffering is orders of magnitudes higher because they're bad stories: Confusing and unfamiliar, like a soap from a different culture in a language you can't understand.

I came across the above just as I was contemplating the local elections tomorrow. My wife has multiple votes in local elections, because any number of folks ask her who to vote for, including me. She knows more than most of us about who's running and what the issues are. I tend to be much more focussed on national and international issues. Which is silly, actually, because the thousands of dollars I pay in local taxes is of the same order of magnitude as the IRS bite, and I actually do have some control and influence over what happens nearby. If it weren't dark, I could see one of the selectmen's homes out the window.

The narrative for local politics is not as clean. We may know from personal experience that candidate X is a preening jerk, but we also know of good work he has done, and how he was so stalwart on our side on that zoning conflict five years ago. Ms. Y-Smythe may be a flaming liberal about the War in Iraq, but she's running for school board just now, and she is known to be

Oops. Lightning. Back later.

Lightning is rare in winter. Can there be thunderstorms when it is below freezing, I wonder?

...known to be the advocate for science education.

The local elections affect us more.

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