I usually scan the headlines of Huffington Post in the morning. While there is a lot of bullshit at Huffpo, it is a good place to check briefly to see what is going on in the world on any given day. I was shocked to see this morning that the Vatican is proposing a change in it’s view on gays. While it is not changing its views on matrimony and other such issues, it is proposing changing it attitudes on including gay people in their community. While some people may say that this is not going far enough, this is actually a huge change for such a slow moving conservative institution. In the article an expert on the Vatican calls it an “earthquake”. This is the kind of thing that gives one hope about the world. Change may be slow and it may be the result of years of sacrifice, but it can happen. The world can become a more just place. For an institution that acted immorally under the last two popes, it seems that under Pope Francis it can be a force for good. This is great news to wake up to.
I started watching the Netflix series House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. As a piece of entertainment it is top notch. The acting is fantastic. The writing is full of excellent dialogue and the story moves at a brisk pace. The show revolves around a Machiavellian Democrat (we know we are dealing with fiction right there), and his quest for power. I’m only on episode five, so it is safe to say that I don’t know the full arc of the story and where it will lead. If I judged a show like Breaking Bad on five episodes I would have no idea of the Shakespearean tragedy that was at the heart of that show. I would have viewed it as a dark comedy. However, what I have seen so far is great. I will definitely at least finish this season and see how I feel about it from there. I look forward to seeing how it turns out, which in and of itself, means that at the very least it is a good TV show.
When you watch a show like this you tend to wonder how much of it could actually happen. Of course, as I hinted at above, we haven’t seen a Democrat this cunning and ruthless since possibly LBJ. They were at least smart enough to make him a Southern Democrat that, although his politics seem to be driven so far by the politics of personal power, appears to be a conservative Democrat.
That’s not to say that the show is unbelievable. If it is unbelievable it is only to what degree. On top of that the show spends a good deal of Spacey talking directly to the camera giving soliloquies as if in a play. Because of this there is a certain amount of artifice built directly into the show.
What I think is true to the real world, and which the show gets, is that all events at the end of the day are driven by humans in all of their nobility and savagery. Edifices like giant cathedrals and impressive public buildings are built to try to hide this fact.
I am going to paraphrase him, but I once read an interview with Morrissey where he said that one of the most important things that he learned by getting older was that those in power were not necessarily any smarter or better than him. Ever since we are kids were have it ingrained upon us that many that are in positions of power have something that we don’t have. Now occasionally this is true. There are those at the top that have worked hard and that are intelligent. But many people in positions of power are just lucky. They were at the right place at the right time. And I would even argue that some, if not more than some, got where they did because they lacked morals or scruples that prevented them about worrying about anything other than their own rise to power. Kurt Vonnegut once spoke of how many corporate leaders possessed psychopathic personality traits. He was ahead of the curve because recent studies have concluded that corporate leaders do indeed score higher in that group than the average public. It’s still only 3% to 1%, but that still isn’t going to make me sleep well at night.
I think if you can remember this, if you can demystify the cult of personality that much of our culture places on those at the top, then you can realize that real change can be made. If you want to see the world become a better place it helps to remember that it is only other humans that stand in your way. Let’s, for an example, say that you are a Catholic. Let’s say you love the church as a whole, but would like to see it modernize on certain things. Let’s say that you would like to see women ordained or gays allowed to openly participate in the church. Taking on the Vatican might seem daunting. Taking on an old man in a strange little suit, less so.