Innovation in Politics and the Potential of the Internet

To reach an electorate bombarded with messages from the new and old media, politicians will have to make more use of online journals or blogs, and sites such as Facebook and MySpace. They also need to move into video-sharing sites and forums where ideas and policies can be challenged online.

“They haven’t been very innovative,” Margetts said, adding that old style politics of knocking on doors to recruit members and spread the word is no longer valid.

– from Politicians fall behind in online race, by Peter Griffiths (h/t Brie)

I wonder at some point whether politicians should be innovative, or whether we should be taking our civic duty more seriously and making more efforts to go towards them.

In pagan societies, the gods were the gods of the city. Law was a divine ordinance that did not transcend political society but defined it. Of course there had to be mechanisms for changing the laws, but those mechanisms had origins that were divine. “Freedom” was not something that could mentioned explicitly for argument’s sake: it was more important to be a citizen like everyone else. What was best was seen in the light of the law, not in a uniqueness that stood outside the law.

I don’t know that politics can ever transcend those pagan beginnings, for Christianity is transpolitical and modern secularism – even that of the Founding – doesn’t take the passions seriously enough, even when dealing only with the passions. Lincoln was inevitable given the Founding, and Lincoln’s great concern is religion.

There is something about how we relate to each other that has to be held sacred, and “sacred” is an inherently anti-democratic concept. Something or someone has to be seen as better, and approached humbly. Machiavelli talks about the “condescension” of the higher in society towards the lower in order to keep the Republic going, but that concept is problematic when there is no concept of higher and lower anymore. Perhaps Machiavelli presupposes something pre-Christian and even pre-modern when discussing his Republic.

What we should be doing – those of us who are online – is not expecting politicians to hear us, but rather working to educate each other. The Internet’s turn toward conspiracy theory and gossip is a deviation from “education,” but it does point to how the Internet can properly be used. And that education isn’t “I’m right and you’re all so wrong” – I learn a lot here, and it’s actually kind of fun.

I think the best education comes not through “READ THIS ARTICLE OMG IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD” but rather through just meeting people here, all the people whom I can’t interact with away from the computer because our lives are so busy. That more simple activity, just getting to know other people, probably in the long run will effect more positive change while preserving what is best rather than having overly-hyped media circuses that intrude not just on our TV screens, but also now attempt to drown out our individual, personal voices.

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