I have to admit, I haven't missed it.
It's not that it I'm frustrated with the process of choosing between candidates or proposals. It's not that I can't be bothered with the process of gathering the information to make an informed decision. It's just that people get rude, and arrogant, pushy and offensive: demanding that I see things their way, ignoring the possibility that there is any other rational point of view, and declaring that either I see things their way or I must be a complete imbecile. So, it's not the candidates I mind so much. It's my neighbors, my facebook friends, my fellow citizens and countrymen.
In the end, I find myself choosing between Chicken Little and the Emperor's New Clothes.
In Chicken Little, a young activist with great passion about his cause convinces the masses to escape an imaginary crisis and nearly be led to their doom. The voices of reason are ignored because the tone of sincerity and potential for harm if ignored. “What if the sky is really falling? We'll all be killed! And, if it's not, we're at least being prudent by taking necessary precautions. The nay sayers must just be jealous that a new voice is rising up, therefore they can't be trusted.” It's a pretty solid political position. We hear it all the time. The sky must be falling... because, if it were not, why would someone even suggest it?
But, the real problem in this story isn't Chicken Little. The problem is the bored, thrill seeking populous who would rather find a crisis to panic over than to deal with reality. Reality is boring. And, well, we're addicted to sensation. And so we follow Chicken Little into the cave of the fox, even though trustworthy, reliable leadership tells us that it's really a bad idea.
But, sometimes, our leadership (wise and well-meaning as they are) get duped just like the rest of us. And charlatans appeal to our pride and reason to put one over. The masses go along because they respect the leadership, trust their judgment, and would be loathe to go against them, even when they wind up parading naked through the streets.
In The Emperor's New Clothes, a pair of con artists convince the Emperor that they have come upon a rare fabric, so valuable and intricately woven that only the truly wise and noble in heart can actually see it. Since the Emperor could never admit that he was not wise and noble, he pretended that he could see it. All of his court, also not wishing to be thought of as simple, pretend that they see it as well. As word spreads throughout the kingdom, everyone finds themselves fully advocating the ruse, unwilling to be the one person standing out as different, admitting what they don't really see.
While the Emperor is surely to blame, each person in the story is just as culpable: choosing to go along with what everyone else is saying, instead of trusting in what they can clearly see for themselves. The result is uncomfortably revealing, when a small child, in total ignorance, is willing to put the masses to shame. The problem is that the people of the kingdom are comfortable with their leadership to a fault: they'd rather believe what they've been told instead of admit what they see.
And so, we find ourselves, more often than not, choosing between the two: do we side with Chicken Little, or do we declare that the Emperor is naked. I wish that I knew. But what is clearly evident from both stories is that we can't trust the popular opinion in either case. Just because everyone else is saying so, should never give us confidence. Weigh the matter for yourself. And whether you run for the caves, or hide your eyes in embarrassment before the pompous parade, you do so because of what you know, what you believe, and what you see; not because of the decisions of anybody else.