Romney’s Bubble

We are the 47% may not become a crowd chant but it sure does make for interesting news & commentary. Thank you Mr. Romney, for so firmly removing the foot from your mouth and speaking the truth as you know it.

Behind his comments about 47% of the US population believing they are entitled to food, housing and health care, lurks the fact that many people do believe it to be true. Many people, like myself, believe the US government should subsidize health care, food and housing for those who cannot acquire those things through their own work. The difference between Mr. Romney and this bleeding heart liberal is that I know for a fact that hard work does not always get you what you need.

People accuse Romney of “being out of touch” but this implies he was ever in touch with the experiences of working class or poverty class people in the US. I think he is insulated, as Obama is now too, from the day-to-day realities of working for a living. And not quite making it. A symptom of the Internet age if you ask me.

What we have is a social & cultural Bubble. Even though we each have access to scads of information and experience (especially the wealthy and privileged) it is still completely normal to live in a social Bubble where most everyone thinks like you. And, because the Internet makes it so easy, we can filter out all the information that does not reinforce our current beliefs. People tend to live near people with similar values, which means dissent is reduced or limited through social politeness. In other words, a Bubble. There is an interesting quiz you can take to find out about your Bubble.

Some people would say that they do not live in a bubble – they are informed citizens! I would argue that they probably spend more time reading the back of cereal boxes than they do reflecting on their information diet. The Bubble can be a place of perfect ignorance and safety.

I remember once hearing Clarence Thomas talk about how programs like Affirmative Action should be eliminated because they are not needed. The interviewer was incredulous and said something along the lines of what about all the people who experience(d) obstacles because of race or gender? and Justice Thomas answered, and I paraphrase: I don’t know anyone like that. Its hard to fathom the monumental hubris it takes to imply that something not part of my experience, cannot be part of yours.

But thats the key. Thomas didn’t know anyone who experienced prejudice and Romney doesn’t know anyone who works really hard and still can’t get ahead. It is also a valid experience that bootstraps break off and you can find yourself suddenly on your ass. I doubt that’s part of the Romney narrative. Their bootstraps seem to be sewn on good and tight.

The 47% comment has put us back at the fundamental question of who we believe we are as a country. I have ranted about this before – are we a country who takes care of our citizens? Or are we a country that protects the morality of our citizens? Or maybe we are simply a country that works hard to stay in our Bubble.