Quote of the month

This is what politics is to me. Someone tells you all the trees on your street have a disease. One side says give them food and water and everything will be fine. One side says chop them down and burn them so they don’t infect another street. That’s politics. And I’m going, Who says they’re diseased? And how does this sickness manifest itself? And is this outside of a natural cycle? And who said this again? And when were they on this street? But we just have people who shout, “Chop it down and burn it” or “Give it food and water” and there’s your two choices. Sorry, I’m not a believer.

– John Malkovich, Esquire Magazine, Nov 2008

20 Responses to “Quote of the month”

  1. Mike Ramm

    We had a rock group in Bulgaria called “Panican Whyasker”. Well, I am not panican but I really love the word “whyasker”. I don’t know if such a word exists in the English language but I definitely call myself a whyasker. And I believe that if we want to name ourselves humans we have to be whyaskers.

    I am happy to learn that John Malkovich is a whyasker, too. Thanks, Scott!

  2. Tara Joyce

    Dead on. Count on John Malkovich to have a unique and thought-provoking opinion. It looks like John subscribes to systems thinking, in that he sees everything as interconnected and part of something bigger. Things are never simply black or white and we should stop accepting this idea as a truth. And stop allowing and encouraging this point of view to be presented as valid, especially in decisions that affect the great whole.

  3. Thud

    I wonder, does Malkovich ask for the research data and read it? Does he seek out alternative expert opinions? Does he ask questions of botanists? Does he try to find out what the basic opinion of arborists are?

    I hear this argument all the time. People use it as an excuse to disengage from politics and make their disengagement the fault of politicians.

    If Mr. Malkovich — or anyone else — is interested in the foundations behind political positions, there are books and books and books full of political theory, economic theory, civil engineering theory. There are stacks of data, all publicly available. There are subject matter experts who write about this stuff.

    What Malkovich wants is someone to spoon-feed him the answers. But no one can spoon-feed him the answers, because he will just say: “Is this person spoon-feeding me the right stuff? Oh, however will I know?”

    1. Slyvia

      This is in my youtube fatvrioes. It’s one thing to say: Stop what you’re doing, take in the environment, slow down . It’s another thing to go out and make a public speech, deliver it with such passion and emotion, linked with such powerful stories from your life. This is an AMAZING talk that everyone should see.Thanks,Josh Lipovetsky.

  4. Scott

    Thud: I agree with you.

    My take on the quote is this: I agree with his sentiment about how people often behave and I like the way he captures the dysfunction.

    But I do not agree with the notion of abandoning participation simply because the observation is true.

    The choice Malkovich doesn’t mention is to stand up and make a better analysis. To keep asking those questions until you find a group of people also interested in actual thinking and discourse as they are out there if you look for them.

    For those who will listen (which in Malkovich’s case, is way people than the average person will have listening to them).

    There is never an excuse for not doing *anything* – I really believe that.

  5. Don

    What society needs is a way to ensure the media receives the correct information from educated professionals and that said information is accurately relayed to the public.

    HAH, like that will ever happen. Our society is based on money and power. Do you think the politicians want the average person to really know what’s going on?

    Give people two choices and they’ll never think there’s a third.

  6. the green bastard

    Spot on Don. Thud and Scott have missed the point completely.

  7. casey

    Not only did Thud and Scott miss the point, but they put words in this man’s mouth. They claim he was using the problem they both agree exists, as an excuse to disengage. Read the quote again. He says nothing about disengaging. He’s talking about careful analysis and coming to an informed, intelligent decision. It doesn’t get more engaged than that.

  8. Scott

    Any time i hear someone say “the media” or “correct information” a little blinking light goes off in my brain. In 2009 there are hundreds of different media sources and to put them in one big lump makes any kind of serious thinking very difficult.

    I agree that society is based on money and power, but it is also based on trust, love, friendship and community, as well as a dozen other forces and interests I’m sure you could name.

    > Give people two choices and they’ll
    > never think there’s a third

    I think this depends much on who these people are, and what choices they’re given :)

  9. Scott

    Casey: the part I took as disengaging is “Sorry I’m not a believer”. Perhaps that’s not what he meant, I’m not sure. I took it to mean that he likely doesn’t bother to vote.

    Forget Malkovich and what he meant. I don’t need him to speak for me.

    I tend to have problems with people who complain about a system and never do anything but complain. He could create a website called “third choice” that takes major issues that have been polarized into idiocy and offer better frameworks for thinking about them.

    Would everyone read it? No. But the few that did would benefit and something good could come of his observations even with the same exact political system that’s in place now.

  10. Don

    Scott – Do you really think you know what’s going on in the world, or are you just trying to console yourself with blissful ignorance?

    I dare you to try and do something like, say, track the money being spent in Iraq. Do you know how far you’d get before someone put an end to your inquiries?

    I think you fail to understand that only a very small fraction of all the media ever gets information directly from the source. Most information is very carefully spoon fed to the media by the local government.

    Oh, then there’s the fact that, while you’re bickering about some stupid issue that hardly matters, something horrible is happening right under your nose. What, don’t know what it is? Like I said, give people two things to worry about and they’ll never think there’s something else going on.

  11. Scott

    Don: The world is a big place. I don’t claim to know much of anything.

    It seems you’re angry about something. Which is fine. But I’d rather you found another place to be angry.

    Help me out. What websites do a better job than average of reporting what’s really going on?

    If they all suck, which ones suck the least?

  12. Don

    Scott – Yes, I’m a bit angry about the fact that we can’t trust our own country. It also infuriates me that people think they SHOULD trust the media. But by far the thing that angers me the most is that, no matter what I see on TV or read in the paper or online, there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to change the way things are happening. Like I said, the country is run by money and power. Do you have either? If not, then you shouldn’t be bothered with the media, you wont be changing anything you see.

  13. Joe

    Well, here it goes guys- I believe Mr. Malkovich is 100% correct. The simplicity of truth is staggering. It is only the lies that are complicated. When you look at what he is saying here, start from the beginning- this IS how politics always work. Someone presents an idea for example look at global warming, conservatives tend to say “there is no proof”, liberals, “of course it’s happening”!- both sides claiming they have scientific proof. And where do we get OUR information from? The media! Just think about that for a second. The fact is it’s happening or it’s not. But the problem is unless you go and become a scientist or something and study it yourself, you are never going to know what that truth is. You have to rely on what the media says, the source of most of our information. And both sides have their own personal benifits and reasons for why they “Believe” it’s happening or not. It is happening if happening benifits them, It’s not happening if not happening benifits them, instead of “is it REALLY happenning and what would be the best decision for the whole” And if you look at every other “issue” that is discussed in politics “to keep our attention away from the REAL issues”, you will notice something interesting- the arguments will go on without end because they have to deal with things that we as a people simply do not have enough information about ourselves on to make a straight decision on whether it is correct or not.
    think about it- the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage, and so on. whatever benifits you in some way, you will tend to swing to one side. The point he is making here is that if we could just confront the honest to god truth about things, these issues wouldn’t be issues, and find the REAL answers instead of giving the general population multiple choice a) OR B) left or right, black and white.

  14. Johnny

    Righteous, Malkovich.

    Mike Ramm: Are you high?

  15. Luc

    What were telling you that you missed Scott, is that John is not arguing that the media is not giving him enough information. His argument is against the Political system we have in place where the parties make a decision and tell you that you can choose what to do. A lot of people get swept up in their political parties and forget that they took no part in the decision making only the voting part, which is really minimal when there are so few choices.

  16. Dave Boyle

    Malkovich is giving a fairly accurate outline of what the world we’ve managed to make for ourselves has become. Thud & Scott, Malkovich is not looking for someone to spoon-feed him the answers & he is not abandoning participation. He’s saying there should be more questions asked before collectively rallying behind one of two distinct positions, each at polar ends of the spectrum.

  17. Josh

    Tell the person receiving health care through medicare that you don’t believe in the system that provided it. Ditto for the roads malkovich drives on, in the tested safe car he drives in. The idea that politics is complicated and fallible, therefore I’ll just take my ball and go home is childish and ignorant of all the currently enjoyed benefits that one currently enjoys because of a political system. If you don’t believe in the two choices you feel that politics provides, then work to provide a third. That’s Democracy.

  18. Sean Crawford

    Tomorrow I have an appointment to see my member of the legislative assembly. (MLA) I will not shout but try to be constructive about an issue, of which I have more first hand knowledge than he does, in an area where I see the government messing up.

    I believe that people can get a false idea of polarized shouting from the electronic media, or “infotainment,” rooted in vaudeville and public relations. Let’s remember that the newspaper, rooted in research and journalism, gives a more reasonable take on things, and not be seduced by the bright cathode tube.

    When my MLA was picked by his fellow volunteer card carrying party members to be a politician, they picked him because he was serious, had common sense and was therefore electable. You only pick an unreasonable person if you are not serious about getting your party into power, such as if you are a long haired communist type.

    I don’t have any party memberships myself, but I understand “caucus” which I regard as a metaphor for public discourse and for democracy.To “go into caucus” means you close the doors and windows and stay as long as needed. All party members present agree in advance to be bound by the decisions of the caucus. The issue may initially be polarized, but you need to talk it out until you have an agreement about what, for example, your party plank is. If you discuss in good faith, then, like a focus group, your agreement will be something a lot of voters may get behind. I suppose you could present research during the caucus, I don’t know.

    Journalists are people of goodwill, as most of us are. I juggle research probabilities, not certainties. I am a believer that most of the people, most of the time, will do the right thing. If I read, “Sorry, I’m not a believer” then I regard that as disengaging from politics. Not me, I’m seeing my MLA.

  19. Salankesq

    All politician do is to make decisions that determines to a larger extend your destiny.
    Now the choice is yours, whether to be part of that decision making process or not.
    It’s either you do it yourself or it’s determine for you.


Leave a Reply to Josh

* Required

Click here to cancel reply.