Wittgenstein’s Drawing

Published 7:30 pm Friday, March 24, 2017

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once drew a picture outlining the head of an animal and famously asked if it were a duck or a rabbit.  For him, the picture itself carried no meaning, only a representation of one.  It acquired meaning by being put to a specific use, by interpretation through language and application.  Today, we do the same with politics, only we have two different drawings, one of an elephant, the other of a donkey, but, in truth, they depict the same reality.

I grew up in a hardscrabble Baptist family in rural Texas where my Mother believed evolution to be “hooey,” that Charles Darwin was a bad biology teacher, and that Social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest, along with the Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, and Winnie the Pooh’s sayings, especially the one about getting out of the forest if you didn’t like the corner where you lived, all the guidance you needed in life.  No whining.  No crying.  No complaining.  She would have thought Obamacare and Trumpcare to be socialized medicine even though she was on Medicare and WhoCares the only insurance policy needed in life.

My father thought only “damned fools” ever believed election promises, that the only issue that mattered was taxes, especially how they were levied and collected.  All the rest he considered “fake issues” coupled together with meaningless, calculating, distracting Lego-language like “I’ve lived in Polk County and went to school here for umpteen dozen years.”  He also thought the pledge of allegiance unnecessary inasmuch as it was public “show boating,” that it had been written by “a damned socialist,” Francis Bellamy, who didn’t believe in God or democracy at all.  Under God was added years later.   Dad also hated jails, mostly because he believed they were built mainly to house our “kinfolk” and the poor, but he loved horses even though he likely never knew what equestrian or jodhpurs meant.  Dad also passionately believed that politicians should have term limits or else be “unelected” every few years lest Democrats and Republicans grow fond of and act like each other.  That’s the picture drawn by my parents.  Were they Republicans or Democrats?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Polk County’s commissioners, often more like jackasses than even traditional Democrats, depict themselves as conservative, patriotic, law-abiding, tax-slashing, God-fearing, jail-raising, All-American job creators who promote the most creative engines of economic growth, in this case distant hedge fund billionaires who want to build all sorts of structures in the eastern part of the county for their prized horses whose barns probably cost more than most homes in the county.  They likely would rezone half the county to give the new equestrian center a tax break or more land for a bigger manure pile near Pea Ridge and also build a new fire/EMT station at taxpayer’s expense. 

Remember the new jail, or to be politically correct, the law enforcement and government center?  Kenny Cochran, Mark James, Silvia Frazier, David Bowyer, Mary Dill, and Tom O’Connor and others in the lucky “35 percent” who had their taxes raised are paying for it as much if not more than the new equestrian center that’s been around for a while now.  Surely anyone reading this will connect the dots from the new property evaluations to the hurried approval of the new jail before the “good ol’ boys” cut and ran, leaving mainly those who voted for them in Green Creek, Mill Spring, and Sunny View to pay the bills.

Lastly, you can’t picture politics in Polk County without pointing to the outrageous sanctimoniousness of people themselves, me included, which seems to fuel the blatant hypocrisy of our politicians.  Safe on the sidelines, armed with a moral superiority and distance, we treat politics as if we’re spectators when we are not.  Few of us will run for office, Democrats can’t even find someone to live in the county for six months while Republicans who don’t own property determine taxes for those who do.  Wittgenstein’s drawing is neither a duck nor a rabbit nor is politics in Polk County about donkeys and elephants.  It’s philosophically all about us.    

~ Milton Ready, Tryon, N.C.