Ineptocracy and Our Collective Broken Mirror

Click for a better view of the definition

I don’t travel to the beach very often, mostly because I live in the middle of West Texas and the ocean is a pretty good distance away. But, when I do travel to the ocean front, I often wonder if I’m the last person in America who owns a mirror.

I realize we should all be comfortable in our own bodies, and I’m well aware of the danger of body-image issues on both women and men. I don’t intend to make light of the ever present pressure on people to look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We should feel comfortable in our own bodies. Up to a point. If you are obese, out of shape, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken every night, yet you refuse to get off the couch and exercise, I’m not real sure you should feel comfortable in your own skin. Quite frankly, if you are drinking three cokes a day, smoking a pack of cigarettes, think eating salad is a punishment, and getting out of the car makes you break a sweat, maybe you should have some body image issues. (I know there are special circumstances and I realize there are complexities. Yes, DNA, culture, poverty, etc, all impact health and weight. But. Still. We are, at some point, masters of what goes in our mouths.)You might be pretty on the inside, but your bad health is, at some point, a public issue.

Especially at the beach. This may surprise some people, but there are mirrors in the dressing rooms. Thong bikinis do have a place in this world (Victoria’s Secret), but that place isn’t on every person’s body. In much the same way, shirts serve a purpose. Not only do they protect the wearer from harmful UV rays, they save the rest of us from the eyesore that might be Cartmanesque. Note that I’m not talking about those of us who are a little overweight and struggling to uphold some measure of a healthy lifestyle. But, I know I keep a shirt on when I’m outside.

But I won’t be wearing the shirt pictured above when I travel to the beach next time. Ineptocracy is a cool sounding word and one might imagine the definition is something like “a bureaucratic system run by the incompetent.” (That’s almost as good as obliviots,” a word used by Mike Straka in his old “Grrr” columns. Sure they might have been hateful, but some days they were downright hilarious.) The initial part of the definition, “a system of government where the least capable are elected” sounds perfect and speaks to our (American) political system that has, in fact, begun to define qualified candidates as those who can meet the most millionaires. Certainly, in a system like this the average person is increasingly disaffected and forced to vote for candidates who represent increasingly narrow interests. (Are we really surprised, for instance, that voting for someone specifically and only because of his/her stance on abortion leaves us with officials incapable of balancing a budget?)

We could all buy into that definition and, rightly, complain that we are forced by a corrupt system dominated by well-funded special interest groups and Super-PACS to choose the least incompetent candidate. Our system leaves us mired in mediocrity and forces us into partisanship. But, we might argue, redistricting, financing, and such things are out of our control. We’re just victims, we might shout into the void!

But the rest of the definition speaks to a larger political problem. An ineptocracy includes officials elected “by [the] least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.” Really?

When people complain after the election that America is gone and dying, maybe they are right but it’s not because we re-elected President Obama. The greatness of America is dying because we’ve lost our ability to empathize. We are, and Mitt Romney’s latest speech is another sign of this problem, becoming a nation buried by the wrong kind of success. We can’t stand our politicians, yet we write Facebook posts that parrot their intolerance. We want to throw the bums out, but incumbents won 80% of their races. Worse yet, we treat disagreement as a fundamental character flaw and assume our own perfection to such a degree that we attack with the aim to destroy. The political marketplace has evolved into a terrorist landscape where the nuclear option is the only option.

At a workshop once, someone asked why we can’t get students to more actively engage in their own learning. “All they want to do is memorize facts and sit passively listening.” It’s an easy answer–they got to college memorizing facts and sitting passively: They’ve been successful with that method. Why change? Might we assume the same of our politicians?

As we worry about what’s wrong with America, we need to worry less about the “producers” and the “consumers” and wonder why we keep choosing elected officials willing to divide us instead of unite us. We need to get the mirror out of the closet and pay a little more attention to the image reflected back at us. If we keep feeding at the trough of our own self-interests, we should stop complaining about how we look in our bathing suits.



About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

NYT > Politics

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

%d bloggers like this: