Political Ventriloquists

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

What one sees is determined in no small measure by the vision one brings.  To a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

As a medical doctor who knows that fitness is the only real preventive medicine, I frequently view situations in the context of disease prevention.  Meaning fitness.  Also meaning different from mainstream medicine and the overwhelming majority of my colleagues.

Recently, the Terri Schiavo story occupied center stage.  It seemed apparent that the popular divisions were along lines similar to those seen in the abortion debate.

In a society where we label each other as “liberal” or “conservative” to articulate distinctions, I was struck by how similar the different sides were (and are).

No matter which posture one supports in these debates, in every instance, the various proponents presume to speak for the mute, i.e., for those who do not, cannot speak.  Just as some supporters of belief systems presume to speak for their Supreme Being who is mute to the rest of the population, so do these activists put words into the mouths of the silent.

They are nothing more than ventriloquists creating their own conversations and projecting them from those who can neither agree nor disagree.

My political and religious positions are unimportant.  To some I am too liberal, to others I am too conservative.  To some I am too religious, to others I am not religious enough.  Where I am on these debates is immaterial.

Fitness (and by extension, health) is my vision.  From there I see the possibilities for much more good in society.

What I see among these protestors is a preoccupation with the extremes of life where it is easy to be dogmatic on any position since the object of the preoccupation conveniently cannot speak for him/her self. 

Watching video coverage of the protestors, I see among them a lot of overfat, overweight people with their overfat, overweight kids.  For the religiously motivated, hey, haven’t you been told that sloth and gluttony are two of the seven capital vices, a.k.a., the seven deadly sins?

What I see among these protestors is a gross negligence for the part of life that occupies the space between ex utero and in ground-o.  A peculiar disregard for that portion of life where others can speak for themselves.

In many ways, these protestors discount and disrespect the act of living itself.

Statistically speaking, the majority of these protestors are almost certainly abusing, sickening and killing their children.  They are siphoning resources from the various levels of government by increasing sick care costs.  They are stealing futures from others by making fewer resources available for education, housing, security, etc.  By taking away dollars to support their diseases of choice, they are sickening and killing those who would benefit from research into illnesses not known to be contracted by choice.

They are curiously silent when it comes to their own crimes.  Or they are remarkably loud shouting down those who can speak to their harmful behaviors.

Talking for the silent is cheap.  Perhaps cowardly, even, depending on the setting.  Anyone can do it without opposition from those most directly concerned.  But talking for those capable of speech, that is another story.  That is the role of leaders.

A true leader acts and then leads those capable of following into action.  True leaders say “Follow me!” not “Forward!"

The overweight governor of a state may attempt to occupy the moral high ground by speaking for the silent.  Yet this overfat person, has no authority to truly speak for the vast majority of us for he or she is also engaging in behavior harmful to the population.  Such a politician cannot lead by example, so he or she must resort to ventriloquism.  He or she is too unfit to climb to a real moral high ground.  He or she is also too unfit to govern.

Ventriloquism is an old art.  Some authorities trace its first recorded beginnings to ancient Israel and Greece.  The word ventriloquism is a Latin translation of the Greek word engastrimythos, from en = in, gaster =the stomach, and mythos = word or speech.  The modern Latin ventriloquium if from venter = belly and loqui = speak.

The word “ventripotent” takes its first two syllables, ventri-, from the Latin word for "abdomen"; and its last two, potent, from an ancestor in the Latin word for "powerful." To be ventripotent, is "to have a big belly" or to be “gluttonous.”

Given this relationship, it is no wonder that so many political ventriloquists are ventripotent.