Of course there is no single system, but that does not change the fact that sometimes institutional or ideological factors significantly impact our lives and our capacity to understand, debate, thrive. For instance, we know that people just like you and I, when born into extreme poverty, are extremely unlikely to be able to fight their way out of the chains, no matter how hard they work. And that the situations we are locked into are ripe with extra penalties built in: cheaper food is less nutrious, cheaper housing is less safe, when coping mechanisms turn deviant in poorer communities these behaviors are targeted for extreme punishment that is uncommon as a response to the most common forms of deviance in affluent communities. The place one is locked into is itself criminalized. So, this cartoon caught my eye today.
When we consider the current sexual assault problem in the US military, for instance, we are not suggesting that every soldier, or even most, are violent sociopaths. We can respect their service and value national defense by focusing our attention on systems, institutions, including in this case the institutional culture that has developed in the military to encourage, condone, ignore, and protect perpetrators of sexual misconduct. Yes, individual agency matters and cannot be overlooked, but when we see a particular behavior so highly concentrated within one context, culture, institution, system, we cannot understand (or remedy) this situation with a lens that narrow our vision to only individual behavior.
Similarly, the 'imperial executive' has been a problem for generations, dating at least back to Nixon's Watergate, Reagan's Iran-Contra, Clinton and W. This systematic and institutional and culture problem was not resolved when the individual resigned (Nixon) or we did not find a smoking gun (Reagan) or his term expired. Of course, other institutional and behavioral factors must be considered (see earlier blogs on Mann and Ornstein's book), including the profound dysfunction of Congress, but we are naive if we think this systematic problem will be repaired by defeating, or even systematically obfuscating, President Obama.
By the way...always looking for great political cartoonists! Suggestions?