Things I learned in a bar…

Look, I am not a political scientist – just an uneducated rube peering through that greasy pane that separates We, The Little People from the innerworkings of our local government – trying desperately to figure who is manipulating the rods and strings, and why. . .   

As a law enforcement officer, I became a lifelong student of human nature – often observing people on the worst day of their lives – gaining insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly of our collective experience, determining motivations, and anticipating reactions. 

In retirement, I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on a barstool, sipping highballs, and talking about the issues of the day – mostly with apolitical working folks who are far too busy earning a living and raising families to focus on the machinations of government. 

Since I started writing this opinion blog, neighbors sometimes stop me in the grocery store or drop by my favorite watering hole to talk politics, share a laugh, or take me to the woodshed for goring some sacred ox or another.   

I enjoy that.  It’s how I learn. 

During these interactions, I like to indulge in a social experiment developed by the late great political observer, Big John, who asked first-time callers to his radio forum if they knew their mayor’s name?

I also inquire if they have ever attended a city or county council meeting?

I hate to break it to those egomaniacal “don’t you know who I am?” elected dullards who wrap their personal identity in a haughty “title” – but most people do not have a clue who their mayor or council/commission members are – and I rarely speak to anyone who has attended a public meeting.


Which is telling.

These questions are not meant to embarrass anyone – but to show how little most people pay attention to local government – and how alienated they feel from the policymaking process. 

This barroom banter has taught me that we have common hopes and fears, the universal importance we place on those moral imperatives that contribute to a just and civil society, and how easily politicians and their benefactors manipulate emotions, apathy, and societal expectations of the masses for personal and political gain.    

And many openly wonder why the same last names always seem to be on the receiving end of publicly funded corporate welfare schemes or some inside business/land/development “deal” – usually hidden behind a secret cryptonym – that the rest of us knew nothing about. . . 

Invariably, those I speak with describe elected officials as, “arrogant,” “deceitful,” “snobbish,” “greedy,” “disconnected” and “hypocritical” – but still want to believe that those who hold themselves out for positions of power and high responsibility have our best interests at heart – but the common denominator seems to be how completely disconnected from the political process most people feel.

Which is why many laugh at me when I mention asinine concepts like “…all power is derived from the will of the people.”   

Yeah.  Right.  Sober-up, Barker. . .

Another universal gripe I hear concerns the adverse effects of overdevelopment – mostly traffic congestion and fears for the quality and quantity of our potable water supply – and the sense of helplessness that comes when massive amounts of money are strategically infused into the political process to skew the playing field and ensure the public teat remains patent for those who can pay-to-play.  

One thing I never hear (other than from real estate developers and their bought-and-paid-for shills on the dais of power) is how existing residents have an obligation to tighten up and make room for new transplants filling another “theme” community west of I-95. . .  

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, many of my neighbors have lamented the horrible condition of our beach (before and after the storms) – and expressed concern for those whose homes were lost, the future of beach driving, and what lucrative mitigation strategy our ‘powers that be’ will gift to their political benefactors once the money starts flowing from on high.

One crusty old local I recently spoke with described Volusia County’s response to the devastation in Wilber-by-the-Sea and beyond as akin to a “deer caught in the headlights,” explaining “This is what happens when politicians ignore a problem long enough – eventually Mother Nature figures it out for them…and it is always more expensive to repair, than prepare.”   

What I find most interesting is when I ask my neighbors how they go about selecting candidates in local races.

Many tell me that, while they agree with non-partisan city and county contests, most tend to vote in lockstep with party endorsements – often using those horribly skewed “voter guides” that omit the names of grassroots candidates who refuse to toe the party line – even as they decry the horrible partisan warfare that has divided the nation. 

A politically astute friend of mine recently remarked that the problem is: “Most people just don’t give a shit – and those who purchase the loyalties of politicians at election time exploit that apathy.” 

Sad. But true.

As evidence, they mentioned that people increasingly complain about the malignant growth that is covering the width and breadth of Volusia County – yet the majority of voters returned the same mindset and loyalties to the County Council this election cycle.

And the bulldozers continue to roar. 

Go figure.

Despite our challenges, I am always heartened to hear how optimistic most are for the future – the importance they place on good schools, our environment, and creating protections so our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same natural amenities and traditions that attracted so many to the Fun Coast in the first place. 

We all want the same things – and a better future for those who will come behind us.

In my view, we deserve better from those who control our destiny.

It seems that so long as our trash is picked up, reasonably clean water flows from the tap, and we feel marginally safe in our homes – those essential services we have come to rely on government to provide – most citizens are content to pay their taxes, cuss their arrogant elected representatives, and ignore how a few well-heeled insiders influence the political process each election season. 

How do we change that?

I don’t have a clue.

But if you figure it out, pull up a barstool and let’s talk about it. . . 

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

5 thoughts on “Things I learned in a bar…

  1. Yeah, but how bought that Brown and Brown VS Lydecker

    Lydecker for the win😂

    Hyatt must be home licking his balls, they will of course APPEAL 🤡

    Next time somebody calls me crazy for thinking someone could possibly be tapping my phone. I will refer them to this case as “Burner Phones” were clearly a defense against the aggressors.


  2. Mark, I’ve always wondered if you knew my dad, John W. Morris MD, who was a radiologist at Halifax for some 30+ years. He was one of the good guys. He also knew Big John well. Anyway, I’d love to treat you to a cocktail one of these days if I get back to Ormond / Daytona Beach area . Keep up the great writing!


  3. ” and I rarely speak to anyone who has attended a public meeting. Ever. ”
    My Generation ( i’m mid 70’s) and a few before mine were taught, “do not discuss Politics and Religion with others”, this is total bullshit, i encourage civil debate short of physical assault,
    sorry Dad!


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