The Selfish State
For those not in the know, House of Cards is a Netflix TV series about Frank Underwood, an American politician and his pursuit of the presidency and ultimately power.
I won’t be spoiling any of the series, but i do recommend this show to anyone reading. Its awesome!
Moving on. House of Cards is critically acclaimed not only for its amazing storytelling, relevance and insight into the thinking behind political strategy; but also because it is layered with philosophical themes, the most obvious being that of the meaning of power and legacy.
A feature that the show excels at is creating a conflicting perspective of Frank Underwood for the audience. Unlike Breaking Bad, Frank Underwood is not motivated by being faced with his own mortality. He is not shaken in the face of immorality, or questionable of his own path. Frank Underwood is concerned only with the ultimate goal. A true sociopath.
But this had me thinking. Rather than fear the real Frank Underwoods of this world, had we not secretly hoped our own respective countries had one?
I’m not American, but like most of the world, I have been forced to pay attention to their politics; sometimes out of interest, mostly out of fear. And a recurring notion that I expect from American politicians is that they, for the most part, want to keep the machine that is the American global superpower structure going.
The rest of the world isn’t supposed to like American politicians, and why should they? Their goal is to ensure the survival of the American state, and nothing more. By any means necessary.
This is why Frank Underwood is such a striking character to me. He genuinely cares if America succeeds. It strikes him as a priority above all others that he’s legacy be maintained, and that is only possible if the country’s power role globally is sustained beyond his years.
For years the notion has been that politicians were generally untrustworthy, especially the ambitious ones, and Frank Underwood is no exception in that fact. But during the entire show the audience feels that America could not be placed in better hands. Underwood is strategic, calculative, and above all, ruthless. He gets the job done.
Whether it be negotiating with the Russians, or managing multinational minerals companies, Frank Underwood does what’s best for himself, and ultimately the country. You can’t help but feel that there would be no trend or policy that Underwood wouldn’t support if it fulfilled the criteria of gaining him more power and influence, and strengthening the country as a whole.
Which is a scary notion in itself. Frank Underwood is seemingly what all people want in a politician. He works the crowds, he’s charismatic, and when it comes down to defending his state’s place in the world, he does it in a heartbeat.
Upon taking a deeper reflection of things, these are the exact principles that see leaders like Vladimir Putin gain favor worldwide. Irrespective of the shadowy dealings that Putin has been accused of, there is a belief that he stands for all that is Russian. That despite his controversial nature, it can’t be doubted whether he, in some strange way, wants the best for Russia.
Some have even made the comparison between the Underwoods and countless other leaders such Hilary Clinton, the Bush family, Donald Trump, the Obama’s and even some European leaders.
You don’t vote for Frank Underwood because he’s warm and cuddly. You vote because deep down you know that he would do anything to see your country succeed, and that’s all you really want. The greatest of world leaders are always seen as soft or traitorous, if they even have an inkling of care for people elsewhere in the world. Who gives a damn about them, we’ve got our own problems!
Frank Underwood understands that, even more, he embraces it. He cares less of the thousands that die in other countries under his command, than you care that your latest gadget was the result of relentless oppression elsewhere. Its off frame. Out of the picture. A casualty of war against ourselves.
TV teaches you a lot of things. Both subtly and profusely. But what House of Cards has taught me most is this. Damn the them’s, those and others. There is only US.