Let’s be honest about something we see nonstop but seldom appreciate: Politics makes life ugly. Politics turns people you disagree with into twisted, cartoon images of what they really are, and it pushes you into degrading and hating them. In short, it’s vile, corrosive, and hate-filled.
These things are not “necessary evils”; they’re just evil.
We’ve been programmed to believe that politics is how we rule ourselves… that politics is what saves us from tyranny… that our political system is the necessary and ultimate end of human civilization.
All of that is false, and future generations will either laugh at such thoughts, shake their heads in disbelief, or perhaps cry. As they should. All of it is propaganda, benefitting an abusive elite. Whether or not we learned it from beloved parents or even taught it to our children, it was false and it led us toward darkness.
Politics functions on the fearful, the dangerous, and the negative. When it says, “We’re great,” it means, “We’re above everyone else.” Everything is win-lose, everything is dominance and submission, everything revolves around base instincts. Politics erodes our character.
I’m here to tell you that we can do better… much better.
Turning Away from the Good
I was hard struck by these lines from G.K. Chesterton when I first read them, and I’m convinced there’s something very important in them:
Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelley, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.
“Yeah, yeah,” go the responses to such thoughts. “Nice sentiments, but I’m looking at a cold, dangerous world.”
No… you’re looking at the world through politically colored glasses. All you can see through them are dark, ominous, and threatening things. A thousand decent and peaceful people cross your field of view every day. But you don’t see them; you see only the handful who act stupidly.
Chesterton was right; Isaiah was right; Shelley was right: Life can be so much better than it is now. And getting there would involve an easier path than the one we’re currently trudging. But we have to look for it.
Understand, please: We never think of building life around good things. Rather, modern life – political life – is built entirely around cultivated fears. The Russians might bomb us, terrorists might blow up the Sears Tower, China may overtake us, the roads are crumbling, and so on… with never an end.
Not only is this degrading, but it drags us away from what’s good and beautiful. We have limited time, after all.
We crawl out of bed in the morning and most of us will very shortly turn on a TV (where the worst things that happened overnight will be displayed), turn on a radio (where the other side’s political stupidity will be examined at length), or run to Facebook (where our friends will be making fun of the degenerates who disagree with us).
And so begin our days. When we’re not busy with work, we’ll worry about our kids (after all, there are a hundred million predators out there), or we’ll worry about money (everyone else seems to have more), or we’ll worry about getting sick (a terrifying new disease is promoted each year). And we’ll finish our day with more of the same.
All is dark, all is frightful, all is threat… because that’s what works to squeeze more out of us… every day until we die. It keeps our minds ever focused on evil, spending almost no time on the good. In fact, good things are to be avoided. They might pull us away from the obligatory stream of threats… and whether real or imaginary makes no difference.
Life Can Be Beautiful
The vast majority of people don’t think life can be beautiful or at least can’t be beautiful unless they have a huge pile of money to go along with it. And so, they never expect life to be wonderful and never even try to see it. But if they did ever try, they’d find out that life can be beautiful.
Perfectly beautiful? No, of course not. But being less than 100% doesn’t make it zero… unless you’re fixated on making it zero.
And why wouldn’t we want life to be beautiful? Is hanging on to our dismal mindscape really that important?
People have lived non-political, peaceful, and happy lives; we have it, clearly, in the archaeological record. Were they all supermen? Were they all saints? No, of course not. But they weren’t fixated on the dreadful, the ugly, and the hateful.
We could do the same – and certainly much more – if we stopped drinking the poison of politics.
Is it entirely that simple? No, it’s not, but that accounts for a whole lot of it… and we’ll never get to the rest if we can’t put down the bottle.
* * * * *
A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
* * * * *