I don’t talk about politics. Part of this is because I hate conflict, and my anxiety levels shoot through the roof. Mostly, it’s because I don’t see any point in it. I don’t think my rhetoric skills are so great to sway anyone, and I know I won’t be swayed.
I don’t talk about politics because I have very strong opinions about them. I take politics so seriously that they aren’t a safe subject of discussion with me. Stick with the weather, pal.
My major in college was International Affairs. I had serious conversations with women working in the State Department and the United Nations about my job prospects there. I applied for (and didn’t get) an internship with the CIA. My classes were comparative governmental systems, economics, and international law. My BA was sufficient to be a pre-law degree. This is not a subject area where I feel uninformed.
One of the classes that changed my life was Political Philosophy. I say that it changed my life because it is the class that made me decide I couldn’t go into a career in politics. But that’s another story.
Political philosophy was an effort of breaking down political theories into their component parts. It was a philosophy class, not a politics one, so it dug pretty deep.
The main two questions you had to answer about each philosophical stance were:
- What is the Nature of Man?
- What is the role of the State?
If you knew those answers, you could follow logical conclusions from there. You can do this same exercise with political parties or movements.
If a person believed that human beings are fundamentally good, that would take on a particular timbre. If people are good, and if their basic needs are met they would behave in a moral way that benefited society, then society should be shaped in a way that guaranteed those needs. Then everything else tumbles out logically from there. This is an oversimplification of the the basic Liberal stance in the US. It is often seen as naive, or too giving.
If a person believed that human beings are fundamentally amoral or immoral, and that they will do whatever they have to in order to get what they want, then this also takes on a particular tone. This means that everyone is and should be out for themselves, and that the role of the state is to defend the sovereignty of the borders, and that’s pretty much about it. Though it is unstated, and masked with additional moral rhetoric to capture the religious right, this is the philosophical root of Conservatives in America. (One could argue that in some forms of Christianity, there is also an inherent belief that the nature of mankind is one of evil.)
What is the Nature of Man?
Man, I don’t know.
It bothers me that someone who is so clearly criminal was elected. But if you believe that the nature of humanity is evil, then why not just make the evil blatant and obvious where it’s yanked out into the light?
This is some serious cultural shadow work, and we’ve got to drag a lot of ugliness out of the dark corners of our social basement.
Am I afraid? Yes. I am terrified. Am I hopeful? Well, actually, I am. But I’ve been on the road to hell, and I happen to know there’s a way back. We’re about to see a national ego-death. It’s not going to be pretty. But it will probably come out okay.