A Minimalist Writes on Politics (Or Why I’m Not Involved)
There are two things people don’t talk about in polite conversation: religion and politics. You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?
But I’ve already written on So Much More Life about religion — and I stirred up a few comments when I guest posted on David Damron’s blog about how atheism and spirituality are really the same thing — so I might as well offer a few words on politics.
Here’s my bottom line first, followed by some comments, caveats and cautions: Politics don’t belong in my simple, deliberate life.
My views about politics are, of course, informed by what I see in the United States and here in Texas, but I strongly suspect they transfer to other places and situations, too. Please tell me if they do or don’t.
My Three Thoughts
Here are three things I believe are true.
1. Politics doesn’t breed honesty. Lots of people go into politics with good motives, attempting to make a difference in how the world works. But politics is a dirty business with established agendas. True reformers suffer one of two fates: they leave the system or are corrupted by it. Since the system is corrupt at its foundation, honest people have no choice but to flee from it or fall into it.
2. Politics are useless silliness. Back room deals, desks with little voting buttons and form letters sent in response to thoughtful constituents don’t make for a worthwhile human endeavor. Campaign promises, party planks and carefully-orchestrated debates don’t add up to meaningful conversation. Thinking people are repelled from politics when they take a close look at political systems. There’s nothing simple or meaningful about them.
3. Politics disturb the peace. People grounded in a force or being beyond complete understanding have peace in their souls. Some believe this is generated internally while others believe it is a gift from a higher being. But no matter where your peace has its source, politics incites uneasiness. The peace within my soul is elusive enough at time, and I don’t need human-created games getting in my way.
Governments prevent chaos — and often cause it, too. I’m trying to make my life simpler every day, and participating in complex rituals aimed at making minor changes in an always-imperfect system doesn’t seem like a good use of my time.
I strongly believe in personal and social responsibility in almost every aspect of life, but regarding politics, I take a different stance: I leave it to those who enjoy these particular types of games more than I do.
Politics are for people with values fundamentally different from mine. Politics is a domain into which I do not venture because I’m out of my element when I do.
- I live in a deeply flawed but ultimately stable country. The troubled political system of the United States is in no danger of collapse, and dictatorships are very literally foreign concepts to me. I have the leisure of my apathetic stance toward politics because of this stable system and my luck to have been born into it. Not everyone has this good fortune.
- Hitler was a political leader, and so was Ghandi. Generalizations about the character of people who live within the silliness of political systems or try to create new ones can’t be made.
- I know I don’t belong in politics because I gave it a try: A decade ago, I stood with hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian people on the National Mall, listening to thoughtful speeches. And I wrote about the financial problems of bringing that event to the Mall — as well as dozens of other political stories for dozens of newspapers. I’ve marched down the streets of Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas, too. Politics never moved me, and I can’t make myself articulate a message clear enough to move them. (I mentioned this as one of the three reasons I left the gay press in a post way back in November 2009, long before most of you were reading here.)
- After I started writing this piece, fellow blogger Sam Spurlin sent out a newsletter announcing a free ebook coming in October, tentatively titled The Simpler Life Guide to Political Awareness. While Sam and I usually agree, we may not on this point. I’ll be reading his new book, and I hope you will, too.
- I’m glad some people are willing to do the few thankless jobs for which governments really seem to excel, like building roads and protecting the public health. That’s why I’m not suggesting political systems needs to be eliminated, but I suggest you carefully evaluate whether you want to be involved in them.
I know you have an opinion about politics, even if you don’t express it in polite conversation. Today, go ahead and express it. We’ll all be glad you did. Unlike some other bloggers, I make sure comments are always open here — because your words matter to me and to the others who chose to read them.