We live in odd and curious times where politics are more performance than punditry and more perfunctory than professional. How did we get in such a mess of unequal consequences? We won’t just rise or fall and find the mean when this comet ride is over — we’re heading into a catastrophic tumble of immortal termination — just as the Gods before us fell from the temple and humankind stopped looking to the heavens for confirmation of the merits of their lives in the glow of the clouds and decided to forgive their own sins while skipping the punishments.
In critical moments, I turn to my training, and seek the greater mind, and the more universally sophisticated aesthetic for guidance and comfort. As, Aristotle wrote, in “Politics” —
Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.
Aristotle sets the expectation for rational thinking — but when the world is splitting apart, and the seams are wide and deep and irreconcilable — the fabric of us becomes a threat to the nation because a people in tatters is a society that disintegrates in the testing of the shredded warp and woof:
For two principles are characteristic of democracy, the government of the majority and freedom. Men think that what is just is equal; and that equality is the supremacy of the popular will; and that freedom means the doing what a man likes. In such democracies every one lives as he pleases, or in the words of Euripides, ‘according to his fancy.’ But this is all wrong; men should not think it slavery to live according to the rule of the constitution; for it is their salvation.
When ridiculousness and grandstanding take the place of public policy, it is the people who must stand against the tide of popular derision and ask for clarity in purpose. The fourth estate is worthless — they’re owned by big business — too fatted to fail, and they have always been more about selling soap than rendering the truth from the spit for the benefit of the masses.
The trick — We, The People — tend to miss in the mess is that the “us of us” have no interest in providing that service of nature. We only wish to have confirmed what we have already heard — and never learned — and if we revolt, we are punished with mockery and derision and sentenced to wander the public square in a potato sack that barely covers our naughty bits.
There is impressive power in the motivated masses, but the coming together of it all to represent the will of the people is tired and dangerous and aged.
Our police are militarized.
Our military is the strong arm of our government policies.
Our government policies are pre-purchased and overpaid for by the .01% and so the futility of it all is just too familiar, and ordinary, and painful to bear, and so we repress hardship reality with Selfies, and social media mendacity, and celebrity cherub adoration that all shuns us away from our tiny lives into something hollower, falser, and cynically calculated to fail us at achieving any sort of definition of moral humanity.
We are left alone to search for meaning in everyday life and we fail for definition because we cannot have context unto ourselves unless we are either “beast or god” — but never both — and that uncanny realm is reserved only for the jingoistic and the insane.
Nature, by fiat, adores us — but are we reciprocal and unconditional?
We must not give up. We must continue to govern the machine that becomes us. We are a mesh of external wills and internal machinations.
Turning, once again, to Aristotle’s “Politics” for clarity within us, we find comfort that, in the end, the mind will press its willfulness against the body politic, and so, with the right guided thought, we are socially redeemed, and healed, and resurrected — even as we lift our unaware heads from our graves.
The deficiencies of nature are what art and education seek to fill up.