Those that have read one or two of my blog posts should have a good idea of my dim views of both religion and politics because both systems have proven to be perennial failures. Neither system offers lasting solutions to the human condition. It seems that many people are disillusioned by both religion and politics, but they have not yet found a workable replacement to address society’s problems.
Great. Politics failed. So what now? Where does that leave us?
Those who are heavily invested in politics address the charge that politics has failed by saying that corruption is to blame and that we must “reform the political process” or “throw the bums out,” referring, of course, to those whose political views do not align with theirs. They react in horror when someone suggests that we transcend politics. Their conclusion is that if we were to relinquish our quest for political power and control over others, then society would instantly disintegrate, and chaos would overwhelm our semblance of order. In my experience, they generally cannot visualize any other outcome. If our society is at the point where the only thing that keeps us from mass violence and bloodshed is the fear of punishment, then perhaps they have a strong case; but I don’t think that we are quite there yet. Even if they were correct, I’m not sure you could convince someone who has spent hours in line at the DMV just to be turned away by a bureaucrat who can’t fix a glitch in the system, that a chaotic society would be much more frustrating!
(Interestingly, those who are heavily invested in religion hold the exact same view. In their mind, religion only fails because either people are not trying hard enough, or a handful of people are messing it up for the rest of us. The masses not holy enough; they are “in the world rather than in the word.” They think that religion only fails because we’re doing it wrong. “If only everyone accepted that I’m right and started doing things my way, then religion would work!”)
So while I view politics as a failed enterprise, I recognize and acknowledge that usually there are worthwhile ideals behind the political maneuvering. In fact, I highly value both some liberal and some conservative ideals. Meaning that I think there are some things that previous generations got right that we should emulate, and there are some things that previous generations got wrong that we should improve. But manipulating and dominating others is not the way to achieve those ideals.
In order to effectively deal with the problems of our day, we must give up our obsession for control over others. This is a difficult thing to do, because when we see what we think is an obvious solution to a problem, we seem to have an innate desire to impose that solution on everyone else.
For us to transcend politics as a society, we must embrace freedom, however uncomfortable it makes us. Freedom is a scary thing, because it means that the responsibility for dealing with society’s problems now rests squarely on our shoulders. It’s much easier to shirk that responsibility, and hope that others will pick up our slack.
In order for freedom to be a blessing, it must be held by a virtuous people. So we must pursue virtue above everything else—above wealth, above status, and above the power that we crave. And pursuing virtue is hard work. It requires sacrifice. Virtue is not something we can attain once and for all—at least, not in this life. It is something that must be fought for every day, because it can be lost at any instant by giving in to the darker side of our nature.
If we want to produce a harmonious society and are willing to shoulder the burden of building that society, then we must grant freedom and pursue virtue and thus, transcend our politics. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be without mistakes. Nevertheless, I’m in. Who’s with me?