the tyranny of the political

I intentionally don’t engage in “politics” as such in this journal, at least in the more usual, narrow sense of that word. In part this is because I don’t follow the subject. I never look at newspapers, don’t own a TV, and try as best I can to bypass “news” as such online – for example by avoiding those day-to-day, minute-by-minute kinds of news sites as much as possible. In spite of this, such is the state of things that I always seem to know most of what is “going on.”

Many would say this is a good thing, but I’m not so sure. It seems to me that the practical inability to avoid all kinds of news, much of which is quite disturbing and most of which we are powerless to affect, does not make for a healthy environment in which to live our lives. An inherent bias towards negative news, reported negatively, certainly is an important part of this.

I submit that we humans don’t thrive very well in a climate drenched in the political. “Politics” should only ever have been a somewhat peripheral concern: the process of coming to communal decisions of various kinds. It’s everything else that is really the point of it all: the cultivation of health; the taming and training of mind; the expansion of the heart; the nurturing of others; the study of life and human culture; and creative expression of all kinds. Even the “communal decisions” I referred to oughtn’t to be different in kind from all other forms of personal relationship we maintain.

Today, however, the political seems to have swallowed up our culture. Not only has everything become politicized, but this has occurred within the context of extreme polarization and thus stagnation. When a realm of human experience gets politicized, it’s often the case that everything colorful and multi-dimensional and cool about it gets sucked out, its inner life papered over in predictable patterns of grey. Beyond this, I experience never-ending “news” as an attempt to draw my mind through a sieve leading to blinkered, tiny vision and a permanent state of agitation and panic.

So I prefer to engage with these kinds of “political” questions at one remove, by not following the unfolding of events day-by-day or even necessarily week-by-week but rather waiting until we have some kind of larger perspective on the more important of these. And even then, I choose to pay attention only to those “issues” which I can relate to deeper concerns of mine, ones which I feel capable of thinking through properly and communicating something about which hopefully has some kind of clarity.

One of these happens to be very much in the forefront at the present time: the question of civil liberties and their serious abridgement in the name of a seemingly never-ending “war.” A subject for the next post.

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