“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Thank you, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche! How many times have we heard that or some equivalent? It was the central theme of both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now. (The similarities between the two are not coincidental.) A great many Americans have disregarded Nietzsche’s advice. We’re paying the price as we speak.
The politicization of everything has very nearly destroyed individuality, privacy, and tranquil solitude. It’s the largest single cause of Americans’ neurotic anxiety. Worse, it exhibits no signs of halting, much less reversing.
To understand the effect, we must understand the disease. Infection starts with this mantra: The personal is political.
To politicize a subject is to render it subject to political decision. That begins with decreeing it debatable en masse: i.e., making it an appropriate topic for the opinions and preferences of others. Plainly, a politicized subject is no longer private. Once the mass of men begin to discuss it, our personal preferences are endangered, no matter how resolutely we strive to keep them to ourselves.
The politicization of a subject evokes a curious yet entirely logical reciprocation: We who want our preferences about subject X to be left alone are compelled to enter the political fray. We struggle for possession of the weapon of politics before it can be used against us. The man who previously asked only to be left alone becomes something he deplores: an activist. The politics of X consumes him. He becomes as ardent to enforce his position on others as those others were to impose their position on him.
Only two subspecies of Mankind actually approve of this: politicians, and persons without actual lives. The rest of us are eroded by it. Life loses much of what makes it tolerable. Strangers invade our most private demesne and insist upon having their say about how we choose to live.
Politics in an era of omni-politicization is like a virus that has erupted into a pandemic. Compare the process and its consequences to any recent pandemics you’ve endured.
The most terrifying of the recent instances is the politicization of religion. Entry into a religious faith – the acceptance of its theology and the adoption of its moral-ethical code – is the most individual of all imaginable human decisions. It engages one’s brain, heart, and hands: organs no one else has any conceivable right to command. For politics to enter the nave of the church demanding that its dogmas should displace the gospels is an affront to the very inclination to awe, gratitude, and worship that powers religious attachment…indeed, to everything that makes us men and not beasts.
It is intolerable. It is unacceptable. And it is everywhere.
I could go on about this at great length, but I’ll spare you. Let it suffice to say that no progress at restoring not just our Constitutional republic but our private lives and the freedom to keep them private can be made until we achieve the depoliticization of just about everything. This means delivering staggering rebuffs to
- The racialists;
- The homosexualists;
- The transgender evangelists;
- A great many other species of activists;
- And any and every politician who knocks on our doors.
During a recent conversation with a friend and local businessman, I said offhandedly that there’s no longer any good to be had from politics. As my friend is aware of my years of activity in that arena, it puzzled him. He asked what that would mean in practical terms.
I had to think for a moment. A memory of a dear friend, now gone to her reward, resurfaced. In her one and only campaign for public office, she styled herself “The Un-Politician.” That was a good start, I said to myself. But maybe we can do even better.
“Don’t let politics into your life,” I said into the silence. “Throw it out of your life. Keep your affairs entirely to yourself. Don’t vote. Don’t contribute to politicians’ campaigns. Don’t participate in opinion surveys. Don’t go anywhere near any of it. And don’t let a politician or a canvasser onto your property, ever.”
That stunned him. But he was ready with his follow-up: “But you write about politics virtually every day. What about that?”
I nodded. “I have to train myself not to write about politics but against it. Beat it back into the slime whenever it raises its head.”
“Doesn’t sound easy,” my friend said.
“It won’t be.”
Have a nice day.