Here’s a thought I had:
Recently I heard some people moan and groan about someone’s disapproval of an inter-racial marriage. Naturally, in America, this was made into a big political/legal issue. The person who said it was villanized beyond belief and made out as someone who is full of ‘hate’ and a racist. All this, of course, was said in the manner of American cold war paranoia of the 1970’s . . . God help us all, the world’s going to come to an end. I am, frankly, appalled by this type of thinking . . . “it’s so last century”. I’m tired of these stupid political-based American points of view . . . I don’t accept them any more. My reaction amounted to this:
“All over the word, for centuries, there has been restrictions in marriage and in the idea of the mixing of different peoples, culture, tribes, races, and such. Many cultures even have death penalties for these. This has been a part of human life since the beginning of time all over the world. This means that it reflects some human truth. Whether you understand it or not does not matter. Because of this, you can’t condemn people for feeling this way . . . it reflects a common human feeling.”
The attempt at trying to prohibit feelings such as these, at least in America, are primarily a result of political theory. They are often boosted by recent historical events such as WWII (the Jews . . . the horror of hatred toward people) and the Cold War (the threat of nuclear annihilation . . . we now have to learn to ‘get along’ or be destroyed) which appear to give a verification to it all. But all its doing is basically the forcing political theory and viewpoints onto human life. In this way, political theory, not wisdom, not insight, not human reality, is enforced, and its enforced with political force.
Because of the close association of politics with law it often gets the sanction of law and is backed by law. Because of the close association of political theory with law it appears to give it a more legitimate quality of authority. But, in actuality, it is theory only. Frankly, that makes it no more than an opinion. But its an opinion backed by force, both political and legal. This means that, in many ways, we are having opinion – someone else’s opinion – forced upon us through politics and law, which often tends to have an effect upon our human lifestyle.
THE PROBLEM OF POLITICAL THEORY
Political theory, at least in this society, seldom reflects the culture, at least from my experience. Though it may originate from the culture, it does not represent it, nor does it keep up with it. As a result of this, political theory has a tendency to begin in the culture (where it gets it ‘sanction’ and justification), but slowly becomes removed from it, often becoming a separate entity in itself, even to the point that it can be described as a ‘foreign body’ within the society. In this way, politics (and law itself) often tends to become an intrusive and disruptive element in society. Despite this, its power keeps it there, even if it has become a ‘foreign body’, intrusive, and disruptive. And so, by its nature, politics and law only tends to be partially rooted in the culture . . . and it may not even be rooted in it at all! This, alone, puts political theory into doubt as a model for human life.
In addition, in my opinion, politics and law are primarily rooted in the question of power, not in human life. Its whole basis and existence are based in power, in keeping and maintaining power in society. This power, though, is only a small part of life, and actually consists of little in respect to human day-to-day living. Its for this reason that it so easily becomes removed from the culture and becomes a ‘foreign body’ as culture is not rooted or based in power. This means that, to follow politics, then, is to follow an entity that is not rooted in culture, or human life, but something else altogether. As a result, what it produces cannot be construed as reflective of human life nor a model for it.
THE ‘POLITICAL LIFESTYLE’ AND ‘POLITICAL-BASED CULTURE’
When an attempt is made to create a lifestyle based on political theory I call it the ‘political lifestyle’. The attempt at a ‘political lifestyle’ has been tried many times before in the past. Communism and the Nazis come to mind. It was very common in the late 1800’s and early-mid 1900’s, in particular, as many countries (including America) were trying to create it and create a whole national lifestyle based on it. This appears to largely be a result of Nationalism which was a common theme during that time. Interestingly, the attempts at creating a ‘political lifestyle’ have largely failed. The reason for this failure is simple: political ideas are not a good enough model for human life nor do they reflect human reality.
America has tried extensively to try to create a ‘political lifestyle’ based on its political theory, which is based in the Revolutionary War in the late 1770’s. Of all the countries that have tried it in the past America seems to be the one that has survived the best. As a result of this, it is continuing this lifestyle even after the other attempts have failed in other countries. I do not believe that this is because its ‘political life’ is better but because America had other things that helped it to survive (such as money). In this way, America’s ‘political lifestyle’ is not kept going by its inherent strength but because of other things. Despite this, America is actually continuing an idea created by Nationalism that has a history of failure.
American political ideas, especially, do not follow human nature, in my opinion. I’ve lived here all my life and I’m not seeing a lot of proof of it. My observation is that every time American politics and law gets into things it ends up warping or undermining things. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons why we have so much dehumanization and undermining of human institutions in this country is because the ‘political lifestyle’ of America does not work. In effect, America’s political theory, supported by law, is actually killing it.
I don’t think people, in this country, realize how ‘politicized’ and ‘legalified’ their lives have become. Its so prevalent, in fact, that many people use political theory as a replacement for things like morality and right and wrong. In that way, it has even taken on qualities of a culture or even a religion. In this way, it has become a ‘political-based culture’. This is whey they have made politics more than what it is, ascribing it more power and meaning than it has.
The U.S., though, has not been the worst country to create a ‘political-based culture’. Both the Nazi’s and Communists tried to create a very involved culture based on its political theory. In fact, they appear to of forced it so much that it actually ended up strangling the society, eventually helping to bring about their downfall. The U.S., on the other hand, has not forced it quite so extensively, which is probably one reason why it has survived.
THE LIMITATION OF POLITICAL THEORY
The fact is that political theory is neither extensive enough, wise enough, or broad enough to be a basis for a way of life. They are limited because of things like:
- They tend to be idealistic. That is to say, they are often rooted in an ‘image’ of an ideal society or what they’d like things to be.
- They reflect a specific point of view. Typically, there are many political viewpoints running rampant in any political system. This shows that political theory is never ‘all-encompassing’ or ‘all-answering’.
- They often tend to be biased. Many political theories tend to favor certain specific people in the society, often at the expense of other people. In this way, they are very specific and, therefore, limited in their effects.
- They have a narrow viewpoint. Most political theory only entail specific subjects, themes, and situations in life. As stated above, they tend to focus primarily on power, neglecting other aspects of life. This makes it very limited in its viewpoints.
- They tend to be rigid and non-flexible. Political theory tends to entail a cold rigid viewpoint about things. In many cases, political theory is worse than science in its rigidity and lack of flexibility. Often, they develop a system that MUST be adhered to, regardless of the situation. In this way, political theory actually limits and restricts itself in what it can do and achieve . . . and this is seen in the behavior of many governments.
- They are not reflective of human reality and life. As stated above, politics is not rooted in the real human reality and life.
- They deny or neglect certain realities about human nature and human institutions. Because political theory is specific and rigid it often cannot cater to many aspects of human reality and life. As a result, any purely ‘political lifestyle’ will have many aspects of human life missing or not addressed.
Things, such as these, make political ideas insufficient for human life. We must remember that politics really only reflect the political reality, which is a narrow aspect of life. To try to make life ‘political’, then, is a form of alienating oneself from human life and reality. As a result of this, I tend to be suspicious when aspects of human life is affected by political theory. I become particularly suspicious when something that has been here for centuries has been altered or some new thing is forced upon us.
In general, I don’t want my life run by political theory – I don’t believe its competent enough – nor do I want it telling me what I can and cannot do or think. Though I understand that there is a need for politics, in its place, I don’t want it to affect my human life nor do I want it determining my day-to-day life. Political theory should remain in the political sphere and have minimal influence in the human sphere.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen