"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Politics ‘R’ Us–Nature, Nurture, And The Great Political Divide

Most Americans believe they are right.  No sitting on the fence in our contentious, divided society.  You either believe in the rise of the black man, the legitimate place of any sexual orientation on the gender spectrum, the primacy of women, the sanctity of the environment, and the predatory nature of capitalism; or in social, personal, and environmental laissez-faire. Millennia of history have shown that human nature is innate, unchangeable, and the predictor, instigator, and manager of all enterprise.  

There is no compromise between the two.  Either the world is a troubled, defective place but through commitment, passionate belief, and a sense of purpose progress can be assured and Utopia possible; or it is a valueless, as-is place, and history a neutral, repetitive chronicle of predictable human events. How could the twain ever meet?

Political philosophy is not simply a marker, a sign posted outside a polling place but the way we see the world.  From family spats to communal violence, belief is the culprit.  ‘Maybe you have a point’ has been lost in the contentiousness of opinion.  You cannot have a point since your perspective on human society, its origins, its pace, and its future is myopic if not ignorant and devoid of insight.

Statue of Plato (Illustration) - World History Encyclopedia

Not only is Uncle Harry no longer welcome at Christmas dinner, but lifelong friends have split.  The breach across the political divide has become too wide to cross.  Take Bob and Bill, friends since the seventh grade – twelve years old, innocent of all politics except a few gleanings from parents who had other things to worry about; passionate about girls, baseball, and banana splits; and indifferent to the Soviet Union, McCarthyism, or the Teamsters.  

Yet over the years both Bob and Bill started to pay attention and found that they saw things in very different ways.  ‘Political philosophy is who you are’, said Bob to Bill,’ and I don’t like what I see’.  No amount of childhood enthusiasm and memories can possibly compensate for your attitude, he went on; and so they parted ways. 

How could this be? wondered Bill.  How could his friend ignore childhood, its intelligence, talent, and inspiration before the inevitable plot of adulthood? Who you are is what you were when you were twelve, not what you have become at forty or fifty.  No, said Bob, just the opposite.   It was no wonder they parted.

What happened to humor and irony? Character?   Bill remembered how Bob stood up to the class bully.  Five inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter, he lit into him like mad dog, stood his ground, and sent a message to him and the rest of the school.  What was it that made Bill so attractive to Nancy Boothe, Bob wondered.  Even then girls noticed Bill and not him.  Where did Bill get such fluency in languages when Bob struggled with tenses?  How did Bob remember when the Battle of Quebec was fought when to Bill the whole French and Indian war was a muddle?  Wasn’t that enough to go on?  Shouldn’t friendship be centered around being something, not aspiring to something else?

French and Indian War - Seven Years War | HISTORY

Because Bill believed in the inevitable weight of human nature on behavior; and that such nature would always determine the course of history, he could ignore territorialism, acquisition, skirmish, and wars of ‘principle’.  It had always been so and always would be.  

Shakespeare understood this well.  The critic Jan Kott noted that if one were to place all of Shakespeare’s Histories in chronological order, only the names and places changed.  The events – palace jealousies, rivalries, vendettas, murders, and the rack – did not.  History repeated itself, but in oh, such marvelous ways.  And so Bill enjoyed the Punch and Judy, Grand Guignol, and Barnum & Bailey show.  He loved women for their disassociation and demanding personalities, quirks and routines; he enjoyed the company of men for their engagement and successes. 

Tuba Büyüküstün - IMDb

As he got older, he became even less interested in the way the world played out than his own increasingly indistinguishable place within it.  Old age and the dimming light at the end of the tunnel were far more challenging than any public policy; and he focused on his ends rather than anyone else’s means. 

It was the absolute hilarity of American politics that lightened the load of impending death.  How could anyone not laugh at the Great Political Vaudeville Show, a side show of two-headed babies, bearded women, midgets, and half human-half animal freaks?  The parade of sexual permutations was endless; the fashion show of outrageously cross-dressed dysphoric queens worth more than any Givenchy, Chanel, or St. Laurent.

The bling, pimp walking, grilled-toothed ghetto attitude was worth the price of admission. The fiery street corner predictions of environmental Armageddon were pure soap opera melodrama.  The protests to end racism, misogyny, and capitalism were all happy events of camaraderie and belonging.  The kisses and hugs over the world’s troubles were marvelous.  The issues incidental.

Bill wondered at times if Bob had eventually lost his fury at conservative politics and become a bit more introspective or at least rejiggered to see the comedy of errors around him.  He hoped so.  Old age was difficult enough without having to be angry over political nonsense. 

Bill’s life, never encumbered by political anxiety, had been a thoroughly delightful affair, and now nearer the end than the beginning, it was no different.  He and his gym buddies, his coffee mates, and drinking pals all had the same instincts and an enjoyment of each other.  The same enjoyment they had as children.  The more rant and hysteria from the political fringe, the better the show, more than worth the price of admission, a running soap opera of jealousy, suspicion, and envy.  

The Ancient Greeks had a lock on human nature 2500 years ago.  The Oresteia can’t be beat for melodrama and the worst of human intentions.  Aeschylus did not invent the mayhem that went on in the House of Atreus.  His genius was knowing that it would make good viewing, fill the seats of the theatre, and win him plaudits and remuneration.  And so it has been ever since.

Bill always felt he had a front row center seat at the show, and wondered why there was so much political squabbling and infighting outside  Leave off the wailing and rending of garments over nothing. That’s what’s going on here, but dressed to kill. Greasepaint not swords.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.