Does anyone else feel disconnected from politics and political debate at the moment?
I don’t write overt political fiction. I used to be an activist and it’s a condition akin to a long term illness, periods of remission and infection but I’m much better at the latter, in so far I’ve focused on improving my self and making my art, but I still care. I was a socialist after a fashion, campaigned locally and was quite outspoken online, which is as pathetic as it sounds now. Self righteous and outraged, which hits the brain in the same way cocaine does and yet the stories aren’t as good.
I used to be a true believer, that if we instituted equality of outcome, then people’s innate goodness would bloom like flowers in spring. History tells us otherwise, and I was guilty of the sin in believing if ‘my version’ of socialism was implemented, it would be perfect. I used to consider myself a feminist, and wondered why I was anxious and angry, all the time, made to believe being a man was somehow a broken path through identity.
It’s not true, but it’s a controversial statement to say it aloud, isn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with being a man, any more than there is being a woman. It’s the individual choices we make, whether they come from nature or nurture and whether we accept the responsibility of their outcome. That is a subject for another time, because I have a lot to say in that regard and probably won’t because it riles people up, and I prefer to think out loud without it being seen as a provocation.
I don’t consider myself to be any one thing politically. I get why people believe what they do, even the worst things make sense to us, if we sit down and really look into ourselves. It’s part of why I write, because in the dirt of ourselves, we find the real treasure. What gets me about politics now is it is insular, with the same sins on both sides – the left have gone all in on intersectionality, where they’ve stopped empowering people to be anything other than victims whereas the right don’t come out and say ‘fuck you, I’ve got mine.’ I think the truth is somewhere between the two, but the debate is getting insular and shrill, and I watch it the same way I watch sumo. Two fat guys trying to slap one another of the ring whilst we all suffer, regardless of the outcome.
I got approached to run as a candidate once, and rejected it wholly which was the beginning of my move away from political activism towards art and working on being a better person. There are those who will say I have a long way to go in the latter, but I keep working towards it through my actions and art.
My politics, such as it is, is sourced in common sense and kindness and evidence. I don’t think someone’s origin defines who they are, but I can see how it hurts or helps. I think both sides ignore class and economic disparities because telling someone the colour of their skin or who they sleep with means they’re hobbled before the race starts is easier than trying to look at how resources get allocated and what opportunities are available. Poverty is corrosive and the scars run deep, but the left focus on nurturing a hierarchy of oppression hurts more people than it helps. I don’t believe a white male has anything close to inherent privilege. If you disagree, look at the homeless population and the suicide statistics. I think virtue signalling hides flaws which are better addressed through contemplation and therapy.
On the right, they could benefit from more empathy and listen to everything Jesus said, and I mean everything. I don’t think bombing everyone helps although the left governments are as excited about war as the right wing ones.
You get the idea, I like freedom of speech for everyone, because if someone puts an idea out there, we can talk about it. We debate or have dialectics because we are civilised and don’t have force of arms, but we hurt one another emotionally instead and wonder why nothing appears to get better.
I don’t have the answers, I used to think I did but I can do is think about how and why I behave, why I feel about certain things and issues, and vote. In this country, it’s a dismal set of choices to make come election time.
The writer Michelle McNamara, late wife of the comedian Patton Oswalt said something which makes sense to me. It applies to all points on the political spectrum.
‘It’s chaos out there, be kind.’
Raam Dass said something which I quote a lot.
‘We’re all just walking one another home.’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pacifist or passive, but I prefer civilised discourse over violence and direct action. I loathe antifa as much as neo-Nazi activity because all it does is hurt and frighten people. An adolescence of comic books and mythology has taught me we are capable of being better, without a power ring or a radioactive spider bite, there are millions of good people doing good things to improve the world. Shit, Mr Rogers said something which I will end on, because it’s beautiful and it sums up how I feel better than another few paragraphs.
‘Look to the helpers.’
We’re all in this together, surrounded by miracles and horror. I write stories and poems which qualifies me towards nothing and I read a lot of books, trying to synthesize together all the information into some form of knowledge. I mispronounce words I’ve read but not exclaimed aloud, but I laugh at myself about it because it reminds me I’m human and as flawed as the rest of you. We make our own heaven or hell, and sometimes I can’t choose between horns or the halo, so I have fur and friends instead.
We all want to love and to be loved. It’s an elegant idea but difficult to express in action but we try.
Thank you for reading.
7 thoughts on “On politics and kindness”
I have a rather verbose response. Is this the appropriate place?
If it’s not, I’m in the wrong place. Go for it.
I do not consider myself educated enough, or in anyway qualified to attempt political discourse. I have never looked deep enough into what I feel, with a desire to understand the potential political labels which may or may not be considered suitable to hang off them. Everybody is political, but that’s just because any particular opinion may resonate with something universally accepted as being of a certain political flavour: that’s not to say that expressing said opinion must always be considered politically motivated. It can always be so interpreted though, and it is the propensity to apply a political agenda in an interpretation so as to obfuscate what may be a perfectly motivated expression only to have that intent usurped, and therefore possibly diluted because of that potential political affiliation.
The problem with politics is that it is, and may have always been used for the acquisition of power. The notion that it is for ‘the greater good’ is a fallacy that is often borne out by rival parties seldom praising decisions that are patently the correct ones to make; instead choosing to level tardiness on the part of the party that is probably doing the only real option they had anyway. And if the other party had been in the very same decision the script would possibly remain unchanged.
Another clear misuse of politics is the way in which public opinion is insisted upon by all parties when one or other debate is in the public realm, and yet the quality of information we are given, upon which to make the informed decisions we need to formulate, is not given the degree of focus and scrutiny needed so that the outcome of what may be a referendum or an election can be relied upon as being one confidently reached. Instead we are drip fed single issues or at worst blatant lies, and the outcome is quite rightly so brought under intense scrutiny by whichever party has failed to convince the electorate to vote for them. They are often quick then to reveal ‘facts’ that they may have sat on during the debate. And then use that to insist on our right for another opportunity to decide.
People deserve the right to be consulted; every political party will attest to that. What politicians fail to do is ensure all the relevant information is given to the public in a timely and appropriate manner. Just as where in legal proceedings it is a requirement that all pertinent evidence should be presented to the jury, so that the very important verdict can be relied upon as being correct, because nothing had knowingly been omitted during the case. The fact that certain pieces of evidence may be damning to either the prosecution or defense counsel’s case shows that both have different agenda. The justified verdict is not the goal: To win is. So it is in politics.
As to the question of people’s innate goodness? I would ask you to question the very assumption of that existence. In exactly the same way as I question the existence of politics in any form other than as a hypothetical ideal, the purpose of which is suitable for debate but little else, as the results of the debate will have little real-world application. Just as only appropriate foundations can support a building so to if the premise of debate is something unsubstantiated then the results of that debate will ultimately be unsatisfactory in anything other than in relation to a hypothetical existence.
Good and bad are qualitative labels, and as such people’s assessments are either based upon their previous experiences, which will have been strongly influenced by the impact of the nature/nurture debate you mooted. Or upon their perceived opportunities, which are similarly impacted.
The notion of equality of outcome is flawed in my mind as it is fundamentally an equivalent to politics. A hypothetical construct fit for the encouragement of philosophical debate, but once the discourse is complete it will have been an opportunity for entertainment. Little else. The discussions will result in determinations that will have been influenced by a myriad of often differing experiences: none of which are any more worthy of being considered a better determinant of efficacy than any other.
You appear to downplay the efficacy of your stories because to you their apparent impact isn’t as noticeable as the high you obtained from being an outspoken activist online. Even though you then espoused a belief that that ‘buzz’ was pathetic.
Our words are not better if they elicit responses, good or bad, from others. They could be better measured by the impact their creation has had upon the person that did write them. And on how that person may have changed to become the person able to write them.
Words exist to facilitate the dissemination of ideas. Nothing more, nothing less. The quality we ascribe to the success or failure of that dissemination is often based on whether we receive agreement or dissent. We receive subjective, not objective responses.
I believe the idea that you have steered away from politics to art, and yet seem to be relying on the same paradigm as a determinant of success is an error. Your writing isn’t good because others say it is. You know that the quality of what you are writing now far exceeds that which you were writing two years ago. Your agent doesn’t respond. You can’t get a publisher. The ubiquitous imposter syndrome. You can and must use these apparent failings to encourage further writing. It is what you do, Matt.
Keep doing what you do.
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This warrants a longer response so will do so.
Always. I’m happy with my writing in having a process which I stick to, I’m aware of politics and have opinions but not burdened with finding solutions beyond what I apply to make myself better and I already feel like a success in having things written and still more to come. I’ve started a new project longhand, I’ve got another episode of The Transformation brewing as well as a couple of short stories and the craft is the only thing I have control over. I am supported by friends and family in my purpose, I’m in good health and I’m happy. You’re right in what you say about politics, in we project moral notions and ideals onto onto resource allocation and ambition but the idea of noble cause and aspiration is beguiling. I’m more sympathetic to religion than I used to be, and overall I believe we will solve the problems that we have collectively. The main thing is we debate without insult and recognise the other person may have as valid a point as we do. That statement would have been anathema to me a few years ago. Thank you for taking the time to write a reply which makes my initial post feel like a tweet in comparison, which is a compliment to you rather than me being self effacing.
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Excellent ideas, beautifully said. Thank you.
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Thank you so much Elizabeth
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