Politics is old – older than dirt. Well, not quite that old, but almost. Politics has existed since human beings began living together – first as family units, families organizing into tribes, and further developing into cities. Politics is part of our nature, and as we shall discover – we were made for politics and politics is vital to our survival and to our well-being.
The previous blog ended by saying that the Restoration of Politics was a matter of utmost urgency and that this urgency was – because, “There is much that is at risk and the potential for greater loss is real”.
Fear-mongering and hyperbolic rhetoric are effective tools that many utilize to make, or to exaggerate a point, but – this urgency is real and the potential for greater loss is absolute. Our own country has undergone a transformation, during the last four years, putting freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and the freedom to practice one’s religion according to conscience, in significant jeopardy. What is truly alarming is – This transformation was not gradual, but quick and it was NOT accomplished through anything resembling legitimate political processes – it was carried out by a small group of elected politicians bent on imposing their will on the free citizens.
Great ideas – Big ideas – Good or Bad – have always been the product of great thought and of the great thinkers. Those ideas have profoundly influenced individual and societal attitudes about everything from the Arts and Cultural Norms to How People Should be Governed and how Politics should be done. Nobody expressed this documentable truth better than Richard Weaver, in what is still considered the most unsparing and prescient diagnosis of the decline of modern man. His best-selling book, ‘Ideas Have Consequences‘ first published in 1948, systematically and comprehensively makes the undeniable claim of how ideas disseminate through a nation, and through its parent civilization, pervading every conversation and every institution, and finally resulting in the inevitable consequences that were all-along intended. In his book, Weaver traces the rise “Moral Relativism” during the 19th and 20th centuries, forensically examines the precursors that led to relativistic thinking becoming the dominant World View, and connects all of the consequential dots that culminated in the outbreak of World War II.
Every major event in history, every great and not-so-great moment, breakthrough, and invention – came about as a result of someone having an idea. Every war and every death due to it, every magnificent achievement and blessing that flowed from it – did not happen by accident or chance. For every effect, there is a cause and for every cause there is a chain of thought that preceded it. IDEAS… do have consequences.
The Ancient World produced some of the best and some of the most disciplined of ‘Great Thinkers‘ and what they contributed has shown a remarkable resilience in its ability to remain relevant, even in our very modern world. Plato’s Dialogues and Aristotle’s treatises on human reasoning, knowledge, and understanding comprise much of the literature from that time period and they profoundly shaped the development of Western Civilization through more than 20 centuries of time.
Three of the greatest books ever written on Political Thinking have come to us from those Classical Times and from these two philosophers that lived during the height of the Golden Age. Plato’s ‘Republic’ stands apart from any other work dealing with the subject of Justice – and Aristotle’s ‘Ethics’ and ‘The Politics‘ combine to show that these two concepts are far from contradictory and that they only work when they are connected. (I can already hear the objections and feel the skepticism – Politics and Ethics together – Are you serious)?
Aristotle makes the argument, that good people can only be good when they live under good laws and that only good people can make good laws. This might beg the question: What if both the Laws and the People are no longer good? (How would things look… if we expected our Political Leaders to act ethically and held them accountable if they didn’t? How much better would our lives be if we were able to trust those who governed us? Why have we permitted our own Government to get to the point where we no longer trust them?
The Ethics thoughtfully investigates the ‘good’ or ‘virtuous life’ and what is the good way for a human being to live. In this book, Aristotle makes the claim that you have to understand what the good is in order to participate in politics and in The Politics, Aristotle compares the political regimes that result from good or from bad participation. In The Politics, we read “… it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal… Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech… And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust … and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state.”
These 2 individual books were intended to be read together and their reciprocal dependency is evident to anyone interested in the betterment of politics.
Human beings are political animals and they are the only creatures endowed with reason and speech. We have the ability to recognize and compare what is advantageous versus disadvantageous. We talk about justice and what is fair. We understand when something is unfair or unjust and we desire to have the wrongs made right.
Justice is frequently a Hot-Button Issue, during every political campaign, and significant portions of the debate will often focus on it. It’s a favorite topic with politicians that look to score easy points with voters, but they are never asked to provide a proper definition or to explain what a good working model for Justice would look like. Decades later, through indifference and neglect, the meaning of Justice has proven to be as elusive as a cure for the common cold, but we never seem to get bored with or tired of wearing ourselves out from the endless efforts and the innumerable exchange of words in trying to “get it right”.
Similarly, it is impossible to have any political discourse without that conversation being steered into the arena of Ethics and the mud pit of ethical failures on the part of the political players. We have all heard, and likely repeated, the familiar mantras about how, there is no such thing as an honest politician, or how all politicians are liars etc. We have become accustomed to being disappointed and to the unending transgressions and lies that accompany politics.
SO… is this as good as it gets or as good as we should expect it to be? If your answer to this question is something in the affirmative, a shrug of the shoulders, or some form of dismissing the problem and walking away – then we have very little hope of ever restoring politics to what it was and what it was meant to be. Politics will continue to crumble and to die the death by a thousand qualifications and we will pay a very high price for our indifference and apathy. Ideas have consequences and so does failure to listen to what ideas are being discussed.
It might have taken centuries of time to achieve, but Western Civilization has brought about the greatest amount of personal liberty and personal prosperity to the greatest number of people. That civilization was built, brick by brick, through trial and error, and by the efforts of millions. Every step taken and every thoughtful idea implemented through the passing centuries brought us to the pinnacle of Political Attainment and to everything that it provides.
The dreams of every freedom loving person, the great ideas of the greatest thinkers who ever lived, the combined influence of the most significant cities in our history – all culminated in bestowing upon this generation – the most generous and glorious of what politics was designed to give – and it did so without demand of payment. The only thing that was required of us – was to preserve and protect it. The only remedy to the threat of losing it – IS TO RESTORE IT.