2012-09-07

Politics & Religion

Today, I'm going to break from tradition and lead-in with my thesis statement: There is a clear implication in my definition of faith that the sphere of politics is quasi-religious. That is, it's not "politics and religion," it's "politics is religion." Anyone who feels otherwise simply isn't paying attention.

Those of us who grew up around a lot of religion know the routine very well. The mass assembles in a large, fancy building. There are refreshments, suits, conversation, networking, and laughter. A few key opinion leaders stand up and make speeches about what "we're" supposed to do, and what "they" are trying to get us to do instead. They urge us to resist this terrible temptation, because it is a folly that strikes at the heart of what it means to be a human being. Songs are sung. The rabble is roused. People slowly filter out and go home, feeling an uplifting of the spirits that stays with them as they embark on a path toward changing the world.

Never are the similarities more obvious than during national convention season. The religious themes are omnipresent, of course. Even the Democrats have joined in the over-indulgence of the phrase "God bless America," and "God bless you all," and so on. Then there is the commentary. One CNN correspondent I saw used the phrase "Teach, baby, teach," a reference to Southern Baptist terminology, to describe Bill Clinton's speech. The convention crowds are shown in glowing rapture, hanging on the words of their Masters with baited breath and tears in their eyes.

I'm telling you, I come from a highly religious community, and I have seen all this before. This isn't politics, this is religion.

And, as I previously wrote, faith is the act of favoring what you wish were true over what you know to be true. Deep down, we all understand that we are only pretending to believe. We know that electing Obamney won't change the course of the country. We know that our false saviors don't really offer us salvation.

Deep down, we understand that politics offers us nothing more than a common language by which to express our wishes about the way things ought to work. Wouldn't it be great if rich people gave poor people all their money, if poverty and natural disaster could be eliminated by simply writing it down on a piece of paper, if jobs could be distributed to anyone who wants them simply by act of Congerss.

It would be great, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it be great? These wishes are so terribly, tragically, heart-breakingly juvenile. There is no hope in politics. We are fooling ourselves.

For the most part, I have avoided commenting on the conventions because I still believe what other people seem to forget when the conventions are happening: politicians are all liars.

There is no doubt about this, no uncertainty. One need only compare a candidate's pre-election promises to their actual behavior once in office. Here I choose not to cite specific examples because I want the reader to fully understand that this is a pan-partisan fact. It is no "more true" of one group of people than it is of another. The spin doctors like to call it "flip-flopping" and peg it to one or two politicians, but it is true of all of them. They were all for it before they were against it, and vice-versa.

When one party disavows them, these same people simply hop over to another party. The goal is not to represent a consituency, but rather to represent themselves. Their objective is winning office; once they have it, they don't need us anymore. Challengers appear, and they, too, have their own agendas. They try to convince us that this new agenda is better for us than the old one. But we're not electing people who represent our interests, we are bestowing corrupt people with positions of wealth and power, paid for out of our own pockets, in the format of a popularity contest.

This is how politics works.

Some of us are inclined to believe that the reason is that "power corrupts." But this is not true. Power does not corrupt. Those who seek power were already corrupt. The fact (fact) that they lie in order to achieve power is ample evidence.

One of the great ideas Ayn Rand expressed in her work was the concept of the sanction of the victim. That is, certain kinds of wrong-doing are only possible with the sanction of the victim. Government cronyism, corrupt politicians, hideous and bloated bureaucracy, etc. are the kinds of things that we wish upon ourselves. We wish them to be effective, desperatelly.

But it is a wish, nothing more. You cannot move mountains with a hand gesture, you cannot quell the tides with a wink, and you cannot achieve prosperity through the drafting of rules and regulations. When we dispell with the religious myths, we are left with the simple truth that the only way to improve our own lives is to make ourselves better, more productive people.

Stationary Waves is about exploring ways of making ourselves better, more productive people.