Saturday, February 9, 2013

politics isn't personal

When a community moves beyond a certain level of complexity, the personal and the political split off. Most members are then affected by human decisions without being able to make symmetrical decisions. Political power in modern states is never purely top-down, but neither is it ever close to being balanced. Both sides of the relation operate differently than they would in personal relationships. Whereas, if a tribe of 20 discusses moving camp, there may well be hierarchy -- and let's say there's a big boss man who threatens death to dissenters -- but it's still both personal and political. Resistance is possible. Acquiescence matters. The dissenter is noticed.

I don't think talking politics is useless or hopeless. I might influence the people around me and vice versa so that fewer people will be likely to consent to oppressive systems than otherwise would. Small, unobservable effects. Throwing pebbles at a distant tank and not seeing the results through the haze.

I just think it's a bit nutty, or maybe endearing, that we keep talking politics as if we're not impotent when we very much are. We can point it out and laugh at ourselves, but then we'll go right back to the same self-important discussion. Anger, for example, is an incredibly awkward emotion for something we have so little connection to. Why am I angry at Obama supporters when their support had no real world effect? How they raise their kids is far more important and they may well be doing a spectacular job at it. 

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