On Politics

politics is the mind-killer.

This was always supposed to be common knowledge; but somehow, no one puts it into practice. I would suggest that my audience, at least, make an effort to change.

There is nothing æsthetically uglier than a sincerely held opinion on a stupid topic, and there are few topics stupider, or more ugly, than politics (sports are the only exception I can think of immediately, and even that is debatable: sports, at least, involve some degree of skill). Political discussion is: inextricably wedded to the realities of life such that it must be approached with far more irony than most other things to be neutralized; polarized to such an extent that choosing a position inevitably weds one to an army of allies that might as well be duplicates of each other for all the originality of thought they possess, and might as well be the discarded wrappers that unfortunately litter some sidewalks for all the beauty or deliberation in what they say – and sets one against an army of enemies whose æsthetic potential is as great, and as thoroughly wasted, as one's own; and ultimately ineffective as a way of exerting agency on the world. (I’m sure this claim is controversial; let me clarify. Has anyone changed their mind as a result of reading a political post? I’m sure they have. But do heated political posts on tumblr or Twitter or what have you cause people to enact actual political change? Almost never.) In short, politics are not a worthwhile endeavor.

When one chooses to use one’s online presence for politics, a series of works which could otherwise have been the most finely-tuned of æsthetic creations is dragged down into the grossest realities of mundane life. That, frankly, is what Facebook is for. (Not, of course, that one cannot create wonderful things on Facebook, and I salute those who do; but it is even less the norm than it is elsewhere, and elsewhere it is hardly a norm so much as an ideal.)

I understand that it is hard to keep oneself restrained; hell knows I fail far too often. I know it can seem a fight for one’s very life. I know what it is to be beset with Wrongness on all sides. But I say to you this: it isn’t inescapable. Curate your readings; blacklist what you must. If something must be done, do it, rather than discussing it; if someone must be persuaded, try, instead of fighting; and if you truly cannot stop yourself, at least keep separate the sphere of good from that of politics.

I understand, too, that most can do no better than politics, whatever their subject matter, and I would not ask more than can be given. But among those who do have potential – or at least, believe they do – I offer an exhortation: keep your goals in mind. Keep in mind: you could be better. Remember: there is beauty, and you could be part of it.