The supremacy of politics in human affairs

I try not to write about politics on this blog. I fail all the time. 

How can you not be political when everything today is political? What you wear is political. What you eat is political. What God you believe in and what you like on Twitter is political. 

“Everything is political” is a win for the authoritarian radicals. It forces you to evaluate your behaviors through the lens of politics. 

Should you be vegan? Should you fight against oppression? Should you combat climate change? Can you do business with Russia? Should you hire more minorities? Are you perpetuating the white supremacy of the patriarchy? 

Even if you believe in personal liberty and that not every single simple preference you have means you believe it should be a policy prescription for everybody, the effects of everything being political are pernicious. 

Because the respect and tolerance of that perspective will not be accorded to you by those who believe they are your moral superiors. 

And so we develop subtle self-corrections. Many people now lie - they falsify their preferences - to align socially and morally with their respective in-group. Since it is the most pure (and extreme) of the individuals in those groups that set their new moral standards, we drift further and further into polarization. 

Along the way, all nuance is lost. Are you for liberty or are you against school shootings? Are you a baby killer or do you believe in women’s rights? And so we start to normalize the policing of others, the only remit being a shaky moral authority I had assumed we had left behind with the enlightenment. 

I seem to remember a time where it was perfectly valid to have reasonable policy answers between those extreme poles. Or to perhaps not have a well-informed view at all, because frankly who cares? Some people might but I choose not to. That’s a perfectly sensible ethical position. 

The entrenchment into polarized groups and the loss of nuance fosters an increasingly wary citizenry that is afraid to be themselves. Some become reactionary. Others retrench. What results, in a convoluted and highly ironic causal chain, is less diversity and less tolerance in our dealings with one another. 

How did we let this happen? How were things so good for us that we let politics become supreme in human affairs? 

What happened to putting individual initiative, inventing things, building our lives, making our communities better ourselves first? Ask not what your country can do for you, and so on? 

What happened to understanding that government and laws won’t fix everything (and maybe shouldn’t)? 

And what happened to having different opinions and being friends? Because the human is not political.