In today's climate
of political ambition and potential catastrophic disasters like wars and global warming, what are Western democratic elections really about? What do they reveal about the nature of politics and the people who purport to represent us? What do they show us about ourselves?
The competition of individuals and political parties in electoral systems is perceived by many in the West as a healthy sign of a buoyant, even enlightened, society -- especially when this is contrasted with societies controlled by oppressive dictatorial regimes. Perhaps it could be so, but is it actually so? Can the politics of competition, of "us versus them", ever deliver the type of world that most people claim to want -- peace and dignity for all?
Unfortunately the answer is "no" because at a deeper, largely uninspected level, most elections -- and indeed most human interactions at present -- are based on a sense of separation and fear. As individuals we feel fundamentally separate from 'others' and therefore implicitly threatened by them. This mood of fear is extended into the larger domain of world affairs through identification of individuals with organizations, institutions, nationalities, religions and geo-political entities. Whether it was Iraq seemingly threatening the USA and the rest of the world with "weapons of mass destruction", or political parties scaring their constituents with stories of impending calamities if the opposition were to be elected, this disposition of separation and fear unfortunately still dominates the human mindset.
Rather than investigate the origins of these subjective feelings of separation and the mood of fear, to the point of realising their falseness, we instead objectify the world, that which seems separate from us, attempting to defend ourselves against it rather than embrace it. Other persons, even existence itself, can come to be seen as potential threats -- though we remain largely unaware of these underlying dispositions. Identification with one of the sides of a political struggle--such as an election, or a war, for example--becomes yet another diversion from the human spiritual journey that each person must undertake in order to discover the self-possessed lovelessness of their lives, lived in separation, and move beyond that to a more enlightened state.
Other essays of interest . . .
Imagine, for a moment, discovering that everything we had ever done, or believed in, had fear as the underlying motivation; and even more shocking, that this fear was not caused by another person or thing but actually by our own activity and thought. What would the implications be for how we would thereafter conduct our affairs, personally and collectively? What changes would we need to make, in order to adapt to this new awareness?
Whatever the capabilities, intellectual or otherwise, of contemporary politicians, we usually find ourselves voting for people who have not progressed past this narrowly self-possessed level of emotional development commonly associated with children, or perhaps petulant and defensive adolescents-- because we, ourselves, are similarly retarded emotionally. True human politics is revealed however, and ultimately mastered, in the immediacy of our day-to-day relationships. If we are childishly dependent on others for our well-being, we will tend to favourably regard powerful figures who make reassuring promises, hoping they can provide us with the missing sense of security. If we are emotionally withdrawn and defensive, we will idolize those who revel in the transient thrill of competition. Western history provides many examples of this, most of them negative.
What we often do not recognize is that everyone ultimately wants the same thing--to love and to be loved--and that ironically most people in modern Western societies are busily avoiding this very experience. Politics, as it is played out in these societies becomes yet another means of avoidance. It's all "out there". This disposition seemingly relieves us of any obligation to take personal responsibility for our actions, subtle (as in thoughts and emotions) and/or gross (as in physical). If however we were to take full responsibility for our actions and live lives based on that true freedom, we would realize that there are, at a higher level of being and understanding, ultimately no winners and losers in any human situation, including the political ones, only the ache of mutual perceived separation. We would finally come to understand that another person's happiness is ultimately the same as our own, and that we could not deprive others of their peace and dignity and at the same time maintain our own.
Now imagine, for a moment, actually voting for a wise person -- a King Solomon of the Old Testament -- a person of genuine love and compassion, a person of tolerance and courage, a person of profound human and spiritual understanding. You may say I'm a dreamer . . .
© 2008 Eddie Blatt