Politics is dirty.
At the same time, to many people, politics seems as essential to human life as taking a poop. Which is pretty dirty, after all. Or having sex, which all things considered (and however big a deal people make about it) is pretty nasty too.
But in a lot of ways, politics is worse. Much worse. It seems like someone taking a dump and then rolling around in the excrement. Or picking it up and chasing down people to smear them with it – against their will.
Sorry if I’m disgusting readers right now. But you will be able to see my point here soon.
Politics is dirty because of what it does not just to society, to people in general, and to our environment, but because of what it does to those who practice it. Some people who get into politics are already corrupt and contaminated by the evil; but for others it is the engagement in politics that corrupts them more and more as time goes on.
Why is it so despicable? I am sure that many readers feel this way, even though we we may have a hard time expressing the specifics. Let me suggest one: politics is itself an infectious and harmful disease: one against which humans have few natural defenses. As physical diseases attack our bodily weaknesses, politics attacks our mental, moral, and ethical natures, preying on our weaknesses. And does so in subtle ways. We get infected by society constantly harping on the idea that we want to help people and can do that by getting involved in the political process – especially by running for and serving in office, or seeking appointment to “non-political” (that is, unelected) office. (Which is itself a lie: appointment to a board or commission or “civil service” office is JUST as political as running and getting elected. Both in how it is done and what people do in that position.) Politics is the “natural way” of dealing with the problems of society and individuals. It is the ring that rules all the other rings of life.
Once you are in politics in some way, it is then that you are exposed to, infected by, and suffer from what I’ve headlined the politicians’ disease. What does that consist of?
Part of it is hubris – pride: “I’m the best person for this job and a majority of voters (or at least a plurality) have said so. They validate me.” Or if not successful in your race or seeking appointment – “a lot of folks think I’m the best person and I can be proud of that – even if not ENOUGH people think so (yet).” With a constant drumbeat of what a wonderful person you are – campaign ads, recommendations for appointment, and so forth – it is a human weakness to start to believe that.
Pride naturally fosters arrogance. “If I’m so good, it is my responsibility to do good for as many people as possible, because I know better than they do. So listen to me or else!” Like ancient kings, the politician (and bureaucrat) constantly has people whispering in their ears about how great they are, and start to believe it, and as they grow in power and influence, are more prone to act in an arrogant way.
This is directly related to a growing sense of both invincibility and infallibility. “Everything I do is right because my goals and ideals are right and I must do everything I can to achieve those goals which everyone (I listen to) praises so highly. My cause is right because (in my own eyes) my heart is pure. My motives are among the best and purest!”
And that in turn leads to the most serious symptom of the disease: corruption. The ends justify the means. “I must sometimes make compromises in order to move closer to my ultimate goals – my goals to serve my fellow man and give them what they need. My objectives are so good and so important that I must be willing to take shortcuts and even do things that are wrong (in and of themselves) and for which I rightly condemn others, to accomplish them. And because I am so obviously the best person and have the purest motives, and am working towards doing the right thing, I can take from others the resources I need for myself, my family, my friends, and my supporters. Indeed, by taking those things from others no so worthy and important, I am doing them and society good by preventing the waste of those things.”
Ugh. I’m done with wading around in the sewer, for now. Just discussing this is disgusting. And without a doubt I can see the temptation to do such things myself – a battle we must all constantly fight.
And that is the point: everyone, to some degree, is exposed to infection by a politician’s disease. And based on circumstances and our mental and moral health, we are more susceptible at times than not: more tempted to embrace the idea that if we want to do good, we must have power and therefore are justified in taking that power. We cannot really expect someone else to protect us from that infection, that temptation.
We must, rather, resist it ourselves: internally. We must govern ourselves, control our own appetites, our own cravings for power and prestige, adulation and control. We must be self-governors. Oh, we can’t necessarily do it alone: it helps to have others encourage us and share the burden. (And to resist our tendencies to lord it over them, of course.)
But ultimately, the choice to succumb to the disease (or diseases) of politicians is ours and ours alone. As is the choice to submit to the vileness that diseased politicians seek to force on us because of their disease.