Almost everything you read about politics is either trivia or nonsense: the claims of party, the ideological slant of the commentators, the political incantations that will supposedly save the world and more. Most political beliefs are nonsense because parties and factions create fables in which the subject ?projects his shadow? (i.e., attributes his own unacknowledged wickedness to others). Human beings love to mix reality with fantasy, but today?s secular man has no sense of his own dark side. The reason for this is not far to find. Reality is harsh while fantasy softens the blow. Modern man lives in a fantasy-entertainment world in which his self-concept is peppered with unreflective, conscience-free falsehoods (e.g., man?s perfectibility, history as the story of progress, etc.). It isn?t nice to tell the truth about your country, your family, your friends and, of course, yourself. It is very clever to know the truth. It is very foolish to tell the truth in public. That man has a dark side is easily admitted. That you or I have one, I?m afraid, is unwelcome news. And this is the very ground of politics ? including today?s pretense of independent thought.
When a political party says that X is evil and another party says that Y is evil, you can be sure that X and Y are dangerous ? but they aren?t equally dangerous. All projections of the shadow aren?t created equal. One side is usually worse than the other, but the ignorant majority cannot tell the difference. A man of discernment will choose ? if he dares ? and find plenty to disappoint him, even in the correct choice. Is that a paradox? No, it is the tragedy of our existence that we are compelled to live with one evil to avoid another (because we cannot find paradise anywhere or perfection in anyone, though we must live somewhere with someone).
Take a well-known historical example: In 49 BC the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero was forced to side with either Caesar or Pompey (two contending parties in the Roman Civil War). At first he sought to reconcile the combatants; but in the end he sided with Pompey. It was not a question of Pompey?s goodness versus Caesar?s wickedness. As Cicero explained to his friend Atticus: ?both have always put personal power and private advantages before the safety and honor of their country.? The civil war, noted Cicero, ?was a fight for a throne? and not a fight for the Republic. But Pompey was more likely to keep Roman tradition and allow a degree of freedom. Caesar was more likely to level everything. One man?s wickedness differs from another man?s, and Pompey?s wickedness was preferred to Caesar?s. Here is how politics must be viewed at all times. It is not a question of good versus evil. It is a question of lesser evils versus greater evils. Politicians and political parties are not created equal, and their wickedness is not equally heavy.
In today?s global conflict we find America struggling against several enemies. What side should we take? In most countries and most times, people side with their own. But strangely, things are different today. A certain faction has emerged. It prefers to dump the ?patriotic rubbish? of the past in favor of anti-patriotic rubbish. Why not suppose a moral equivalence between Mao?s successors and American businessmen who supervise the movement of cheap oil and other products from one country to another? Why not say that America is a totalitarian country, no different from Nazi Germany? How dull and old-fashioned it is to side with one?s own nation.
The intellectual detachment of the ?independent thinker? may look wise at first blush. But some thinkers outwit themselves. The detached school of superiority isn?t as detached as it believes, and isn?t so superior. There is something to old-fashioned ideas. Siding with your own is perfectly natural. Now we?re all sophisticated and critical. It has become fashionable to side with your own enemies. But consider the absurdity of criticism taken to its logical extreme: If your spouse acts badly, do you immediately seek a divorce? If your child acts badly do you give it up for adoption? If your country makes mistakes do you take up with your country?s enemy? In that case, every marriage must end in divorce, every child must be orphaned and every patriot must become a traitor!
Did Franklin Roosevelt?s worst actions justify the crimes of Hitler or the Japanese in World War II? Do the sins of the free world absolve the mass murderers of the totalitarian countries? Does a listing of America?s crimes justify the victory of radical Islam? Once upon a time everyone knew how to think through such questions ? and the result was nearly unanimous. If your wife, your child and your country must be perfect to claim your loyalty then there can be no loyalty in this world ? and no honor either way. In olden times men knew on which side their bread was buttered. But today we?ve grown impossibly sophisticated, thick and dense.
I say again: Almost everything you read about politics is either trivia or nonsense. But the trivia and nonsense serves a purpose: The real war is a struggle for hearts and minds. It is not waged by reason. It is waged by repetition and gross simplification. For the many too many, to read is to become a puppet. The lines of propaganda are strings that pull and jerk us this way and that. Truly, one must be a strategist in global politics before taking the simplified repetitions of politics to heart. Once you realize what the sides represent, and which side must win if humanity is to avoid catastrophe, then the choices are clear. It doesn?t matter that both sides tell lies, because all simplifications are lies and the public will understand nothing if it isn?t simplified. Pol Pot lied and Bush lied, but the lies are not equal and they aren?t told for the same cause. The right and wrong of things reemerges through the confusion of contrary claims. Not a simple view; but a complex, realistic view.
The truth is brutal and we invariably prettify and improve upon it with inventions. We all do it, naturally and unconsciously. In his book, The Crowd, Gustave Le Bon once wrote: ?Every general belief being little else than fiction, it can survive only on condition that it not be subjected to examination.? The stories we tell our children are more vital than ?scientific truth.? So we?d better take care. Belief is foundational and faith is necessary to life. The problem of modernity may be encapsulated in Le Bon?s claim that ?a nation never has been able to change its beliefs without being condemned at the same time to transform all the elements of its civilization?. General beliefs are the indispensable pillars of civilizations; they determine the trend of ideas. They alone are capable of inspiring faith and creating a sense of duty?.?
And that is why Europe and America are sick. The developed world has lost its faith and its sense of duty (to someone or something higher). We no longer know who we are. The tattoos on the girls and the earrings on the boys, and the sloppy dress and the ignorant minds hidden beneath a great show of decadence ? it all adds up to something. And it?s not just another generation having a stab at individuality. It?s a discontinuity, a break with the past, a collapse of traditional meanings and patterns, an emergence into anarchism and, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote 117 years ago: ?man has lost dignity in his own eyes to an incredible extent.? Deny it though we may, we?ve clung to Darwin?s Origin of Species to the detriment of humanity?s self-conception. We dare not retrace so many false (evolutionary) steps by putting Darwin On Trial. It?s too late to change back. Besides, we?re all such monkeys now that the issues are beyond our shrunken little minds. Darwin?s lesson has been inverted: If apes became men then men might become apes. And apes might run a major newspaper or a cable news network.
Consider what the media monkeys are now promising: the truth in full color. You want to criticize the basis of your existence, as tenuous as it is ? and you want to survive the consequences of this criticism? It?s a good idea to know your own faults, but self-disparagement that arms and equips the enemy has nothing for it. The real truth will wait upon history, but millions will pay with their lives. The fiction of American power doesn?t depend on George W. Bush. It depends on a wonderfully inflatable paper currency and the illusion of continued prosperity.?
? 2005 Jeffrey R. Nyquist