Origin of Politics

5 06 2016

Thursday seemed to be the last final piece of the Trump ship, making possible a unified sail towards the White House. Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking elected Republican, after weeks of waiting, hesitation, or whatever it was, endorsed Donald Drumpf’s nomination for the presidential race. The last few paragraphs of the coverage in the NY Times article is somewhat telling:

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said the Republican Party is now “the party of Trump.”

“Speaker Ryan’s abject surrender makes it official,” he said in an email. “The GOP is Trump’s party now.”

“Surrender”. Given the description finds its origin from the keyboard of the opposition, it cannot claim it to be an unbiased critique. But ‘bias’ doesn’t always negate truth, and here perhaps, the word surrender is telling of the nature of what the political system has become.

When modern people think of politics, the initial descriptions that come to mind are ‘corruption’, ‘power’, ‘policies’, and the like. Ryan’s ‘surrender’ seems fitting in such a climate of politics, where power is the overarching drive. Ryan to his credit seemed to be one more for principles rather than power. The Trump ship is more Machiavellian than The Prince, and it’s slogan of power can only be contended by it’s fragile desire for popularity.

Thus, ‘surrender’ is appropriate.

The irony, for one who knows a little of the classics and the origin of politics, is that power was not supposed to be centerstage of any well politically functioning society. Politics was a word representing polis or the city. It was about the city and the good of the city. Aristotle hints at what happens when power finds itself in the spotlight:

When states are democratically governed according to the law, there are no demagogues, and the best citizens are securely in the saddle; but where the laws are not sovereign, there you find demagogues. The people becomes a  monarch, one person composed of many, for the many are sovereign, not as individuals but as an aggregate…such a people, in its role as a monarch, not being controlled by law, aims at sole power and becomes like a master, giving honour to those who curry its favour.

Us moderns like to think ourselves advanced, but in the current realms of politics, I daresay, we have devolved from even the standards of the ancient Greeks. Politics will never be void of power, but politics will never be helpful if power is an object to attain rather than dispensed for the good of the city. And though I am pointing a finger at Ryan for choosing power over principles, perhaps I will stop. Because I still want to a have hope. And hope rarely thrives in the bed of blame shifting, it thrives among the responsible. And so, I stop with the blaming and move to do more optimistic pointing. Without negating the importance of the federal government, I want to spotlight the importance of the polis, the city. And Mayor Kasim Reed can do a much better job than I at that, so to conclude, here he is: “How Are Mayors Better Poised to ‘Get Things Done’?

The Error of Democrats, the Stupidity of Republicans…

25 08 2010

Teachers in public schools, to my current knowledge, are not allowed to teach Christianity, or more or less accurately, are not allowed to proselytize. People argue that this “great” nation was founded on Christian principles and are now destroying the very pillars upon which it was built by progressively excluding religion in the formulation and regulation of law. Though interesting and important as it is, this is not my debate. My argument here is that the democrat’s philosophy of law in relation to religion is erred and contradictory, and yet the way in which the republicans try to contend such error is not far from stupidity. The error in the former’s philosophy in their striving to exclude religion in the public square is, to be nice, naive. Yes, institutional religion can be excluded to some level of success, but religiosity or spirituality, the attempt to stop the permeation of such into the public square is like trying to strain salt from water (it’s not possible except through distillation, unless I’m forgetting some other complex chemical process, in which case, excuse my deficient analogy). The stupidity of republicans is seen in their tendency to belligerently fight head on. Trying to fit in creationism into the science classes to contend evolution. Just “fighting” the surface battles without knowing the underlying strategy. Leslie Newbigin, in A Word In Season, speaks of the West’s reaction to the religious zeal of Muslims and it sheds light on America’s bipartisan ignorance.

To Muslims, whose belief in the existence of God is not a matter of personally chosen values but the supreme fact, blasphemy is a terrible crime. For Western intellectuals, who have long ago ceased to believe that God really exist, the uproar is incomprehensible. Since the nation-state took the place of God in European thinking as the supreme disposer of health, wealth, and happiness, treason against the state is treated as the supreme crime, for which even democratic societies will award the death penalty. But blasphemy against God has no significance except that if offends the feelings of a few people who believe in him.

Newbigin points out the democratic freedom of religion only seems possible as long as the god in place is the nation itself. That is why the West takes blasphemy too lightly, and it is nowhere near treason, because blasphemy gives no insult to its true god, the nation-state. Whereas, the East, or at least the Islamic nations, possibly consider blasphemy worse than treason, or treason is subsumed under blasphemy (I am in no way condoning terror activity as a proper response to blasphemy). The real issue, then, in discussing religion and politics/law,  is not which religion you believe but what is your god? Not everyone may have a religion, but everyone is religious (synonymous here with spiritual), this is our unchangeable nature, which our democratic culture wrongfully denies. I am not vying for the merging of the church and state, but the question still remains: How does the public law relate to religious law in a democracy? Which gets precedence? Priority?

To make the question more interesting, and to throw in a context different from American political philosophy, here’s an article about France banning the Islamic full veil in public. What if America banned the wearing of crosses in public (not that Christians are required to wear crosses)?