09 January 2010

Where to Begin?

Over dinner last night with a family friend, the conversation turned to politics. Unsurprisingly, I was the voice of pessimism and apathy while Bill's was that of civic involvement and cautious optimism. I said that politics made me automatically shutdown because:

  • What's the point when no one listens?
  • It only makes you angry and frustrated.
  • It is so often trivial and inane.
  • It is totally uninteresting, especially when compared to history, classics, science, literature, &c.

He made the Zinnian argument that you must take a position and be informed in order to be an intelligent, responsible person. I would love to agree with him, but this approach makes me feel forced into politics because the world is so often fucked up by assholes and idiots. Why should my time, emotions, energy, &c. be manipulated by assholes and idiots?

I'm afraid I came off as an indifferent prick, the type of person who if more active could actually make a difference despite his or her negative predictions.

I have thought about it and agree with him, with a few caveats. I don't think that I should be obligated to be involved in the political "discourse" of the United States merely because I am a U.S. citizen or in the vicissitudes of the global political clusterfuck just because I live on this planet.

What I do think is that one should be involved in reducing evil/suffering/stupidity/&c. in the world in some way. Any way. If I choose to try to tackle starvation or child abuse or human rights abuses anywhere in the universe, that should count just as much as emailing my representative in Congress or drawing up petitions. One could even argue that the former causes are much more important than the latter ones.

The most challenging part is that the world is so supremely fucked up that I don't even know where to begin—and if that's the case, anywhere is better than nowhere.

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