Anti-Politics, or the Disease of “Politics”

Two attitudes, two completely divergent positions, are possible for man, and he finds the face of everything different accordingly as he chooses the one or the other. He can if he will put himself in the presence of God and the mystery of being. Then he has a clean conscience and a clean heart, revelation and intuition are vouchsafed to him,  the true primordial creative spirit appears, he reaches to the very source of all.

On the other hand, man can if he will put himself only in the presence of other men and with society. Then his conscience and his heart cannot be pure, revealed truth is changed, religion is reduced to a social fact, the light of intuition goes out and the glow of creation is cooled, and falsehood comes into its own, it is recognised as socially useful and even indispensable; man, whether conservative or revolutionary, is valued only in relation to the daily social routine and he can no longer attain to the ultimate source; even the voice of God can be heard only as an echo from the reality of society.  (Nicolas Berdyaev, The End of our Time, tr. Donald Attwater)

I discovered this wonderful quote from Nicolas Berdyaev on The Ghost of Elberry website. It is a profound statement, as it touches also on the meaning of the “True Self” and the “False Self”. I have heard of Berdyaev — his thought has been compared favourably with that Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, in fact — but I have yet to read anything by him. “The End of Our Time” sounds like the very thing I should read (and as an antidote — the obverse of the coin, perhaps — to Mr. Fukuyama’s triumphalist “End of History”)

Everything in the second paragraph from the quote really pertains to what we now call “politics”, and is a description of the condition in which political life has become a social disease. I’m of the opinion that everything that is today formally called “politics” is only a degenerative disease of the social nervous system. It is a kind of psychosis with all the characteristics of a delusional and paranoid schizophrenia.

Nietzsche once described himself as “the first anti-political German”. I suspect that what he probably intended by “anti-political” in the context of his own time was the meaning “counter-reactionary”. Anytime anyone takes upon themselves an “anti-” position they invariably implicate themselves and entangle themselves in the very thing they so radically and attitudinally oppose (and there is really nothing apolitical about Nietzsche’s philosophy). To be “anti-political” becomes just another political stance or “point of view”. Being anti-political just made Nietzsche all the more morbidly fascinated with morbid politics. He already foresaw, early, the morbidity in “herd” politics that was later to become known as “Nazism” and “fascism” (or Stalinism, for that matter).

“Anti-biotic” also means anti-life. Being “anti-capitalist” does not assist in disentangling ourselves from capitalism as a system of human relations which has also become morbid. The issue is to transcend it. That is Berdyaev’s meaning, really. It is not to take a stance of “anti-politics” or “anti-” anything, but to transcend the dualism — to overcome the “two attitudes” that give rise to “two completely divergent positions”.

For what is Berdyaev describing here but the psychopathy of a man divided between his Dr. Jekyll and his Mr. Hyde? And this is what politics is today — a contest and competition, in one soul, between a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde. The political trash-talk so prevalent today in the media is the voice of Hyde. Unfortunately, Mr. Hyde is “winning” (which “winning” is also a self-destruction). That’s why we speak of the condition of late or post-modernity as being also “post-Enlightenment”, too. It is what I’ve called “The Big Ugly” as that having now become our era’s inevitable fate.

“Guns or butter?” asked Nazi Minister of Propaganda Herr Goebbels and Reichsmarschall  Herr Hermann Göring, and decided in favour of guns. A society that finds more “reason” (as they call this today) to expend its wealth on weapons and armaments (as Canada now does) than on “butter” (ie, social welfare) is a society that has become politically morbid and nihilistic, if not outright sociopathic.

All that is called “politics” today is nothing more than a socially transmitted disease spread largely by the mass media. So, I’m not surprised, as W.B. Yeats put it in his ominous poem The Second Coming, that so many otherwise capable men and women now refuse to enter politics today, for “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.To describe what is today called “politics” as being “public service” is a monstrous deceit.

“Politics” — my word for what has become a degenerative disease of the social nervous system.

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2 responses to “Anti-Politics, or the Disease of “Politics””

  1. amothman33 says :

    The other day I was reading an old, article by Stephen Gowans, remembering at the end an old Pete Seeger song called the torn flag, it goes thus,,And then I took this stripped piece of cloth, and tried my best to wash the garpage off, but I found it had been used for wrapping lies, it smelled and sank and attracted all the flies, and the sobering addition by an American Indian called John Trudel that goes,
    This story is never going to end, with everybody looking, g the other way, getting lost in let us pretend, trying to make it through another day, come a time when we must face, the reality of what is taking place.Your post is the realisation of the reality of what is taking place. Wonder and horror are entertwined. Nothings are saved , but the first type mentioned by Berdyaev and those who follow them It is a millennium of Revelation.

    • Scott says :

      “a millenium of Revelation” may well be right. Mr. Gebser would certainly appreciate your words, Abdulamein. But I’m also cognisant of the fact that this “irruption”, as Gebser calls it (and which has the meaning of Greek “apocalypse” in any case), appears as madness to others not so “blessed”, as it were. There is a certain sense in which the old statement “those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad” applies to this irruption and those who undergo it. Gebser calls it “an intensification of consciousness”. But the old Christian term for that is “the quickening”, and it often does appear like madness (and some of it certainly is). Any intensification of consciousness first appears as a kind of madness — “divine madness”, as it is called. And many don’t survive it. Hallaj, for example. But there are many others where this quickening, intensification or irruption was pre-mature for their times, and they were either burned at the stake or committed to a madhouse… or worse.

      A contact of mine sent me the last article that Jean Gebser published before his death. I’m trying to find a way to distribute it to the interested, or maybe I’ll just post it and wait for some interested party to threaten me with a lawsuit.

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