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.