Whether you are libertarian, republican, democrat, or something entirely different, this post is for you. In addition, I am not going to tell you what politics you should hold because that is not my job. Instead, I want to invite you to consider if your politics are making you sick and if so, what you can do about it.
Here are three important truths about politics:
- Politics are for the sake of people; people are not for the sake of politics.
- Political parties, political systems, and political practices are a human invention. In fact, many of our current political elements or characteristics have only developed within the last couple of decades.
- If our politics are not serving us well, we can always change them.
The purpose of politics is to provide a space for human beings to become more human together. Certainly, politics is also related to the laws we make, how we structure our governance system, and how we handle our economy. But all of these aspects of politics are for the purpose of supporting people in the endeavor of being human.
If politics (and various political aspects) do not support us in becoming more human—if, for instance, politics becomes indifferent to this issue—it is quite possible for politics to make us less human or to destroy different aspects of our humanity.
What does it mean to be human? To be fully human is to develop, nurture, and use all of our unique human capacities. Human beings are social, linguistic, problem-solving, rational, emotional, artistic, inventive, physical, care-taking, spiritual. (I bet you could add a few more unique human capacities to this list.)
The goal of human beings is not merely to survive. The goal is for human beings, as individuals and as a species, to develop all of these capacities. As they develop these capacities well, freedom, beauty, justice, wisdom, creativity, and love become more fully present in the world.
In addition, human beings are uniquely social beings. We possess language to communicate with one another, and we actually cannot fully develop our capacities in isolation from one another. For instance, we certainly cannot develop our linguistic and creative capacities fully in isolation from one another, and this is also true of all of our other capacities to varying degrees.
Our politics make us sick when they do not create a space for us to become fully human together.
What are some signs that your politics are making you sick? Your politics might be making you sick if…
Your politics treat you and others as primarily workers or money-makers, rather than individuals.
Your politics require you to resign yourself to “the way things are” rather than encouraging you to exercise creativity and problem-solving to transform the way things are for the betterment of everyone.
Your politics cause you to measure yourself and other in terms primarily of your productivity and financial standing.
Your politics tell you that you are less deserving, less human or less valuable than other people.
Your politics force people to compete for basic human needs like food, shelter, and medical care, and some people always lose this game.
Your politics emphasize the quantity of goods you have over the quality of life you have.
Your politics suggest that some people are more important than others and that some people are winners and others losers.
Your politics lead you to stop listening to or to dismiss large parts of the population.
Your politics deny or de-legitimize your voice.
Your politics encourage you to look out for you and yours without concern for other segments of the population.
Your politics encourage you to focus on mere survival rather than flourishing (becoming more human).
If your politics are encouraging these mindsets, I invite you to consider that your politics are making you sick because they are destroying the space that you and others need to exercise your human capacities to become more fully human together.
In fact, if your politics encourage you to do this, your politics are encouraging you to operate more like an animal (which acts by instinct) or a robot (which acts by automation), rather than encouraging you to act like a human being.
If you suspect your politics are making you sick, it is important to realize that that politics are a human invention. We created the systems we have, and we can change them if they are not supporting our ability to become more fully human together. I don’t think it is always easy to change these systems, but I think it is worth it.
How do we go about changing our sickness-inducing politics? Here are a few ideas.
We release despair and adopt realistic hope. Politics are not the boss of us. We are the boss of politics. We have the ability to change them, although it is important to be realistic that changing our politics requires thought and action.
We should consider other countries in which politics create a space for human flourishing. There is a measure called The World Happiness Report, which you can read about here. A good place to start in changing our sickness-inducing politics is to consider countries that rate high on this index. The happiness and contentment of citizens is a good indicator of how well the country supports its citizens ability to become human.
In our own lives, we must focus on the quality of the life we have, rather than the quantity of possessions we have. Some possessions are, no doubt, important for human flourishing. However, when possessions begin to take priority over our ability to nurture relationships and nurture all of the capacities I have mentioned above, our possessions are decreasing our ability to become human, as well as decreasing our quality of life in general.
We must vote in such a way that looks out for everyone, not just people like us.
We must talk to other groups of people who are not like us so that we can make sure society is supportive of them, as well as supportive of us.
Lastly, it seems like in our current political climate, a lot of peoples’ politics are making them sick. It is important to realize that this current state of affairs is just that: a current state of affairs. It doesn’t have to be this way forever.
We can diagnose our sickness, and we can work for healing. We are in charge.
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 That is because these expressions are uniquely human expressions—or the degree to which humans can express them is unique.