This year a few friends, including Clint Townsend and Michael Goldstein, and I participated in a friendly challenge to go as long as we could without knowing which of the two presidential candidates won the election. I weaned myself off of Facebook the Saturday night before the election, which was ridiculously hard, and began taking myself off mailing lists and declaring junk mail.
Most people didn’t ask why. They probably assumed that I am just tired of the bickering, the hate, and the frustration that plagues society during the election season — which are all correct reasons. However, while actively disengaging with political discourse, I noticed that people didn’t change after Election Day. I looked at people and realized that I had no one to be angry with. I didn’t have a face to affix my former rage, which is still dissolving. Caring about what values people should live by has become less and less important in my life. To the few people who did ask me why, I usually replied, “I have more productive things to do.”
For the past five years or so, I have put myself in the center of political discourse, participating actively in community and student politics. Each day, I would read the news and search for developments in politics of every scope. Constantly, I would find myself frustrated with the state of affairs and even more frustrated by the fact that no one seemed to care about the intervention into our daily lives, that there exists a group of people whose egos are inflated enough that they purport to know what’s best for others — what F. A. Hayek called “the pretense of knowledge.” I found it disturbing that individuals actively invest time and money to gain this authority, willing to go great lengths to seize the seats of power. I found it even more disturbing that no one seemed to notice or invest the time to evaluate these individuals and their actions against the backdrop of their sound bites, ignorant that incentives drive people in their decision making. I then began to reflect on why people are generally ignorant of politics, and I realized they must not care because they don’t want to live the lives of the people that do care.
Politics is divisive; it’s the great game of dictums and disciples, of factions and conflict. Draped in the dress of benevolence, power promises utopia delivered by messiahs and prophets — the throne and altar. The saying “the emperor has no clothes” is deliberately ignored; it’s feared by each individual absorbed in other people’s lives, so they cover the shame of their nakedness with decorum and drama telling the you that you must play your role in this great show so that you may support their fractured egos. The political theatre is only a game of shadows designed to cover up inadequacies.
I realized my frustration with the politically ignorant and apathetic was actually jealousy and envy, and I was only trying to guilt them into thinking that I am right and just, truth and reason.
Civil disobedience is a fantastic method of realizing a better world for those engaged politically. No one can disagree with peaceful resistance. However, civil disobedience we know historically demonstrated a resistance to an evil and an advance towards a truth and a justice. Some people may look down on what I’m about to say, but I personally feel advocating a truth and a justice seems relatively pointless, reminiscent of the politician’s pretense of knowledge.
A saying from the Rig Vedic claims, “Truth is one, but the sages call it by many names,” and I think it illustrates my point well. We all disagree with what truth is and how we should get there. I don’t think people shouldn’t care about politics. But, I personally don’t care if you do or do not. Civil disobedience shouldn’t necessarily be limited to resistance against the state and an advance towards a truth and a justice. I think a type of civil disobedience should include a peaceful and active political apathy, one that actively ignores the shadow play of power and instead sees the play of light in between, always remembering that “the emperor has no clothes.” This type of civil disobedience doesn’t require sit-ins or demonstrations, just ignorance of one’s part in the political theatre, which is why I’m not advocating against political activism but rather defending those that would rather spend their time doing other things that don’t require surrounding oneself with what I perceive to be conflict and hate. Go ahead, play any part you want in the great theatre “where perceptions make their appearances, pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety,” as David Hume eloquently put it. Just don’t tell me to play a part I don’t want to play.
Freedom is a state of mind and playing the part of the frustrated anti-authoritarian has become way too old for me. Karl Hess once said, “Radical and revolutionary movements seek not to revise but to revoke. The target of revocation should be obvious. The target is politics itself.” I can think of no simpler way to revoke politics than to actively purge its importance from my life.
Jeffrey Tucker recently quipped, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste on politics.” So here I leave you with a challenge: unsubscribed everyone that posts political things on Facebook, refuse to watch the news, avoid social media generally, always change the subject away from politics, and always make sure to notice the how beautiful the flowers are. Take a holiday away from politics and see where it takes you.