Over the years I’ve increasingly thought it interesting that the first two of the Ten Commandments, in essence, warn against …idolatry.
Sure, murder is bad; but that’s way down at number six; before adultery, stealing, lying and coveting.
From a context of politics, anyway, the first two commandments, something like “In God We Trust,” warn against making abstractions (OK, other than God, if you’re an atheist) real.
I’ve come to think of this as brilliant.
Yes, the way the commandments are ordered, from first establishing proper relationships, to concomitant proper behavior, is eminently logical, proper and wise.
But I’m not writing this about wisdom, logic, morality or even sanity; I’m writing about politics. That damnable abstraction, is, as you should know by now, the opposite of all that is good and wholesome. It is delegated force reflecting and amplifying all our fears, jealousy, selfishness, violence…it’s our sins, heavily armed. We’d have none of it if we could behave. But the people in politics tend to behave even worse than the general population.
So, the secular corollary of In God We Trust is, after all, In Politics We Do Not.
So let’s get something straight – there are no such “things” as politics, political parties, nations, “Us” or “Them.” You can’t punch a corporation or tickle a union. You can’t feed an economy to starve a recession because they are abstractions. They exist, really, only in our collective, inherently tribal…and idolatrous, minds.
In real life, human society consists of individual humans and our individual actions.
We may try to delegate away our own part in decisions and actions by claiming some office or duty to a corporation, a government, a racial/societal class, or an army. But in ultimately accountable fact, we, as individuals, choose and act as individuals.
This is the basis of “Austrian School” praxeology, or action axiom, besides being an important message of the Ten Commandments.
Properly understood, this concept of individual choice and rejection of idolatry (assigning judgment and action to abstractions, and/or pledging obedience to abstractions) fully dismisses as absurd such following rationalizations:
- We all must sacrifice some of our own comforts to save the economy.
- It’d be better if our President was (gay, Hispanic, atheist, a woman or whatever)
- Corporations are bad while unions are good; or visa versa.
- It took us a long time to screw up this bad; it’ll take us a long time to do better.
- It’s a cruel, complicated world; we need cruel and complicated laws.
- Those other guys are scary and violent; we need more missiles and soldiers and wars.
Sadly, most of us surrender to abstraction. We solemnly pledge to obey a flag, while complaining that the politics we’ve voted for over and over again, sucks. We know our chosen political tribe is messed up, but insist it’d be madness to vote for any alternative. We suspect our “nation” abstraction won’t be around much longer; but curiously, can’t even describe what that nation really is or how it works (Social Security? Cops in riot gear? Multi-class basketball?). Some of us even advocate a “revolution” to overthrow a government that, doggone it, we freely chose ourselves.
Even ideology can be an idol. One of the oddest things, to me as a candidate (another abstraction, BTW), is how voters will ask me how my ideology differs from the other candidates when we should know by now that ideology has nothing to do with our current form of cronyism. Lobbyists, powerbrokers and bankster/moneychangers rule; ideology has nothing to do with it. That’s what we’ve chosen.
Our abstractions are so deeply ingrained and heartfelt that it’s in fact difficult to communicate without invoking these abstractions…especially in politics…whatever that is.
We could always choose better. But we very, very rarely do.
So, through all recorded history, humanity’s default state has been oppression, slavery, genocide and war. It’s only very rarely that humans choose to live in peace, prosperity and that most rare and precious abstraction of all, freedom.
Yes, incremental decay seems historically inevitable. Rapid collapse happens very frequently. But real improvement in societal terms, when it happens at all (can count on the fingers of one hand) much more frequently happens fast; by radical epiphany and action. A single generation, a single war, a single election, can change everything politically important.
All I can do as a candidate is offer a choice that’s different, and I think better, than what we’ve chosen so far. I’m offering fewer abstractions; a real and dramatic reduction in our reliance on collective abstracted actions that, it so happens, rely on violating much of the other Ten Commandments. Because without abstractions, you know, taxation is theft and war is murder. And those are not good things at all.