For irrational reasons, I always experience a surge of hope just before elections. Somehow, I expect something magical to happen. Maybe all the independents and minor party candidates will win — Congress would be MUCH more interesting and helpful and productive if it was Libertarians and Constitutionalists and Greens and Socialists.
But the blunt truth is that at the present time there is no political solution to our four-fold dilemma — economic irrationality, climate instability, political criminality, and peak oil.
There is no political solution because in the United States our politics do in fact grow from the people. Because We the People of these United States are greedy, wasteful, narcissistic, and violent, so is our government.
If we want a better government, we have to become a better people. That means that We the People, as individuals, families, and households, must become less greedy, less wasteful, less narcissistic, and less violent.
I accuse myself first and foremost of complicity with these continental-scale structures of evil. Whatever I have done, has not been enough. I, personally, Bob Waldrop, must do more to lessen the greed, waste, narcissism, and violence that is embedded in my life and that of my household and in those areas of life where I have some responsibilities.
Because that’s the problem. It’s not that I stand before the mirror for hours a day admiring my good looks and praising my self. I don’t wander around drunk and stoned looking to get into fights.
But there is violence, greed, waste, narcissism embedded in my life. Every gallon of gasoline I pump comes with a cost in blood. Every ounce of packaging I throw away embodies waste. Etc.
There is a spiritual discipline known as the Examination of Conscience, where, in a somewhat organized way, we review our life to discern our issues — our sins — and to come to an understanding of how we need to amend our “ways and manners of living.” Going forward, I recommend that practice to us all as a matter of political reform, and to assist in that process, I am beginning a blog series whose working title is — “A Secular Examination of the American Conscience”.
We have met the enemy, and he is us. But we have also met the leaders of our future salvation, and that is also us. Within each one of us is both the Enemy and the Savior and I think it is a fine thing to picture that reality in the traditional form of the little devil sitting on one shoulder, and an angel sitting on the other, whispering in your ear, for that really is what is going on. Voices everywhere call us this way and that way and one of the most important secular and spiritual graces in this post modern, devolutionary world is discernment of “spirits” and of choices. In a world of a multiplicity of options, the ability to make good, better, and best choices is a practice to be cultivated.
So it comes to pass that at the present time, whatever you do in the ballot box on the various election days, what happens on the other 364 days of the year is of more importance. Let us learn to vote with our bodies — by what we do and don’t do, by how we spend our money, by where we give our attention — to make the world a better place.
Long ago, Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Everything we do has consequences — for good or for ill. The path towards developing your ability to make the best choices is paved with observation and evaluation that is informed by virtue. And what is virtue? “The habit of doing good.” This is praxis — action informed by contemplation — and it is a way forward into a better future than what we presently see coming at us.