Politics is shit.
When human beings live together they generate conflict, and politics is the resolution of conflict. Just as conflict needs to be resolved, so shit needs to be shovelled. Shovelling shit is necessary whenever a sufficiently large number of human beings live together. You need – somehow – to deal with all the shit. Similarly, when a large number of human beings live together you need – somehow – to deal with all the politics.
I am glad that we live in a civilization where politics is (for the most part) performed indoors sitting down, rather than out on the streets. I am thankful to those who spend their time engaging in the business of politics, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend time in their company. I am the privileged beneficiary of many centuries of development in the science and art of politics. If politics is badly executed, it can lead to large numbers of people dying horribly. All these things can also be said of the noble art of waste management.
I do not like politics. On a personal level, I do not enjoy or relish conflict. So from my point of view, the whole business of politics is something I would like to see dealt with as efficiently and quickly as possible, with minimal harm and minimal spillover.
This attitude colours my entire perception of political debate. I see ‘politics’ as an unpleasant necessity, rather than a hobby. Politicians desire to wield power over other people, and even if that power is directed to good and useful ends, there remains the uncomfortable fact that politicians still desire to wield power. That’s why they’re politicians. Yes, they might be doing it for what they consider to be good reasons, but they’re still seeking to wield power. In this respect, politics is unlike shovelling shit, because some people enjoy it.
The fact that some people enjoy politics for its own sake – the fact that some people enjoy conflict – is a problem. Perhaps its one of those deep and ineradicable problems of human nature. Or perhaps a better world is possible. The victory condition of human civilization must be to have as few people shovelling shit as possible. Civilization advances by increasing the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them, as someone said. So how do we go about reducing the need for politics? How do we reduce conflict?
Or: how do we reduce the causes of conflict? Right now, as far as I can tell, the only thing we know of that actually reduces conflict is technological progress. Technological progress has the potential to make everyone richer, and – ceteris paribus – richer people are less likely to get so angry and wound up that they end up attacking each other.
This is not to say that technological progress is necessarily going to solve all our problems. Technology is the harnessing of scientific knowledge to human purpose, and human purposes can be good and bad. But technology gives us room to manoeuvre. Better ways of shovelling shit ultimately mean longer lifespans and less human misery. As does better politics.
In conclusion, I see the humanity’s victory condition as being a reduction in the need for politics, and a reduction in the need for conflict. This observation is neither original nor helpful, but I like to keep things simple. Politics then, is only worth engaging in to reduce the need for politics. Insofar as blogging is political, it should be undertaken with the long run desire to render it unnecessary.