Friday, July 15, 2011

Political mysticism

I'm just going to take a moment to ramble about a way of thinking that I notice regularly, and by which I am rankled every time: political mysticism. A political mystic need not have any particular political beliefs-- it is entirely possible for him or her to be anywhere on the spectrum. But such a person is distinguished by the way in which she regards political knowledge and understanding.

Specifically, this person "does not generally follow politics," because it is "pointless and boring, and it just makes me angry" but nevertheless has continuing revelations about how bad things really are. How politicians really are all a bunch of lying scumbags, and nobody seems to know it but our mystic. Our mystic is baffled by this revelation, and a revelation is indeed what it is-- an ineffable, transient, noetic experience. The knowledge conferred in this revelation, which occurs again and again, is that things have become really bad recently. As in, right about the time our mystic started paying attention. 

This fact is both fortunate and deeply frustrating for the mystic, because she has become Cassandra-- only she knows the complete foolhardiness of whatever political activity is under consideration at the moment.  There is a ground of rationality, fairness, and coherence regarding all things political, and she stands on it. Alone. Everyone else-- the people in elected office, the people trying to get elected and the people trying to influence them, and the voting populace in general-- are wandering aimlessly in the mist, either unable to find the two-foot square patch of ground called "Right" where our mystic stands, or deliberately trying to prevent others from discovering it in service of their own agendas. Our mystic, in case you were wondering, has no agenda. That would preclude being Right.

Our mystic regularly opines on political matters, usually angrily, because she cannot understand why everyone does not share her views on pet topics.  She lacks perspective-- the notion that entirely reasonable, intelligent, good-hearted people can hold political views diametrically opposed to hers has either not been considered, or soundly rejected. She finds it liberating in the extreme to have crawled out of one diorama and into another, believing that it represents a paradigm shift in favor of understanding how things truly work. How things have, in the last decade or so, gone to hell in a hand basket and nobody seems to know or want to do anything about it. Now, after having arranged the furniture and settled comfortably into this vantage point, she can resume being confronted with the enormity of how many people have it completely wrong.

"Politics" is for our mystic, by the way, a discrete realm of activity relating to the actions of those people whose power stems from having been elected or appointed. That is how she can talk passive aggressively about being "fed up with politics" or "just not understanding why certainly people don't get it, politically." Even though our mystic votes-- because it is her civic responsibility, by which she earns the right to continue bitching about politicians-- she does not regard herself as part of the political machine. She simply pays attention to it, from time to time, until doing so becomes too frustrating and venting no longer entertains.

Our mystic considers herself empathetic, certain that she knows the motivations of others regarding their stances on specific topics, even though she is equally certain they do not give her anything like the same consideration. That's why they do not share her views.  

What defines this phenomenon, essentially, is this unconscious conviction of isolated insight. It is perpetual without being enlightening, satisfying without being productive, justifying without signifying any actual moral character. In the depths of my soul, I fear emulating the political mystic. I do not want to become her.


  1. Having known a few practitioners of political mysticism myself, this is a spot-on description of them. I hope to see this blog post one day become the first draft of the Wikipedia page on the subject.

  2. We can hear/see these people all the time. The media loves to interview "nobody's", man/woman on the street to discern from their incredible depth of knowledge what THEY think is happening and what should be done. These uninformed opinions are then played for as is if they are some kind of useful and informative news to supposedly help us reconcile our muddled minds. It's useless crap.


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