“In These Times Politics is Everything”

In the preface to The Single Individual, Soren Kierkegaard utters a statement not only relevant to his immediate circumstances, but one that transcends the immediacy of 1800s Denmark: “In these times politics is everything.” Denmark was in a transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary monarchy – a radical change of political system.

Kierkegaard was not one who entered into political discourse at great lengths. But during this transition, the already counter-cultural Kierkegaard could not miss the opportunity to present the faults of not only political dialog, but also of humanity in general. In a commentary on Kierkegaard’s political engagement, Sylvia Walsh writes that Kierkegaard saw the “fundamental problem of his country lay not in its form of government, whether it be the old or the new governing body, but the spiritual demoralization and disintegration of the age which these changes expressed.”

In Kierkegaard’s eyes, both the old and new governments were tyrannies which promoted political and human equality (sound familiar?). While virtuous endeavors, neither were possible and only resulted in sophistry.

What Denmark needed, Kierkegaard posited, was not political rhetoric but a revival of ethical and ethical-religious engagement. Walsh continues onward,”only the essentially religious can with the help of eternity effect human equality…and this is why…the essentially religious is true humanity.”

Americans have much to be woeful about in light of Kierkegaard’s polemic. Americans on both sides of that horrendous proverbial “aisle” need to learn that neither form of government will accomplish their own selfish desires nor the complete and total view of human equality. While virtuous to make informed political decisions that promote equality (it would not be virtuous to elect a tyrannical killer such as a Hitler), it is contra virtue to posit that one form of government embodies total truth and is the path to harmony. Historically, philosophically, theologically, and sociologically this rhetoric fails. Lost is the focus that individuals are hurting, dying, and are in need (physically and spiritually). Sacrifice your rhetoric and do something. The pomp of moral correctness in speech is often separated from the action to which it ought to correspond.

Political commentators, both the professional and the pseudo alike, get over your agenda. Move past the hate, which itself will prohibit human equality, and push towards the ethical discussion that is existentially important. Learn from Kierkegaard, you angry Americans, and learn that true human equality comes only in the eternal age to come. Until then, pursue human equality through advantageous action, not endless cackling, fighting, and circular arguing.

4 thoughts on ““In These Times Politics is Everything”

  1. Johnny D says:

    Good stuff, Mike. I’ve also grown tired of the political garble that talks about change and solutions but only results in bureaucratic backlog. There needs to come a day when politician and honest, concerned citizen are synonymous.

  2. Erik says:

    This is interesting, Michael: “While virtuous to make informed political decisions that promote equality (it would not be virtuous to elect a tyrannical killer such as a Hitler), it is contra virtue to posit that one form of government embodies total truth and is the path to harmony. Historically, philosophically, theological, and sociologically this rhetoric fails. Lost is the focus that individuals are hurting, dying, and are in need (physically and spiritually). Sacrifice your rhetoric and do something.”

    So, are you suggesting then that every human being is an individual? And the equality of individuals is not reducible to countable units? If so, then would not the political rhetoric that promotes the individual and champions self sufficiency within community be the rhetoric that is closer to the truth?

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