My interest is the human relationship, personal or impersonal. Many choose to focus entirely on personal relationships in the search for meaning. Family, friendship, love, and reproduction become the cherished totems of those who clutch the personal. These same people turn away from impersonal human relationships that comprise what we call politics. Those with a satisfying personal life shield themselves from the political, and only a presidential election may draw their attention. They tell themselves that politics is entertainment, that it has no effect on their lives. How could anyone living in the aftermath of the apocalyptic 20th century believe that? Politics shapes our lives. You may choose to ignore the political until you feel besieged, or fight against it and allow the political to define your life. Nelson Mandela, the slayer of apartheid, embraced the political and was defined by it.
In the United States, capitalist ideology rules and Republican Party politicians are the keepers of the faith. It’s subversive to believe that capitalism is an ideology, acknowledging such reveals an admission that other ideas exist. In the 2012 campaign for the presidency, the Republican Party finally publicly embraced the cornerstone of their ideology: self-deportation. The idea is to make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they voluntarily leave the country. But the Republican Party has generalized this concept to the whole of American society. Their goals are to drive down wages, to make health care unaffordable, to reduce freedom in the workplace, to increase the surveillance state, to imprison as many as possible, and to maintain never-ending war – all in an effort to make life in the United States unbearable for everyone but a tiny elite.
In response to the broad challenges to freedom and Democracy in the United States, many have chosen to self-deport. The strengthening of subcultures (tech bros, hipsters, nerds, etc.) in American society suggests that huge groups are withdrawing intellectually and emotionally from the prevailing ideology. Unfortunately, this behavior is passive. Hipsters are widely mocked for their revealing passive-aggressive irony and impotence. We need the members of these subcultures to become citizens again to have a chance at change.
Other signs of crisis like Chelsea Manning’s release of evidence of wide-scale government criminality suggest cracks in our ideology. Many have pointed to Ms. Manning’s mental instability in an effort to discredit her. But we should credit her for the compromised mental state and profound sense of alienation that drove her to leak documents that put her life and liberty in danger. Dissidents in the Soviet Union were viewed with the same bewilderment and suspicion of mental defect. But it’s notable that the American ideology has calcified such that we now have dissidents as inscrutable and heretical as Solzhenitsyn.
“You do not become a ”dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.” – Vaclav Havel