Quite often I’m asked the deeper questions privately but this one I receive often enough that I thought I’d share my answer. The question takes many forms, but boiled down it comes to the same thing. “Why do most plain people not vote or get involved politically?” And about half of the time the question is accompanied with reasons why political activism is crucial, or why non-participation is criminal in some way. That’s not always true. Sometimes people are just curious, and I always applaud curiosity. There are cultural, religious, and historical reasons that I’ve written on in great depth. In fact I have a book I’ve written and never published on the subject that delves into my opinions based on these outward reasons, but those arguments are not the substance of my personal answer. This time, I thought I’d answer personally because perhaps that will tell you more about the whole issue than it does any of examination of the parts.
And let me say that my position here is not an exposition of the positon of “Plain People” or of anyone else .
Let me start with this:
The idea that there are political answers to broad moral and social problems assumes that by corporate action good can be imposed upon evil in a lasting and permanent way without the recognition that, as Solzhenitsyn said, the thread of good and evil runs through every heart. The seed of social and moral evil resides in whatever party asserts itself enough to “win,” so the result is akin to cleaning a vessel with a leprous rag. I recognize first that every social and moral ill is in me creating, when multiplied throughout all of society, a gordian knot too involved to solve when two or more parties in ideological opposition are pulling vehemently without a true recognition of the depth of the problem.
The old myth or legend of a man (or mankind) slicing the knot violently with the sword (which is how this ends up, by the way) doesn’t solve the problem permanently… it just shortens the rope. So when I start with the recognition that I am the problem and that sin and hate and evil in me is a fractal of the whole then I can admit that I broke the world and I am not qualified to fix it. Unraveling the knot starts with me and must, in my opinion, be engaged by smaller units (individuals, families, communities) and not by national or international interest groups willing and able to utilize persuasion and numbers to impose their will on the whole.
The idea that parties have solutions is myopic and results, in time, in the conclusion that my enemies or opponents are not wrong… they are evil. They are wrong because they are evil. Conservatism to the Progressive is not erroneous, it is moral evil. Progressivism to the Conservative is not erroneous, it is moral evil. Pots calling kettles black ad infinitum. When moral evil is identified it cannot be long before violence is justified and the consequent of determining that the opposite of me is evil is that I, by default, must be good. And this is the fundamental flaw in the system. It is a flaw because I am not good. I hope to be. I work to be. My religion teaches me that good exists not in me naturally but must be given to me, but the spiritual system I adhere to is not intrinsic to the identification of the problem. And all along I am not talking about you… I am talking about me.
I broke the world, and I am guilty. Not corporately but individually.
At this point I am usually inundated with religious or irreligious opinions of where and why I’m wrong and how I’ve missed it, which laughably puts me in the position of saying “I’m wrong,” and the other saying “No you aren’t.”
Another common response is akin to the common saying (and I paraphrase) that “all that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Without entering into argumentation I would merely declare the logical flaws of applying this statement to my identification of the problem. First, it assumes that to recognize evil in oneself and focus energies on that fundamental problem is to “do nothing.” Second, it assumes that masses of people gathering into parties to impose their opinions or solutions, despite the evident reality that the defeat of evil by evil only multiplies evil, is to “do something.” We haven’t arrived at a solution, we’ve only devolved into competing war parties shouting different flavors of the same failed solution.
Now again, this is my opinion. It is one thing to have an opinion and yet another to impose it on society. So, I start with the foundation that I am unqualified to operate on the heart of man. This doesn’t mean that I deny or reject magistry or government. It means that I take seriously the job of choosing who chooses leaders, and after a thorough vetting process I find myself unqualified and must recuse myself from the job.
This is a very short and concise illustration of my thinking which has been extensively written elsewhere. Someday I may publish the longer treatise, but probably not.
Have a great day,
Joe Putnam says
Interesting Michael. I respect your choice in this matter. Because of the lesser of two evils argument, I have not voted in a primary election since 2012 or an actual election since 2010.
Despite everything men as disparate as Red Beckman, David Duke, and even some libertarians have said about Donald trump, I cannot support him. I cannot condone evil by voting for it, even when it is possibly -possibly- less evil than Hillary.
America is morally and philosophically corrupt. A historically ignorant and unprincipled people abandoned to sin, socialism, materialism, and physical comfort are incapable of ruling their own passions -let alone freeing their government from evil leaders.
Just as regenerate Christian men, despite their wicked human heart and only by the grace of God, can choose a virtuous wife, I would personally think it possible for them to choose a virtuous political candidate for their government. But, as a Christian, admirer of America’s Founding Fathers, mildly libertarian conservative, ethnonationalist, and admirer of Southern agrarianism -I understand that the the American people as a whole would no longer choose a “good” candidate for political office. Not that it particularly maters at this point, as no “good” (moral, patriot, limited government) candidate is running in any national race i know of, and perhaps not even in any state or local races.
Thus we are left watching America slowly self-destruct because of their sin and ignorance, their ignorance probably proceeding from the fact that “their foolish heart was darkened”.
Anyway, it is nice to see some posts from you on nonfiction subjects.
Abby Goldsmith says
Very good points. Especially:
>> When moral evil is identified it cannot be long before violence is justified […]
Good talk on how politics leads more to vilifying “them” than to fixing “me”. As someone dissappointed by a party and a denomination that I used to identify with…I have been seeing that voting for the lesser of two weevils is way less important than living the life I ought to live, loving those around me, and playing my part in spreading the Good News that gives me hope.
Joe Putnam says
I know this post is a few days old, but I was still thinking about the subject matter. With all going on with the RNC last week and the DNC this week, there have been multiple conversations of the lesser of two evils that I have been privy to.
As I understand it, voting for the lesser of two evils means that one volunteers to endorse and aid one evil instead of a greater evil -thus endorsing evil instead of refusing to participate. Let us examine this “logic”. I was recently told, by a 700 Club watching relative, that refusing to vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary. How can refusing to vote be a vote for someone? A Hillary supporter would likewise say that refusing to vote is actually voting for Trump. Which is it? How can no vote really be a vote? If a Trump supporter died in a car wreck as he drove to the polls on election day, did he really vote for Hillary (as he died before casting his Trump vote, thus being in the same position as one who chose not to vote)? Hehe. The “logic” of the lesser of two evils crowd is rather pathetic.