The issue was brought up during a conversation with my friend Sam. Is there
a connection between personal and political attitudes? Is there something in
common between the way individuals face political events and their overall
personal approach to life? That prompted this email.
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2002 06:31:48 -0500
From: Jesus Ortega
To: Sam Moreno
Subject: Political and personal attitudes
Regarding the conversation we had about Tim over the phone yesterday,
I am convinced the main problem is that he tries to make an epic battle
out of everything in sight. His unwillingness to compromise over
anything leads him to fight every single battle as if it it is vital to
the result of the war... heck, as if life is even a war itself!
I still remember an excellent professor I had while in college in Spain who
was also one of the main ideologues of the right-wing of the conservative
party. He taught Political Philosophy, and liked to explain over and
over again that politics can always be explained by the dynamics of a
single duality: friend-enemy. Absolutely everything in politics boiled
down, according to him, to this duality which, as you can imagine, made it
virtually impossible to reach any type of agreement with the opponent.
In case you are wondering who first expressed this idea, it was Carl
Schmitt (my professor's favorite political philosopher). A little
problem is that both Fascism and Nazism drew some inspiration from
Schmitt, and this is something even my professor admitted while at the
same time rightly pointing out that theirs was only one of the many
possible interpretations of Schmitt. Well, that also happens to be
Tim's approach to politics.
(By the way, in case you are wondering, in spite of our obvious
disagreements over political issues that particular professor gave me
not only an A but even a special mention that year. It was one of two
special mentions I got while in college, the other one was in
macroeconomics. So, as you can see, this professor did not apply the
friend-enemy principle to everyday life too :-) ).
Believe me, there was a time when I was also fighting epic battles (in
my case on the extreme left, although never defending violence). I used
to make a big battle out of even the most unimportant behavior in our
daily lives (_every_ single thing we did had a negative effect on the
environment or our society at large). Boy, was I unbearable! As you
can imagine, during those 2 or 3 years my buddies were only those people
who thought like myself. You know, the other people who belonged to the
"chosen few", who had been carefully selected to bring about the Truth
to these unfortunate people who happened to be sharing the earth with
us. Well, something tells me Tim got stuck in that stage. In my
case, I have no problem acknowledging it was a woman who helped me get
out of there.
You know, I am convinced in politics you can find three types of people:
o Those who explain that there is no certainty in the present and look
back looking for the Truth. You know, back in the golden days there
_was_ certainty and people _knew_ what they were doing and what their
goal in life was... or so the story goes. We know what made the past
such wonderful place. Let me share it with you, and you'd better accept
is as it is without changing or interpreting anything because
otherwise the whole building falls appart. Of course, they are not
talking about the _real_ historical past, but rather about an
idealized past that never existed but in their minds.
o Second, you have those who also explain that there is no certainty in
the present and choose to look to the future. You know, things are
tough now but wait a few more years, a few more decades... until some
day we actually manage to build heaven on earth. It's only that so
far nobody found _the_ answer, _the_ guide to take us there, but I just
did. Let me share it with you, and you'd better accept it as it is
without changing anything or interpreting anything because otherwise
the whole building falls appart.
o Finally, we have those who explain that there is no certainty in the
present... but there never was in the past either, and there never
will be in the future either because uncertainty is intrinsic to the
human soul. No matter how good our knowledge gets, we will never be
able to explain nature with absolute and precise accuracy. Therefore,
all we can do is join our forces together and try to work it out.
Then, after a while, we'll come back and reassess what we did to see if
it worked or not... and, please, bring in your friends, relatives and
neighbors too. The more we are, the merrier. After all, since reality
is uncertain, the more we are trying to reach an agreement over what to
do... well, the better chance we'll get closer to explain it.
Stay away from those who fit the first or the second descriptions. They
only mean trouble.