Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Minor Musing About Politics And Realism And Short Sightedness

Alan Jacobs, who writes better and thinks far more deeply than I do points to a reason that politicians might be so in love with STEM; those "hard sciences" are realistic and politicians love nothing more than poltical realism. That realism is usually concerned with short term gain:
What people call political realism often seems to me a kind of short-sightedness. The idea that valid political action requires us to choose from among the most prominent current alternatives — in short, to decide whether you’re going to be a Republican or a Democrat and then work to bring your chosen party more closely in line with your convictions — makes sense if your chief goal is to gain a political victory and to gain it now. Or soon.
Some politicians might take offense at being charged with caring only for short term political victories. The STEM loving realists may also take offense that Jacobs's reasoning begins in a novel:
We are too prone, I believe, to think that voting is the definitive political act. That would be true only if politics simply belongs to the government. There is a far vaster sphere of politics — the life of the polis — that belongs to everyday acts of ordinary people. In this maybe Gandalf is a pretty good guide: “Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
Offering true comfort instead of empty promises, actually uprooting evil instead of accusing one's opponent of  evil, and admitting that there's a greater sphere of politics than the government should be common sense but this political season those concepts seem radical and unrealistic.

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