So the husbandly-personage and I were talking about Libertarian ideals and as usual, the conversation drifted as we meandered the miles homeward through another hot afternoon. I think you know enough about me already to guess that I’m generally less than hot on talking, or even thinking, politics. Always a topic for argument, disagreement, divisiveness when I’m out of the safe environs of my own little twosome. Even within it, occasionally. And I just plain don’t relish conflict at any level. When it comes to politics, that’s also occasioned by its being one of those few areas in which I am admittedly cynical and tend to lack my usual annoyingly perky attitude of perpetual be-nice-ness that assumes all the best of all humanity. I think when it comes to civility and unselfishness, ours is a race of creatures ill-suited to follow our best instincts.
Which is to say, I think a great many political systems, even democracy for cripes’ sake, look fabulous on paper. There are lots of admirable aspects not just to democracy but to constitutional monarchy, to communism, socialism, even anarchy, not to mention a whole slew of sub-categories within each. And don’t get me started on all of the world’s religions and pseudo-religions and cults, which I may have mentioned in crankypants moments I find are often freely intermixed with political, social and more personal beliefs to the point that I’m quite convinced few (any?) living beings have any clear concept of what any of the aforementioned means by definition, let alone in their originators’ intended forms, any more.
The problem–you can see where I’m headed–is that despite the beauty of many ideas’ intentions, they are very seldom enacted with anything near the purity of heart they might require to actually work. We Homo pseudo-sapiens just have a tremendously powerful tendency to do things to please and satisfy our personal inclinations. We work hard to define wants as needs, to translate privileges into not just constitutional rights but, by cracky, as pretty much divine rights and Not To Be Messed With, Dammit. It’s in this world that, while I think most thoughtful persons will agree that focusing on anything other than actual driving while driving is potentially dangerous not only to the persons in the vehicle being driven but to any others sharing the road and its vicinity, I still had this afternoon the not-at-all-uncommon opportunity to look over at the next lane and watch a driver assiduously texting from behind the steering wheel without the remotest indication that he was worrying himself about whether that was risky for him, let alone aware that we were in a car not one metre distant from him and hurtling along at the same mad freeway pace.
This is the same world where plenty of people know perfectly well that it’s an iffy proposition to suck tar and nicotine into your lungs but do so willingly and regularly and are quite content to share all of their available leftover smog with nonsmokers’ adjacent lungs without even having to be asked for the gift*. *(In this setting, feel free to assume I’m using the Norwegian version of ‘gift’, in which language the word means poison.) It’s the same world full of people well-versed in the basics of their home countries’ and counties’ laws who are still completely willing to flout and break those laws if and when they think they can get away with it.
Crotchety? Oh, yes, I certainly am when it comes to assuming people will do the right thing if left to their own devices. But I’m not exactly sure there’s any cure for that, least of all within any political, legal, religious or social system we’ve yet discovered, and even the most would-be benign autocracy slides off into murky territory and rots from the inside without a great deal of delay. Am I dark-minded enough to say It’s Just Our Nature? Just the way we ARE? Sounds like a quitter talking, at best. But yeah, there’s an element of defeatism or even fatalism involved when I see how far we’ve come along the ol’ human timeline, how many Golden Ages have crashed and turned to ethereal gnat poo in how many stupendous civilizations, how often the stubborn and unsanitary insanity of self-interest has brought down the greatness of the moment . . . well, fill in the blanks yourself. I told you right up front, now, didn’t I.
Meanwhile, I would like to reiterate my longtime belief, what perhaps you could almost legitimately call one of my few real articles of faith, that the majority of people are weirdly, strangely, pretty good at center. Go figure. That’s the basis for my muddle-through theory of salvation–well, continuity. It’s simply that, no matter how awful and disgusting we’ve managed to be as individuals, let alone to one another, and this also on a global level, despite the number of massive historic failures to succeed in being simply ongoing nations and cultures, somebody always seems to carry on. How improbable! How bizarre! How heartening. Okay, alla youse guys, I guess that means we have to soldier on in our own limping, screwy, fatheaded mortal way. If every one of us manages to be just a little bit less self-centered and, what the hey, less often deserving of placement in the time-out corner of life–well, I think we might have a shot.