Sunday, January 12, 2020

#12 / Some Good News - Bad News

On Page A25 of the hard copy version of the December 12, 2019 New York Times, I found the following headline:

The article in The Times reported on the efforts of Ignite, an advocacy group that encourages young women to get involved in politics. Click the "Ignite" link to learn all about it. Click the link on the headline to read The Times' article (The Times' paywall permitting).

Getting more young people involved in politics, and young women particularly, is nothing but "good news." At least, that's the way I see it. I was, however, somewhat taken aback by what came through very powerfully in the article in The Times. The young women quoted all seem to think that getting involved in politics, and "getting elected president," is something that is accomplished as a result of individual effort and dedication. There are a lot of "I am going to be president" statements, phrased in the first person, as the young women interviewed tell what they, individually, are planning to do. Their statements came across, at least to me, as a reflection of an erroneous idea of what politics is actually supposed to be all about.

To my mind, the identification of political participation and involvement with individual and personal career advancement could actually be a little bit of "bad news." Our politics is healthiest when it is accomplished through a collective effort, and not when political campaigns and political accomplishments originate from individual efforts for personal advancement. 

What Hannah Arendt calls the "lost treasure" of the American Revolution is the discovery that we, acting together, can create a whole new political world. If you click the link and read Chapter Six of her wonderful book, On Revolution, you will see what Arendt is talking about.

What Arendt is talking about is practically the diametric opposite of looking at politics as a way to achieve some kind of personal career advancement. Think about how our current president conducts himself; he is the model for that kind of politics, and that kind of politics is just "bad news." 

I am hoping that the efforts of Ignite will, in the end, help bring new energy into our local, state, and national politics. But the kind of politics we need is the opposite of individualism. Politics is a team sport!

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