Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Everything is Politics

Jonathan Pageau does a monthly Q&A.  This month, one of the questions regards why political narratives take up so much headspace.  Continuing with the question:

Why aren’t peoples’ narratives about small things, like having food, good friendships, doing a good job at work or school?  I see an implicit devaluation of all small things, and I am not sure where it’s from.

Pageau replies:

One of the places it’s from is people need to feel like they are connected to something bigger than them, so that’s inevitable.  We have to feel like we’re connected to a bigger pattern.  That’s why politics is so important; it is the manner in which we are connected to the people around us.  It contains the narratives that bind us together as a people.  So, it’s very important.

The question is: why is it one of the only narratives that bind us?  The other one I can think of is sports – not for everyone but a large portion of the population.  Here again, perhaps a reason why sports has been taken away – in addition to losing our outlet for violence, we have also lost an institution that brought society together (I say nothing of how healthy this is, just that it is).

Robert Nisbet did a very good job of answering the question – why is politics one of the only narratives that bind us?  He wrote in this in his book The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom.  I review this book through several posts:

·         One Hand Washing the Other

·         Community Lost

·         Community Found

·         No Turning Back

·         Name Your Poison

·         The Revolutionary Essence of the State

·         The Road to Sovereignty

·         Far Cry

·         Procuring Petty and Paltry Pleasures

·         The Missing Link

To make a long story short, all intermediating governance institutions have been taken away from us – stripped on any meaningful authority.  The most important was the Church (Christendom, Christianity), which could stand against the king and hold the king to account.  But it isn’t the only one.  For example, the family is no longer necessary; the university has been completely co-opted by the state.

This has been done with purpose – perhaps inevitable once Christianity was removed as the only obstacle standing in the way of the king becoming what we now know as the state – the monopolist of authority.

Returning to Pageau:

One of the problems we have, because of social media, we are bombarded with the political narrative, it can become obsessive.  Because the social crisis is real, it is also inevitable that people would be taken by it.  It feels like the fabric of their society is being threatened.

This certainly describes the immediate issue, but the “fabric of society” that was once made up of many threads has been torn apart over the last centuries, not the last years.

I still believe that the main solution to the problem is to focus on your sins, focus on your passions, to love your neighbor, at least for now.

He doesn’t explain the “at least for now” part.  It is quite an interesting drop.  As to the rest, he is right, of course.  Most important would be for Christian leaders to do these things, as the only institution that historically has ever been able to keep the king in check – able to keep the king from becoming the state – has been Christianity.

I have developed the many reasons for this in the past, so won’t dive into it here.  In any case, few of the reasons are repeatable, but the most important reasons remain.  These are permanently available to Christians.


  1. Bionic,

    I have just finished going through the entire list of your posts above on Robert Nisbet's book, "The Quest for Community." These must have been published just before I came on board. I am grateful that you have made them easily available for me. It was worth the time.

    I am awed by the depth and perception of thought, not only in the posts, but in the comments as well. Many of the contributors wrote some really good arguments, which raised the level of the conversation well above what it would have been if your article alone had been seen.

    I am also humbled because I can see how deficient and lacking my own knowledge and understanding really is. The concepts and the resources mentioned (which would inevitably lead to more) are staggering and would consume my time if I allowed that. I have a life to live, however, and must be satisfied with gaining more--here a little, there a little--until the day my cup runneth over.

    My thanks to everyone who had a part in the conversation. You are appreciated.

    1. Roger, I have been blessed with the community of commenters here. Almost always people with goodwill. Perhaps one of the blessings of staying small.