This is how our world changes.
Not with a word, and not with a weapon, but with the methods by which we use either.
War and politics are very similar, and in fact, can be phrased as the binary human method; ways in which we all advance our goals. Force and compromise. Violence and persuasion. The coin flips as it is tossed into the air, and though it shows differing sides, those sides are part of the coin nonetheless. They may seem opposite, but work toward the same means. They are part of the same device.
War has pushed technology to the brink. From disorganised masses of people beating each other up came formations. Then there were spears and arrows. Then there was armour. Then there came horses, then boats, then legions, then tanks and planes and radio and then there was the atomic bomb, which pushed the era into a place where war can no longer be waged at all, or everyone dies.
The question is this: have we reached the point where politics has become similar? Have we reached the moment where we can no longer have politics?
No, of course not. The simple fact that politics is non-violent (people pushing politics through war are violent, but they are not discussed here) means it can never reach the brink where it destroys the world and therefore can’t be exercised.
Back in the day, when the most massive city in the West had maybe a million people, but probably less, it was possible for people to wander around the city and know, in fact, a huge and significant amount of the population by name and face.
Rome had amazing downward hierarchies. Very involved political rankings, where each position had a specific function. The two Consuls attended to the macro-state. Tribunes represented the people’s interests specifically in the doings of the Senate. There were officials for grain distribution, agriculture, ship-building and trade.
Why do I mention all this? Because it hearkens back to an age where not only could the officials wander around and basically just gather up all the people who might be interested in what that particular official had on his mind, but it also hearkens to an era when the spoken word to each person was the vehicle which drove politics.
Each segment of human history has a period like this. Most recently, the Americans had their “city on the hill” moment where the elected legislature mostly knew all their constituents by name. However, as the American Empire grew and calcified, institutional power became a real thing.
What do I mean by institutional power? The problem with elected officials holding massive power, which Rome also ran into several times, is that each new person essentially has to erase or stop everything the last person had been doing in order to effect their agenda. After all, the state has only so much time and only so many resources (a very historical example of my Finite Resources principle) to do things with.
You should also remember that the military in Rome was a huge political instrument, and functioned as a police force and a massive construction company as well as a national defense force.
Through military activity, politicians also were able to reach people by deed. Stories of conquests and defeated enemies could be verified and spoken about by the people who won them to the people back in Rome and in the territories; the people always had a face to which they could attach the victories which they heard and read about.
That personal touch vanished from the American Empire almost immediately. We know the names of some Generals who participated in the various major wars, but the Americans stopped winning them in 1945, with the conclusion of the Second World War.
How many American Generals can you name, aside from George Patton? Do you think Patton would remember you, or the names of your family?
Politics advanced, in one way, by removing military success from itself. No longer could military victories achieve you office, and in many ways, military service began to disqualify people from rising through political ranks. It came to be seen as a conflict of interest and bad public image, as from Rome all the way to present-day third world countries, military coups became stories of unadulterated misery.
The weird thing is that politics, like the weapons used in war, seems to have developed into a post-modern stage.
I want to point out the major difference though, and you have to follow me through a metaphor, here.
Guns evolved from bows and arrows. Machine guns evolved from guns. Nuclear weapons evolved from artillery shells, which in turn were another side effect of the discovery of ballistics. Meanwhile, politics barely changed at all. A lot of the time, people still used the old traditions and even the method of speech which could easily have fit into Rome’s republic.
This, as the process of making war gradually stilled, then halted. Atomic weapons made fighting a war totally impossible, which transitioned war into a multitude of smaller categorical definitions. Dysgenic invasions, economic war, the possibility of grassroots militaries (sometimes called “terrorists”) deploying chemical or biological weapons or attacking innocent civilians to create distrust in the governments of the era.
We are only now seeing politics change. With thirty years of computers, and the dawning of the Information Age, politics have begun to go, as it were, viral; biochemical.
Politics and therefore identity had become intermingled with the vast web of shared discourse that we call the Internet, and politicians have finally become directly involved. It wasn’t President Trump who started it, but he certainly did popularise and weaponise it through the use of Twitter to deliver his thoughts directly to the people, unfiltered.
In this way, we break and juxtapose with the development of weapons technology. Rather than coming to a post-modern era where politics is no longer possible, politics have actually regressed to a period where they look exactly like Rome, in some ways. Politicians of all types, flavours and nationalities are now able to directly address their potential constituencies, and are able to address the entire world at the same time.
Politics, therefore, have weaponised, and now filter into every detail of life. They are omnipresent, and so people begin to define themselves by those details. I’ve ventured the theory before that when physical war becomes impossible, internal strife begins to take on its form as a way by which the human race begins to compete with itself.
Politics, once weaponised and dispersed down to every detail of online discourse, becomes a central part of our identities. Shortly thereafter, combat is joined, which also begins to filter down to every detail of our lives and online discourse.
That’s why you see so many strange posts on FaceBook which either try to “concentrate on the positives” or have warnings which say, “no politics, please.” People are getting sick of the never ending combat without realising that they are engaged in it, while at the same time engaging in identity politics, animal rights activism, and nearly-religious dietary and environmental campaigns while somehow hallucinating that these are not the same exact things.
The root problem is that a cause can’t attract adherents without one side or other of the political spectrum attempting to co-opt those causes for their own benefit. If a thing doesn’t start, today, as a political chess piece, it is certainly going to end up as one, because every detail, every member of the constituency is now stained-through-to-permanence with political discourse.
What do you do about it?
It’s really up to you. Recognising this process taking place is the first step. Once you understand what people are saying and why, you can begin to understand what they’re attempting to assail you with, or persuade you of.
My own feeble attempt to deal with this problem is to try to empathise free speech, but even free speech has become a political tool of the right. So really, there is no solution, as far as I can tell. You just have to deal with it.