I wrote a thing the other day on my Facebook that ended up causing some consternation:
It should be first noted that this was little more than a casual, random thought, a variation on a theme I’ve shared before. Take this lazy meme-a-thingie I posted long long ago on November 22, 2016:
I should think the basic sentiment is obvious: politics is the continuation of violence by other means, to echo von Clausewitz. In the universe which we inhabit, force is the only method by which things may happen. They must be caused, not willed, and the best way to do this has often been to randomize the mass in critical areas of other people’s bodies and acquire their stuff. Through a massive (and comical) amount of trial and error, we’ve slowly discovered violence isn’t a particularly efficient form of getting things done and ought to be used more sparingly. As an alternative, we’ve turned to Politics *dramatic music*, creating a new battlefield out of whole cloth that has at least as much consequence as the old, but is fought on with ballets instead of bullets.
I am a very clever writer.
The problem is that people forget this basic history and seem to want to think that violence is a dirty relic of a ancient era of barbarism, a cadaver of Voldemort we mustn’t ever name again. I will remind them that we in the First World killed, like, 100 million people in our last major war less than a century ago. We’re not so far from violence as we like to believe. The clean, polite, gentlemanly political systems we’ve worked so hard to build over the centuries are, like everything else we’ve ever built, very fragile things. They rest upon an abstract sense of “legitimacy,” a scholastic word that means “buying into nice-sounding bullshit.” None of this “democracy” stuff is objectively real. Ballots are just pieces of paper. Their power, influence, and authority exist entirely in our minds. Ergo, it’s very important to ensure our political systems remain something people can continue to buy into without feeling like chumps or suckers. If we’re going to continue playing this artificial game of politics in order to not play a slightly less artificial game of killing each other, enough people need to think the game is fair and has sensible rules. Otherwise that relic might seem appealing to them again.
Which brings us to that Theoretical Republican Senator of 2050-something I mentioned. Let’s call him, uh, Don Eagle, because freedom or something. Don Eagle is part of the Republican Party, which is currently really keen on putting a fifth judge on the Supreme Court of the United States so that they’ll have a majority out of nine judges, which they can then use to force their ideological vision of America onto a huge majority of Americans. The more popular topic of discussion of the moment is Roe v. Wade, but given that Americans support that ruling by a solid 2-1 margin, I’m a little skeptical as to whether their potential cabal might actually pull that lever instead of bunting the question to the states. What worries me about this cabal is more, you know, global warming, that thing we have maybe ten years to really do anything about before we enter completely uncharted territory, dealing with climate parameters no human has ever dealt with before. Can you guess what a hardline conservative majority on SCOTUS would say to, I dunno, magical bipartisan legislation in 2024 (which will definitely happen) that might move the dial a bit away from utter disaster?
Again, a decade. Meanwhile in the decade, SCOTUS conservatives strike down every attempt to reduce the effects of climate change at any level: federal, state, local, and it’s pretty obvious as to why: it’s not because they sincerely believe in keeping Big Bad Brother from butting into your very private affair of spewing carbon into the atmosphere that everyone and everything else depends on, so obviously nobody has any legitimate reason to be interested in it ever, certainly not the GOVERNMENT, but because they’re ideological hacks who couldn’t care less if that’s a reasonable position to hold on such a vital issue. Couch it in whatever legal gobbledygook you like, but eventually people will catch on. This would turn SCOTUS into nothing more than an arm of the Republican Party for a lot of people, i.e., not an independent watchdog of the law. Guess where that goes after enough mistakes.
So when I say that, yeah if you remove yourself 30-odd years into the future, where global warming is likely to be much more Serious Business with increasingly longer, more brutal summers, Miami under water, and China finding out the hard way that aging is a thing that happens, you can imagine the people of that era being sick and tired of our crap. I’m gonna be sixty in 2048. I wouldn’t be surprised if my great nephews or whoever might be a little pissed when they ask me why we didn’t do anything to stop this and all I have for them is this lame “Well, you see, rules were rules at the time.” If we screw it up so badly, they might decide to kill us all, especially Don Eagle crowing haughtily lifetime appointments for their guys in fancy robes who keep hindering every attempt to address the problem that’s making everyone miserable and/or dead. Should ballots stop working, they’ll go back to bullets. And why wouldn’t they? What rational person would persist with something ineffectual that no longer serves even its ostensible purpose? Returning to violence as a tool for resolving social disputes wouldn’t be a good thing, but it would make perfect sense to the people doing it, and none of the arguments from our time would mean anything to them. What good is politeness or civility if this is where it got them?
So, can we not bring back guillotines? Can we not let things get so awful to the point where that seems like the sane alternative? By the way, that doesn’t mean being more nice to people. It means getting off your cozy fence and putting your feet down on some uncomfortable ground. There’s a growing consensus around many important issues that’s going to leave a lot of people out in the cold: climate change is real and we need to act; women and minorities still aren’t getting a fair chance; the rich don’t pay what they should; big companies have too much power. There are a myriad of ways to go about fixing these problems, but the problem isn’t that we’re too mean to each other when discussing that myriad. The problem is that too many people don’t agree these are problems in the first place. They think they’re lies or hoaxes. What do you say to that? Like, what’s the compromise? Seriously, what is it?
Remember how I said politics is a battlefield? Well, what’s happening in our country right now isn’t a new era of incivility we ought to lament, but the culmination of a protracted war between two opposing sides whose views are incompatible. This isn’t the first time this has happened: we used bullets once instead. We’ve only gotten to this point because all attempts to find common ground have failed. None of this would be happening if there were any left. Too many people in too many important positions think global warming is a Chinese gimmick or something, and they can’t be reasoned with. They have to be defeated first and driven from the battlefield. Once that camp isn’t a viable political force, then we can hash out how much of the free market and government we want to use to stop the world from burning.
Until then, being too fixated on the mere ugliness of politics just brings us one step closer to Don Eagle’s unfortunate date with a giant French bread-slicer.
This is one of Giphy’s search results for “guillotine” and now nothing makes less sense.