Freedom From Politics

It is possible to have peace and freedom in your life despite who is in elected office. Having worked in politics, there was some uneasiness I had when I was in the thick of it. It can be fun and fascinating; but, I didn’t really feel like I was making much of a difference in the lives of the people over whom I helped make policy. I later realized what was causing me the unrest.

There were a number of people whom I know who completely lost their reason after the election result last week. They truly believe that the end of the world is nigh. On top of that, a bunch of snowflake millennials are protesting and rioting as if that ever changed an election result.

The first thing I want to point out is that many people get involved in politics for the same reason that many people are involved in their church. They want to belong to something greater than themselves. They want to have an impact on the world in order to not feel small and insignificant. Keep this part in mind, the feeling of smallness and insignificance.

Secondly, many people have opinions that they think will save the world, if only everybody else believed the same thing. In other words, if we did not have diversity of thought, the world would be much better off. There is little consideration for people of different opinion or belief. Politics is all about convincing others to see things your way, to eliminate difference of opinion, or at the very least get the other side to compromise sufficiently without ceding ground. And the opposition does the same.

Third, there are different worlds for the people who govern and those who are governed. I do not mean that there are different rules for different people, although it seems that way with certain individuals. The best way I can explain it is those instances where you have some kind of first world problem, those things that would not matter to somebody living in a hut out in the bush. Similarly, there are a great many things that politics blows out of proportion that don’t matter a whit to the average person. There are also a great deal of things that really do matter to the average person that do not even show up on the political radar. In other words, there is a disconnect between the governors and the governed.

Let’s take this a step further. There is a world of disconnect between the “enlightened” and the people who make the world work. There is a surplus of pseudo-intellectualism in which opinions and values run in lock step because they are fashionable and sound like the smart thing to believe. In actuality, they are shallow beliefs with and actions.

I am trying to be as general as possible because the actual issues are numerous and inane.

What bothered me all those years ago when I was in politics was that all of the great policy battles ultimately were of little use to the average individual. Neither Washington DC nor Austin, Texas put food on the table, set you up for a job interview, or help you pass your next exam. They didn’t teach you manners, how to act professionally, or a good work ethic. In the day to day life of the average person what matters is the next paycheck, the next meal, the next medical treatment, the next night out with friends, passing the next class, and the next step to a better life.

In addition, the people who make the biggest impact in your life are not the politicians in the state or national capital. The most influential people in your life are your parents, your family, your priest or pastor, your teacher, your friends, the local food bank, or the local county clinic. There are people who wake up every day and do their best to make sure people in the community are able to live another day with a full belly and an opportunity at a better life.

Sadly, these great people are often considered sad little people of little significance, when in reality, they are quite the opposite.

There are police and firefighters who keep you safe. There are kitchens that feed the hungry. There are charities that shelter and clothe the homeless. There are community organizations that give out scholarships. There are volunteers who tutor. There are all kinds of people in our communities who help make our little piece of the world a better place.

All these people have a greater impact on your life and your community than some politician in central government. Even a kid flipping burgers at his first job has a greater impact on your life, if you only open your eyes to see what is around you.

When you read the news, pay attention to trips that presidents, governors, legislators, commissioners, and directors make on “fact-finding missions”. They will often visit areas to find out “first hand” what is going on in an area. This is an overt admission that they have not a clue how local communities are faring. Politicians have no way to be aware of every cause, every plight, every danger, every injustice, or every beacon of hope among the people they govern. All they have attention for is what is in the news; and the news has its own agenda.

There are more of us citizens than there are those who would govern us. Ultimately, it is we the citizens who make the greatest impact on each others’ lives. You do not need Washington or Austin to tell you what is right or wrong. You do not need some elite to dream up some program for helping people in need. If you really, truly care, you’ll right wrongs and help those in need yourself.

If all you do is “raise awareness” and wear a ribbon to show you care, you really have not helped. You might feel better about yourself for caring; but, ultimately, somebody else is actually doing the work of setting things right. You take the credit while somebody else shoulders the burden. It is shallow.

Similarly, thinking that your vote is going to change the world is equally silly. Yours is one vote out of millions. It matters only in the aggregate in the way that the sound of a drop of water is lost in the crashing of a wave. Cast your vote and move on with your life. Once you cast your vote, your job is done. You are neither a hero nor a martyr afterwards. You share 1/330,000,000 of the credit or blame for what a politician does while in office.

So, rather than lose your mind about who got elected to what, you should redouble your efforts (actual efforts, not just philosophical talk or symbolic gestures) at making your community a better place. Your hard work and contributions will make a greater impact than some official hundreds of miles away who is busy trying to stay elected.

What I am trying to say is that YOU matter. Your neighbor matters. Your family matters. Your friends matter. Your immediate actions are of greater benefit or harm to them than your infinitesimal vote. Knowing this gives you tremendous freedom from politics. Everything that is good in your life happens at the local level, ultimately.