In the TV miniseries adaptation of the play Angels in America, the city law-clerk protagonist at one point pronounces that politics have transplanted religion in America, and in fact have replaced it. He says this with zeal, as if it were emancipation.
It pains me to think about that, but pains me more to consider just how correct (if depressing) an observation it is.
Lines have not been drawn, but cut into the tree bark of North American society as if with a pocket knife. You are either one thing or another – you cannot be a third; this is a very American pronouncement. The United States has traditionally always been about distilling conflict into two polarized Hatfield/McCoy entities. You are either Democrat or Republican. You are either a capitalist or a socialist. But this language, particularly over the last few years, has seeped into Canadian political (and trickled down to social) culture. Partisan hackery, demagoguery, journalists berated by right-wing think-tanks into believing that they suffer from left-wing bias, and the left ineffective as ever at conveying any sort of unified idea of what the hell it’s trying to say.
During the last federal election, our Prime Minister commented that “ordinary Canadians” couldn’t sympathize with pleas for restored funding from arts communities when said artists were, as he put it, always seen celebrating at taxpayer-funded galas. There was a brilliance in this (bald lie of an) accusation, as it was obviously never intended to promote discussion. There was no debate intended to be had; the intent was to rile the artists, causing them to get angry and speak-out publicly, with the consequence being that “ordinary Canadians” (ie. supporters of Harper or those already on the political fence) who saw this behaviour had their suspicions confirmed: artists are ungrateful. Art is a drain on national resources. How dare they ask for more of our hard-earned money (which “ordinary Canadians” spend liberally on movies, music, televisions…). The nerve.
This is a perfect example of how the dark science of politics have usurped the dark magic of religion. You are either a follower of the ministry or you are a shameless sinner. A “neo-con” or a “fiberal”. The role of partisan perversion in the distortion of ideas and communication is to conquer the citizenry through division. Demagoguery is an alien-sounding word which, used as an accusation, elicits shrugged shoulders from the general public nowadays. And yet, it perfectly describes what politics have devolved into.
I do not hate religion in itself, nor do I hate politics. Rather it is those treacherous, self-interested few who have the most to gain from either of these pursuits that I do not like and whom I will fight against (if only philosophically) so that they will not achieve power.