Can this really be so? I say it is, and the reason is that we have forgotten what “politics” means. Ninety-five percent of what we call politics is an epiphenomenon of whatever the bugmen at federally funded research and development centers are putting in their slide decks. The two-party system, with its personal antagonism as unreal as the conflict between Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog of blessed memory, is simply there to ensure that GDP has increased by whatever percentage the sophists, economists, and calculators have identified. When the cost of “owning” a share in most publicly traded corporations has increased at the end of the season or the year, we tell ourselves that we have done politics, and we turn away, if we can, to something else.
This is not politics. It is, at best, a collective denial of our political nature. Politics is simply a term of art, a very old one, for what it means to be human. Human beings are political animals, which is to say we are human in the presence of other human beings. Nothing could be less political than the way we live now, indifferent to or perhaps afraid of politics even in the face of the most urgent political opportunities (e.g., the homeless man shouting at no one in particular because he has been ignored so long that he wonders whether he or anyone else is really there). Those of us who are said to be meaningfully invested in American political life, middle-class and upper middle-class professionals, begin our days with watches telling us our heart rates; we shuffle off, with ears full of meaningless noise supplied by our little boxes, to desks (assuming we leave our domiciles at all) where we sit (or, absurdly, stand) in silence performing tasks prescribed by algorithms of one kind or another for a set period of time. Then we return home and use our boxes to have food brought to us by strangers and attempt to alleviate feelings of boredom also prescribed by computer formulas. If we desire parodies of intimacy, we may find them supplied, once again, via algorithm on our boxes.