A Minimalist Writes on Politics (Or Why I’m Not Involved)

There are two things people don’t talk about in polite conversation: religion and politics. You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?

But I’ve often written about religion, so I might as well offer a few words on politics.

Here’s my bottom line first, followed by some comments, caveats and cautions: Politics don’t belong in my simple, deliberate life.

My views about politics are, of course, informed by what I see in the United States and here in Texas, but I strongly suspect they transfer to other places and situations too.

My Three Thoughts

Here are three things I believe are true:

1. Politics breeds dishonesty. Lots of people go into politics with good motives, attempting to make a difference in how the world works. But politics is a dirty business with established agendas. True reformers suffer one of two fates: they leave the system or are corrupted by it. Since the system is corrupt at its foundation, honest people have no choice but to flee from it or fall into it.

2. Politics is useless silliness. Backroom deals, desks with little voting buttons and form letters sent in response to concerned constituents don’t make for a worthwhile human endeavor. Campaign promises, party planks and carefully orchestrated debates don’t add up to meaningful conversation. Thoughtful people are repelled from politics when they take a close look at political systems. There’s nothing simple or meaningful about them.

3. Politics disturbs the peace. People who are grounded by a belief in a force or being beyond complete understanding have peace in their souls. Some believe this is generated internally while others believe it is a gift from a higher being. But no matter where your peace has its source, politics incites uneasiness. The peace within my soul is elusive enough at times, and I don’t need human-created games getting in my way.

Minimalist Politics

Governments prevent chaos — and often cause it too. I’m trying to make my life simpler every day, and participating in complex rituals aimed at making minor changes in an always-imperfect system doesn’t seem like a good use of my time.

I strongly believe in personal and social responsibility in almost every aspect of life, but regarding politics, I take a different stance: I leave it to those who enjoy games more than I do.

Politics is for people with values fundamentally different from mine. It resides in a domain into which I do not venture because I’m out of my element when I do.

Caveats, Cautions

I live in a deeply flawed but ultimately stable country. The troubled political system of the United States is in no danger of collapse today, and dictatorships are very literally foreign concepts to me. I have the leisure of my apathetic stance toward politics because of this stable system and my luck to have been born into it. Not everyone has this good fortune.

Hitler was a political leader, and so was Gandhi. Generalizations about the character of people who live within the silliness of political systems or try to create new ones can’t be made.

I know I don’t belong in politics because I gave it a try: Years ago, I stood with hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian people on the National Mall, listening to thoughtful speeches. And I wrote about the financial problems of bringing that event to the Mall — as well as dozens of other political stories for dozens of newspapers. I’ve marched down the streets of Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas too. Politics never moved me, and I can’t make myself articulate a message clear enough to move them.

I’m glad some people are willing to do the few thankless jobs for which governments really seem to excel, like building roads and making public parks. That’s why I’m not suggesting political systems need to be eliminated, but I suggest that you carefully evaluate whether you want to be involved in them.

I know you have an opinion about politics, even if you don’t express it in polite conversation.


  1. Hi Gip,

    While I agree that politics is a messy business, full of dishonesty and peopled mostly with those who should not be trusted with power, I think you may be a bit too optimistic about the stability of the USA right now.

    A political system is only as strong as its economic base. The USA is currently showing the first cracks of bankruptcy, and no signs of the changes which could actually create a turnaround.

    While it doesn’t blend into a minimalist life much, http://www.alternet.org is a site with much to offer.

  2. Thanks, Jess, for commenting.

    I’m glad to be optimistic about the U.S. As I said, it’s deeply flawed — as are all the modern democracies that I know anything about.

    AlterNet used to be a place where newspaper writers could resell their stories, and I had several pieces picked up by them when I was doing newspaper reporting. I even made a few dollars from reprint rights. It looks like they are something else entirely now.


  3. I’m in complete agreement about the majority of this. to me politics is pretty much of a joke, a dog and pony show creating (or trying to) the illusion that we have anything to say about what our governments do or how they do it.

    where we diverge is that I don’t think our system is at all stable. I think it’s teetering precariously on the brink of colapse. this, I consider to be a very good thing. all these systems that we have in this country and in the rest of the world don’t work for the majority of people and only sort of work for most of the rest. it’s my opinion that we are at a point in history where one age is changing into another. what this means to me is that the energies that have supported many of the things we take for granted or that we imagine can’t be changed are themselves transforming leaving these structures to crumble. it’s something like the forest fire that decimates the forest and all would seem to be lost, but then new growth pops out everywhere. why waste any time trying to support or in any way interact with these crumbling structures when we have the opportunity to go with the flow and participate in something so marvelous that we can’t now imagine it?

  4. Lorie — Thanks for coming to my blog again. I’m glad you agree with some of what I said.

    I really don’t think we are at the end of age or that the current political systems are crumbling. They are, of course, a silly mess, but they aren’t significantly worse in the U.S. than they have ever been. The names and faces are just different.

    Whatever the situation, we agree that partipating in the silliness is useless.

  5. I’m not a big politics guy either Gip. Ultimately, in our system, in just doesn’t have much direct effect on how I live my life day to day.

  6. Or, as HLMencken said:

    Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.


  7. Interesting post Gip,

    I do thing we are on the cusp of a change in direction, what that direction will be is not clear

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