Politicians are a shadow. What casts the shadow?
I have been writing about politics lately. Now I will turn my attentions to a wider subject, minds and consciousness.
It is a great virtue of history that—through its study–people can be cured of thinking they are undergoing something unique, when in historical fact something very similar has happened before. Harper is in no way a statesman of the stature of John A. Macdonald or Pierre Trudeau. I am sure I would not get much argument about that. How do we know this? I would say, historical perspective.
Judged by his career, Macdonald would have seemed average, and perhaps a good deal worse, if he had died late in 1873 and left a lesser legacy, in the midst of the stench of corruption due to the Pacific RR Scandal. No National Policy, no completion of the transcontinental rail linking this nation like a spine. In 1873, he had used parliamentary fraud in ways much like Harper has to stop probes into his actions. Macdonald’s alcoholism was suspected of ruining his abilities; time would reveal how capable he was.
Trudeau, had he never come back after his defeat in 1979 by Joe Clark, would have left a fairly shallow, insignificant mark on our national politics. No fight to defeat Quebec separatism in the 1980 referendum against Levesque, no new Constitution and Charter of Rights – and what legacy would he have left us? “A Just Society” would have seemed a mere slogan, less memorable than “Zap – you’re frozen!”
Stephen Harper has only begun to exercise substantial power; the world in which his blueprint for Canadian petro-economics operates is evolving so fast no one with any sense would say they know him as the destroyer of Canada’s peace, order and good government. Yet the foolish are saying just that, on the basis of prorogation, parliamentary censure, electoral scandal, and his aggressive ignorance of ecology. Until a decade or two of history has unfolded, who can know if he is a disaster for Canada? Do we have consensus that Mulroney’s Free Trade ruined Canada? I think it did. Not many agree with me.
I believe that a politician’s leadership is fraught with the perils of any human attempt to shape a future, to apply a small arsenal of government tools to manage an astounding array of physical and social factors in her/his world. “Politics is the art of the possible.” Yes. Much of life is outside the sphere where political action can be felt. I think people want a sense of peace and security politics can’t give.
What does government have to do with realms of mind, spirit or meaning? The human and physical world is on a threshold and millions of people know — with all parts of their being, their intellects, their emotions, their intuitions, their nightmares — about some “doom” on the horizon. We want to know who is responsible, accountable, for so many crises at hand. Who can justly be called an enemy? Not Harper, Obama, Romney, Blair, Bush, or Netanyahu, to name some who arouse fierce rage and fear.
I am convinced it tells more of value to call such leaders shadows, not substance. But what casts the shade?
As the 5, 125 years of the Mayan long count calendar comes to an end on December 21 this year, it is remarkable that this figure is so close to the span of recorded history, which conventionally dates to around 3100 BCE in an Egyptian record. Five millennia of–what, would you say?
I’ll give it a shot. Five thousand years of the empire machine. Male humans looming hugely over their societies, from Pharoahs, Sumerian hegemons, Akkadian kings and Assyrian emperors, all the way to now. Men with a “will to dominate.” Agriculture predates them, but soon they appear when urban life appears, and war and division of society into layers right along with them. A pyramid of power, with a tiny top made of the few who own enormously and control other humans’ lives and deaths. Are these few the enemy the rest of us need to know? Or is it the “system” – as if a system is not human but natural?
An enemy will kill you, or make it very likely you and those you love will die. A system must operate on its internal logic, and that logic includes the fact that many must die or live miserable, too-short lives in its service.
Human enemy or impersonal system–the distinction seems to me pointless. Death and misery are the result. Humans are conscious beings and not cogs in machinery, so systems reduce into humans.
Politicians staff a government system. They must have masters, because their function is as much to serve as to rule. Humanity has tried a multitude of experiments with political forms, but always it is true a politician is not a ruler. Rather, he is an instrument serving a ruling intelligence. For me, the death and miseries of our systems lead to the hands that hold politicians’ levers. If I thought that my vote made me the master of Harper, I would feel accountable for the deaths of species and habitats that his economic policies cause.
But I am not his master.
I am not to blame for the tar sands of Alberta. Or – am I? By driving a car, I am. Each of us plays a part in the causing of our world’s crisis. So what to do?
Killing rulers in a revolution has not proven, historically, to improve us—it has just given us new masters. The end of the empire machine might be near, but it is not going to end while we humans go on being what we have been for 5,125 years.
The domineering male mind has to be brought to an end. It will be… eventually. The ending of that mind in individuals is only a part of the emergence of a new form of consciousness among humanity as a whole. And this is precisely where the questing of humans for a different form of consciousness–one that can transform every crisis we face into a birth of Something Better–leads.
To answer my own question, ‘what casts the shadow that is a politician?’ – I will say, the masters cast it. But so do I, and every other human mind. I will fight the rulers and the death their system makes. But I cannot only fight.
I have another task just as urgent, and it is simultaneous: I have to alter my mind.
Charles Jeanes is a Nelson-based writer.