I spent two wonderful hours out on the ice. 7-9 knots of wind, not too gusty, easy breezy lazy, giving me a lot of time to think. About how my doing this relates to the crisis of democracy. Bear with me, you will get it by the end.
I changed the tag-line of my blog to say “Politics is Personal.” Because it is. In revers as well. It isn’t just that politics affect us on a very personal level, but also that our personality determines how we see and approach politics. There is a sizable literature out there trying to understand the phenomenon. My most favourite book on the subject is Thomas Sowell’s “Conflict of visions”, describing the fundamental differences in how we see the world. I like to translate his definition (the constrained vs the unconstrained vision) to even simpler terms:
There are only two ways to see the world: the way it is and the way we wish it to be.
Which still does not explain why we, as individuals, choose one over the other.
The best explanation of affinity is personality types, but that is just another level of regression as we have no good explanation for the basis of the big five personality types. As the title of the article points out: “Correlation, not causation”. If we consider the sub-types, it gets even more complicated. If we add culture and zeitgeist, we may end up with a better understanding of the complexity of the problem, but even fewer actual answers.
I will NOT, therefore, try. All I can do is to illustrate my political attitudes with my attitudes to certain activities.
When I was a kid, I was attracted to show-off sports. Gymnastic, then diving, which I did competitively as a teenager. I never particularly liked team sports, with the exception of volleyball, where your team is on the same side of the divide, cooperating to out-skill the other team. What I did not appreciate about the others is the fuzzy borderlines of what is allowed and what is not. I like clear lines. It is not the aggression and the conflict I have problems with, but the pretension of abiding by the rules while constantly pushing its boundaries.
I am very grateful and appreciative of combat sports, as they helped me greatly to overcome some personal problems. I love the clarity of the goals, the simplicity of the rules and the way it reaches down to our deepest, competitive evolutionary impulses.
What I love most about my favourite brain-sport, GO, is how similar the strategies used in it are to those of the martial arts.
I have great respect for those who do endurance sports, but I am not attracted to the sports themselves. The only two I do and love are biking and canoeing, both of which are inseparable from the discovery element of the environment in which I am doing them. Same with hiking and trekking.
I watched “Free Solo” recently, the documentary about Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan free solo. I don’t only admire it, but I can also relate to the mindset required to do it, I just don’t have it myself. I am not capable of such single-minded focus.
Which takes me to the things I like the most: skiing and snow-kiting. The cooperation with the elements.
The infinite variability of the circumstances. The beauty of the environments. The never-ending possibility for improvement.
The environment and the conditions are never the same. There is always a possibility to push my limits. There is a constant need to respond to the changing conditions. It is the perfect model for the complexity of the reality we are living with in this world in general.
Kiting in the middle of the big white nothingness; being on my own with only the music of the kite strings is what gives me my moments of Zen, the feeling of being in harmony with my surrounding.
It also reflects my attitudes toward politics. The understanding that:
- … the world around us is infinitely complex.
- … that I MUST be humble, that only by cooperating with the forces around me can I get anywhere,
- … that I should never relax and always respect the reality of my conditions.
- … that what I can do is always limited
- … that to better myself, I have to push my boundaries slowly and carefully
- … that improvement can only be gradual
- … that I can only blame myself if I fall on my face
- … that whatever the circumstances are, I have to expect the unexpected.
Understanding the above makes me a conservative, I guess. But I am also an extrovert with a high score on openness. I love adventure and experience. I am looking with a never-ending awe at our possibilities while I am also filled with foreboding about the possible negative consequences of our reckless behaviour.
My politics, just as my appreciation of skiing and kiting is clearly a reflection of my personality.
My respect for reality is the foundation of my political vision.
It should also explain my aversion toward the political left. I detest their arrogance, their stupidity and their deep and fundamental immorality. I detest their righteousness and their religious zeal.
How does this fit with the crisis of democracy? Neatly.
Every problem democracy is facing today is a manifestation of the unconstrained vision in politics and in the economy. Most proposed solutions would make matters worse. Democracy is on a collision course with reality. As if we were sliding out of control on sheer ice toward a cliff.