The value of literature for the political studentSubmitted by Menschken on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 21:10
Go to a library or search the internet, you will find endless theories about ethics and politics clamoring for a place in your limited mental space. Endless ideologies on offer filling dusty volumes and repetitive blogs. Great doctrines that can fill the young and old alike with enthusiasm, and fill that void in our hearts for purpose, mission and simplistic truths.
You could literally read every day from sunrise to sunset and would drop dead from boredom before exhausting the material on political, legal, economic, moral, theological, philosophical, ethical, psychological theory, ad infinitum.
Whole generations of highly educated and intelligent people have been swept away in ideologies, fallen for fads and devoted themselves to movements that came to nothing, or produced results entirely contrary to what they thought they were advancing.
How can a person distinguish, in one short lifetime filled with work and pleasure, between all the proffered systems, theories and ideologies of all these self styled experts? One would have to become an expert oneself, in every field, and hope to be the very smartest expert, to be able to discern the needle of truth in this contradictory clusterfsck of a haystack.
But how choose? On what basis does one decide if this or that system and theory will have a better outcome? How decide what goals are best? Right off the bat you must admit that if you're out in search of a theory or system, you are already an anomaly and abnormality from your peers. Take note of that and beware of yourself! What is really motivating you and driving you toward this pursuit?
Our own deepest dispositions, biases, our social milieu; these and other background factors weigh deeply on us and narrow the field of viable systems and ideological options. Caution! Those predetermined factors are scarcely obvious as sound bases for judgment, and confirmation bias looms in every corner.
So be it, we can't run from our nature, and we who are driven to ideas have to pick the ones that suit us.
So many gurus, experts, egos, attractive personalities, all offering seemingly sound bases for their goals, making grand promises of the benefits to come from following their nostrums and dictates.
Is there not some better way? I believe there is.
Alcohol, an open mind, good will, and reams of non ideological books. The alcohol is not required, perhaps you like the magic smoke of a colorful plant or just the exhilarating rush of activity and a strenuous life. The key ingredient is literature.
The problem with all the systems and theoreticians is that they tend to lack that familiarity and practical knowledge of human nature that comes from a full life of interaction, astute observation, emotional intelligence and penetration into real people and their peculiar ways. It is these wonderful plants to whom the systematizing and theoretical horticulturalists look for their raw material. It is this field the ideologist must ultimately cultivate and still stay on this side of reality.
What could be a better and more enjoyable pursuit than leisurely absorbing all the best, classic literature, without fuss or mental anguish, from those authors and artists who penetrate the real, inner human nature and life, passed over by the theorist? The nature not derived from analytical thought, from studies or data, not inputted into models and discovered in labs, but ascertained from experience and insight by the sensitive and non theoretical minds.
Not every book will accurately capture such truth, but every book might show you a part of the picture, an undisguised glance into at least into one real man, the author. He's not out to prove or persuade, not always, but to produce some little truth from experience or insight about what people really are.
He writes the dialog. To even write dialog presupposes something that the theoretician most often lacks. There is less danger of being deceived, as you are not the subject or patient, being convinced and led by arguments. There is not necessarily any motive to convince, with all the dangers inherent there.
To absorb a full knowledge of the natures expounded in literature, both the characters and the author himself, is second only in value to experiencing the widest range of personalities oneself in the real world. And even then, you will find truths you won't find even in the most active engagement in this or that restricted social setting.
We have a treasure trove of knowledge available to us in the centuries of literature, from ancient humanity to now. It was not written to convince us but to show us the insights gleaned from knowledge of the human heart and soul, pain and experience, by the author and shared with us. History too! Read history.
With such a stock of background knowledge, one is far less prone to fall for unworkable systems that would run aground on actual human nature. One is proof against the lies of ideology if one is at home with the real human. It will make us all more realistic, pragmatic, and cunning in our politics, and more fulfilled, better people.
Without this rich filter of background knowledge to distill political ideas, one is at an absolute loss to make heads or tails of the endless ideologies out there. One is floating entirely in the breeze, no anchor, no grounding, easy prey to every crank, charlatan and utopian creed on the market.
Whether you agree with me or not, think I'm a reptillian freemason servant of the new world order, you can agree with me that knowing our fellow man as well we can, both in real experience and through the common heritage of the species, we will all be better equipped to find the grain of truth in the sands of ideology.
We have a compendium of human inner experience in the great literature of all human cultures, and if we can gird ourselves with such steel plate, we we will be immune to the lies of political propaganda that pass themselves off as panaceas for our ills, and promise us the Moon we are after.