The Politics of Love
Making the world great again
How to make sense of what has happened today? What has happened this year?
If my Facebook page is to be believed, then there is a half of humanity that are insurmountably evil, racist, misogynistic and generally vile. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be understood. They must be destroyed.
It sounds nice, especially when everyone around you agrees with you. But ‘they are evil’ is not an explanation. ‘They are evil’ is a comfort — it is another way of saying ‘I am good’.
But my politics, and my faith, remind me that no one is inherently evil, that anger is always an expression of pain. And the pain caused by the social, political and economic system we have built for ourselves is, for many people, all too real.
We spend our lives struggling striving straining to stay alive, whilst attempting to squeeze what little meaning we can out of our ‘bullshit jobs’. We are constantly reminded of how utterly inadequate we are, constantly told that we must achieve more and constantly pushed to work harder, faster, better. We are compared to our peers — and now, to robots, who can do the same work as us in half the time and for half the cost. Capitalist individualism and competition lock each and every one of us in our own personal hell, crippled by fear and anxiety, or just resigned to the meaninglessness of our own little individual existences.
Meanwhile, we see that the system within which we are struggling so hard is rigged against us. No matter how hard we try, we know that we will never accrue the kind of wealth that those in the top 1 per cent take for granted. We know that our children will never have the same opportunities as theirs, will never live as long as theirs, will never reach their full potential.
So we struggle and strive, but we know that we will never beat them. And this leads us all face to face with the inexorable logic of capitalism — that none of us is ever enough. Men aren’t manly enough. Women aren’t womanly enough. The poor aren’t trying hard enough. Even the rich can never be rich enough. According to the doctrines of neoliberalism, we are all ‘human capital’, worth only as much as we can be paid for.
And so, without any conception of what is or isn’t valuable, we have created a world in which anything — even self-worth — can be bought. If you can afford it.
Meanwhile, the socioeconomic stratification that underlies capitalism solidifies as it is left unchallenged. As social mobility falls, and inequality increases, we are increasingly separated from those who do not think and act like us. Some of us live in big cities, with big houses and big cars, we went to university and we think of ourselves as ‘educated’, we pride ourselves on our liberal values that have never really been challenged, and we refuse to see how the system that we materially benefit from has harmed society and ourselves.
We cannot see what is right in front of our eyes — that capitalism seeks to divide us and cause us to hurt one another, and ourselves — all we see is the division, the hatred and the hurt. And this leads us to distance ourselves from those that we cannot understand.
In the sound and the fury of political ambition, personal insults, and polemics, genuine reflection and well-intentioned critique is lost. We slowly retreat into our various camps, we shut down debates, delete friends, and erect insurmountable walls around ‘our people’, balkanising our political movements and our very conception of the political universe.
But rather than articulating a positive vision of the future from our safe liberal camp, we have retrenched further. We have looked to the past for answers, we have chosen to defend institutions that we do not really believe in, and we have failed to convince people that we know the way out of this mess — because we don’t.
In doing so, we have allowed successive parties and movements to sketch a dystopic future of the world that that only they can prevent. Make America Great Again! Take Back Control! And as an explanation, an excuse for our own failure to combat this hatred, we call the other side idiots.
This is the politics of fear. But fear is not all there is.
We can construct a vision of a future of this country in which people do not feel they have to choose between what is right for them and what is right. We can articulate a progressive economic agenda that combines government investment with jobs creation and wage growth for all. We can create a society, an education system and a government which does not discriminate based on race, class or geography. We can come together to build a modern, progressive welfare state which empowers the most vulnerable in our society to achieve their full potential.
We can build a movement based on love.
But building such a movement is as much about personal transformation as it is about policy — our immediate, personal goal in this struggle must be to learn how to communicate again. Open and honest communication is the key to mutual understanding. It does not always lead to agreement, but it quite often leads to compromise. Fear, shame and pride are the enemies of this kind of dialogue; love, hope and humility are its allies. Now is the time for us to engage with those people with whom we disagree; now is the time for us to listen, however much we may abhor what we hear.
Because love is the realisation that we are not separate. We are all connected — and pure, transcendent love is the realisation of that connectivity. Our suffering is the suffering of the world, and the suffering of the world is our’s. Every time we hate, we judge, we separate, we are building a world of hatred, of judgement and of separation. But every time we choose to love, to understand and to integrate, we build the type of world that might just survive the next century.
Once your eyes are opened to the unimaginable pain and suffering that exists in this world, it is easy to give into despair, or to lash out at those around you. But there is hope in love. The desire to love and be loved unites most people on this planet, and the ones who do not share it are those against whom we fight.
Today, right now, in this moment, the only thing you have to do is have faith. Have faith that there is goodness in this world, and that it lives within people of all colours, creeds and classes. Have faith that anger and fear are expressions of pain, and those that are the quickest to attack the most vulnerable are those that feel most vulnerable themselves. Have faith that just by deciding to open your heart, you are deciding to build a better world.
In the words of bell hooks, ‘The moment we choose to love is the moment we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love and the practice of freedom.’
The change we are looking for begins in the heart of every person who has had enough of hate, and who is willing to fight for love.