Your Politics

I read an interesting comment today: “Your politics consist of those things which you consider outside the realm of politics.”

That certainly strikes me as apt. Let me explain, for those of you that have never had the pleasure of visiting, how things work in the real world. No one ever gets exactly, perfectly what they want. Human wants and desires are infinite not only in their scope, but also in their specificity. They’re also all different – what you want is not the same as what I want, and resources are finite, so we can’t all have our cake and eat it too.

In the Real World ™, we maneuver and negotiate and bargain and work for what we want. I can’t have X if you have Y, so we figure out how we can both get close and still be happy. The best case scenario is the Win/Win, where I find someone else who wants Y and that actually gets me closer to X, so we help each other and we’re both better off. In some instances, people who are bad at all of this just hit someone else and take their X, but in the long run that rarely works out for anyone.

During this whole process is the explicit understanding that you wanting Y is okay even if I want X. If those are opposed we make deals. If they’re complimentary we have a win/win. If there’s no way to make a deal, maybe I give up Z to get something else instead.

That’s the real world. Then there’s politics.

There are two kinds of capital-P politics. There’s “political discourse” which is all the noise you hear when you accidentally walk past a television or your finger slips on Twitter. Then there’s Politics-As-It-Actually-Happens.

In political discourse, there’s no bargaining. What you want is common sense, universal, moral and just. What the other person wants is barbaric and disgusting and the death of civilization. You can’t bargain with the horde; they have nothing you want. They don’t even have wants themselves; they only want to destroy what you, the good people, want for the world. Everything would be perfect if not for Them.

Then, strangely, in Politics-As-It-Actually-Happens, all the people with any real political clout do as much if not more bargaining and deal-trading as anyone in the Real World, only they always refuse to admit that’s what they’re doing. Their outward rhetoric is exactly the same as the “political discourse” people, except then they quietly say yeah you can have X if I can have Y to other people in their realm wearing different colored ties.

So, “your politics consist of those things which you consider outside the realm of politics.” Whatever you think shouldn’t even be something political, that’s your politics. Unfortunately, in politics, that’s everything. Nobody says, “I believe healthcare is a fundamental human right, but I’m open to changing my mind based on the electoral process.” No one makes a sign saying “If they want my guns, they can come take them, which I’ll happily allow if a law is passed to that effect.” In politics, there are only two kinds of things: Things you care so deeply about and that are so obviously correct that they shouldn’t be touched by politics at all, and things you don’t care about at all.

Everything in life is trade-offs and opportunity costs. You build the best life you can for you and those around you out of the available pieces you have; that’s the whole game, start to finish. Playing that game makes you smarter; you’ve got skin in the game so you’re more likely to be correct about decisions. You’ll build a better world for yourself by helping others do the same. A beautiful series of overlapping bubbles that lift the whole world up.

One of the best trade-offs you can make? Trade the time you used to spend thinking about politics for time spent enjoying life.

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