Affirming the Political, Downgrading the Political
“Affirming” the political means that the political is the most important human arena and activity. Why? Because partaking of the political is understood to give citizens their souls, to fortify and order their souls. Being a good American is taken to mean having a healthy soul. Being political, participating, is taken to mean having a healthy soul. Being a “leader” or a “statesman” is taken to mean having a healthy, even a great soul. Being great politically means having a great soul, and, hence, to be understood as honorable and to be honored.
Downgrading the political means redefining the relationship between the political and the soul. Being a good American doesn’t mean having a healthy soul. Precisely, it means having a thumotic soul rather than having an erotic soul, having a soul that is spirited, one that tends toward anger, rather than one that tends toward loving and being drawn toward the beautiful.
Souls thrive via the beautiful; they flourish, they’re illuminated as it were. Whereas through politics, souls are fortified, are “armed,” as it were. The political soul seeks to rule, even to conquer or subdue the others, those not known. Before the philosopher appears in Plato’s Republic the highest class are the guardians, said to be like noble dogs that attack those they don’t know, foreigners. Political speaking, foreigners are aliens, the “other.” When granted citizenship, they are said to be “naturalized.” Then they are no longer aliens, no longer “unnatural.”
Modernity is the ever-increasing disappearance of the erotic and the ever-increasing fortification of the thumotic, even in the direction of totalitarianism. That is, in the direction of a complete and overwhelming political world, a Brave New World, where loving is shameful and forbidden. “Sexting” is allowed, even encouraged, but loving is condemned. Finally, the best is represented as “the will to power,” ala’ Nietzsche, et. al. The powerful have the best souls and there is “no way out” so long as the political is affirmed. For example, pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis affirm the political and there is no way out of their conflict except of course via the annihilation of one or the other.
Politics fortifies our souls but without their flourishing; politics sanctifies our souls but without beautifying them. The common recommendations “Be yourself” or “Do you own thing” don’t quite get it. Better recommendations would be “Be beautiful” or “Cultivate your beauty.” Or, more simply, be caring, be loving; forego conquering or ruling. Don’t affirm the political.
[Recall all the art in Darcy’s estate, all the beauty. While his shyness made him seem thumotic, in fact he was erotic, drawn toward the beautiful. Which is why he was drawn toward Elizabeth Bennett.]