Tag Archives: politics

Rough Sleeper

Are you politically homeless?

Then breathe a sigh of relief, and be thankful.

If you feel regretful and lament that you have been rendered homeless, then snap out of it, quickly. You may have exiled yourself from your former camp because you didn’t like the direction it had taken. Or perhaps they exiled you for not keeping up. You may take this as a sign that you are not a tribal person, and pat yourself on the back for your ability to walk away or be willingly cast out.

You’re not one for blind loyalty, you tell yourself. You are an independent thinker. But if you tell yourself these things while declaring that you’re politically homeless, then you’re deluded, because to say that you are homeless indicates a sense of tribal loss. You feel that you should have a political home, and resent not being able to find one. You are a tribalist without a tribe, mistakenly taking the sense of isolation that reveals your tribalism as an indicator of a lack of tribalism.

The reality is that it would be very strange for a political faction to represent accurately your desires and drives. It would be misguided even to feel at all that politics, of all things, should offer any kind of a home or a shelter. That would be a sign of misplaced longing, and over-engagement in the news, and of looking for the wrong things, in the wrong places, for the wrong reasons.

If you do want to vote, or to participate in other party political ways, all you can do is select the group that comes closest to your current views, knowing that none will ever come close enough, and that in fact, even the closest may still be far away.

If none of the party options reflect a single thing that you believe in, or if all contain so much that you dislike that you can’t stomach any of them, then you can simply choose the one that personally benefits you the most at this moment, or that benefits someone you care about, or that benefits a group or cause that you wish to help.

Or, you can sit this phase out, and come back later. This is likely the best option. You have given it your fullest thought and drawn a blank. Good news! Now go away and do something else. There will be more elections and more events, but there will be nothing new, because it’s all been done before, just dressed up differently.

It never ends, and so it doesn’t matter if you sit out one day or one decade or the rest of your life. Things will happen without you, just as they happened with you. The exact same things, either way. And if that’s wrong, and things were different for your absence, well, so what? They might have turned out better, but then again, they might have turned out worse. You might, after all, be wrong about everything and have terrible judgment. You might be destined to sit out the next ten years for the good of all mankind.

What unfolds, unfolds, and whether or not you or anyone else runs through the motions of participation is just part of the unfolding.

And so now, you are politically homeless. Really, authentically politically homeless. And you can really, substantially enjoy it. You’re a rough sleeper, far away from the machine-like din, but not unaware of its presence, softly audible but incomprehensible in the distant blackness.

And despite its constancy and its mass, the edifice has no pull on you. Being homeless, you have no attachments and remain in motion. If you choose to go with a particular group for now, you are not in any way bound to it, and you can choose again differently later.

You are free from commodification, and acquire flexibility and perspective, allowing you to move around the political landscape as you see fit, or to exit altogether if you’d prefer.

In fact, it becomes clear: you never had a home in the first place, and you never will.

Good Intentions

“Robert Oppenheimer, a little while before he died, said that it’s perfectly obvious the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so. Because you see, all the troubles going on in the world now are being supervised by people with very good intentions. There are attempts to keep things in order, to clean things up, to forbid this and prevent that, possible horrendous damage. And the more we try, you see, to put everything to rights, the more we make fantastic messes, and it gets worse, and maybe that’s the way it’s got to be. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all about the folly of trying to put things to right, but simply on the principle of Blake, let the fool persist in his folly so that he will become wise.”

That’s from a talk by the masterly Alan Watts, a compelling philosopher and Bodhisattva. I don’t know when the talk was given, but Alan died in 1973, and it’s striking that what he says here seems so operative and resonant, given the decades that have passed since he articulated such ideas.

Is it better, then, not to do good? Certainly, that phrase, a do-gooder makes me shudder a little. No-one wants to be a do-gooder, and not a goody-two-shoes either. Where would be the fun in that?

And at an institutional level, it becomes not just tiresome and graceless, but impositional, restrictive, and ultimately dangerous. Institutions have power. The authorities have clout. When they decide that a certain behaviour is good, it means other ways of conducting oneself might be bad, which means they may not let you do them for much longer.

Or in this age of self-censorship, you may not let yourself do them.

And it might then follow that English author TH White’s words become unfortunately relevant.

“Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory.”

So how do we avoid such a future?

Let’s turn to a contemporary figure, who got to the essential core of how best to proceed from here in a single word:


And since we’re on the topic of Yeezy, and I can’t help but detect a certain mysticism in the air at the moment, let’s work with this too: