The People vs. The People

Even though I hold conservative politics responsible for the ongoing decline of our governmental processes, it is impossible to ignore the role of the moderates. (When actual liberals have their turn at running things, we’ll see what happens; through the remainder of this post, the shorthand of Republican or GOP will be used to indicate the conservatives, while Democrat will suffice for the moderates.)

The problem is that even the most honest of Democrats is simply afraid to say, “Okay, it’s over. Tomorrow we start anew.” The Democrats in general know that making this concession will hand the GOP an electoral victory; no matter how much the People claim to despise underhanded politics, dishonest attack rhetoric only tends to hurt the Democrats. In other words, when it’s the GOP, the People seem to rally around it. Take the Swift Boat controversy in 2004; even though the anti-Kerry faction was demonstrated to be lying, and even though the anti-Kerry faction went so far as to suggest that truth was un-American, the People continued to run with the attack, and it cost Kerry tremendously. Additionally, much criticism of his handling of the situation centered around his initial response, which was to attempt to ignore dishonest and hateful politics. The Democrat ignores the dishonest and hateful, he must have something to hide, say the People. The Democrat responds to the dishonest and hateful, and he’s stooping to meet what he despises and rejects, and is therefore a hypocrite, say the People. Yet the Republican who is caught in a hateful lie … is rewarded.

Democrats are, indeed, flummoxed. If they meet the People’s demands for answers, they’re ignored. If they match the GOP’s successful political tactics, the People reject them. It’s no wonder that polls continually suggest that the government is situated to the right of the People on banner issues like abortion, the Second Amendment, civil rights, and health care. The answer seems simple: The People don’t elect politicians who will give them these solutions.

But this begs a more complicated question. Why? I once theorized that the People elected George W. Bush because they prefer to elect the candidate they are more comfortable despising and disowning. This is far too general a thesis, but it would serve to explain at least a part of how our elected representatives continually fail to find a way to give us the things we ask for.

Of course, in another context, we get exactly what we ask for. Except that many of us don’t ask for it. Perhaps we might have been equally screwed under a Kerry administration, but we’ll never know.

Inasmuch as we get what we ask for, though, it is obvious that the first party to concede the quagmire will be hurt politically, and almost everyone involved can be said to think that would hurt the nation at all levels. This is especially true of the Democrats, for reasons considered above. Because our descent into political madness appeals to the less rational side of humanity–it is easy to demonize and criticize–the first concession will most likely be seen as an admission of sole guilt. Certainly, the other side will attempt to exploit it as such. Unless, of course, the People start electing the officials they say they want.

Do the people sound neurotic? Of course they do. And well they should. Remember, one of the reasons American communists sound like such blithering idiots is that the majority of them still work with an American-born myth of communism that ignores the historical truth. While people fretted about whether or not Charlie Chaplin was a communist, the historical truth seems to be that he was too far to the left of the reds. While people fret about the liberal path to Soviet-communist hell, the historical truth includes the fact that Lenin once responded to suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst in a book called Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. The People are attempting to reconcile mythical distortions of history with their own empirical experiences. It is certainly easier to criticize and complain than penetrate the myths and discover the history hidden beneath.

The Canon – Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus

Excerpt: “The Myth of Sisyphus”, by Albert Camus

If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of melancholy rises in man’s heart: this is the rock’s victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Thus, Oedipus at the outset obeys his fate without knowing it. But from the moment he knows, his tragedy begins. Yet at the same moment, blind and desperate, he realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: “Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well.” Sophocles’ Oedipus, like Dostoevsky’s Kirilov, thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism.

One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. “What! by such narrow ways–?” There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discovery. It happens as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness. “I conclude that all is well,” says Oedipus, and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile sufferings. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.

All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is but one for which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be a master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which becomes his fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye, and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.


Camus, Albert. “The Myth of Sisyphus”. The Myth of Sisyphus & Other Essays. 1942. Trans. Justin O’Brien. New York: Vintage, 1955.