The Case for Existential Politics

Oh girlfriend, you are so right.

Anyone who watched the 2nd round of the Democratic debates for the 2020 presidential election was likely hella caught off guard by spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson in between biting their nails watching Kamala Harris chew out Joe Biden and wondering who the hell Michael Bennett is. Memes on the Twitterverse immediately began circulating (please do Google them, they are golden) on Williamson’s wonky/spiritually-tinged/huh/random AF performance in the debate. And don’t get me wrong, there were certainly some funny moments — the Texan bourbon drawl coupled with a bold declaration to take on Jacinda Ardern in making America, not New Zealand, the best place for a child to grow up definitely did me in (“oh girlfriend, you are so on!”). Seriously. I can’t even either.

But Williamson’s essential message — which you can parse out through a few of her speaking moments in the debate and watching other videos of her townhalls in Iowa — is not a laughing matter. Its actually a message that should be resonating far more in a country whose moral fabric is eroding faster than Joe Biden’s poll ratings hopefully are after that debate performance (seriously America — why him?).

What Williamson, I believe, is getting at, is that America — and really humans altogether — is/are experiencing a crisis of spirit and soul.

As she suggests, if we look at the type of political discourse that’s dominated American politics, we see the conversation has mostly been relegated to treating symptoms of American’s/(humanity’s) issues with “superficial fixes”, rather than getting to the heart of what begets these issues in the first place. For instance, here’s her quote from the night on healthcare:

“…we don’t have a health care system in the United States, we have a sickness care system in the United States. We just wait until somebody gets sick and then we talk about who is going pay for the treatment and how they’re going to be treated. What we need to talk about is why so many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses, so many more, compared to other countries. And that gets back into not just Big Pharma, not just health insurance companies, but it has to do with chemical policies, it has to do with environmental policies, it has to do with food policies, it has to do with drug policies.”

I mean, is this wrong? We absolutely do have a sickness treatment system — if even that. We do simply treat existing illnesses and ailments that could have been prevented in the first place. How? Through robust, bold investments in mental health and wellness, food security that ensures quality, nutritious food (does anything these days not cause cancer?), and research to find actual cures for our illnesses. She’s 100% right here — we absolutely do need to make preemptive investments in resources, facilities, and cures that would reduce the rate at which we are falling physically and mentally ill in the first place. Anything short of this is just a band-aid solution (pun intended).

So, this is just one example. Moving on to her plan to beat Donald Trump, Williamson directly speaks to the man himself:

“Mr. President — if you’re listening — I want you to hear me please. You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.”

Look, I don’t know what actually would end up defeating Trump — it very well might be through Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” maxim, it could be through Eric Holder’s “When they go low, we kick ‘em”, (or it could be through impeachment if Nancy Pelosi decides to grow a backbone). But again, her underlying message resonates with me, and its paramount that it resonate with the rest of apathy-ridden America, too.

When we look at circumstances of injustice — from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to detained Uighurs in Xinjiang to Central American children in Tornillo, Texas detention facilities to Rohingya Muslims fleeting Myanmar — it is no doubt our imperative duty to avenge these oppressed groups. I do not want to live in a world in which we are not fighting tooth and nail to fight for the most vulnerable, for the ones who have voices to whom we choose not to listen. But what we still are not doing, even in this noble fight, is dismantling the roots and tendrils of what causes Israeli Zionists to oppress Palestinians and genocidal Buddhists to systematically murder Rohingyas in the first place. And those roots — which have directly caused these grave injustices to manifest throughout history — are human’s hatred, apathy, and greed.

What causes humans to brutalize and torture other humans and animals?

What causes us to simply “follow orders” rather than revolt against ruthless authority?

What causes us to pursue unjustifiable profit instead of happiness?

What causes us to render our only planet into near-irreversible ruination?

Hatred, apathy, and greed — these are the chronic diseases that we must treat, and it is only when we have done this will we eradicate circumstances of injustice in the first place. Until we do that, no matter the magnitude of justice we achieve in each of our respective fights, there will always be more oppression queued up to come. You couldn’t be able to point to a single time in mankind’s history in which humans haven’t been systematically horrendous towards fellow humans. Long before there were white supremacists in America, Zionists in Israel and Hindu nationalists in India, there were Vikings in Scandinavia and Huns in Central Asia.

The point is, there have been countless faces of oppression throughout human history, and until we root out the underlying sins of hatred and apathy, we will only be met with more soulless, ruthless faces. Different era, different religion, different race, same oppression, same injustice, same suffering.

And this can only be rooted out with love, which is Williamson’s whole point. We can come up with the most audacious and “out there” plans to fix the symptoms of our society’s problems, and in fact, we must. But until we treat what actually causes those symptoms, we will not see an end to injustice at last. And truly at last. As in: never again.

There is about a 0.00000000000000536% chance that Marianne Williamson will be President of the United States on January 20th, 2021. But what she is widely being mocked for is something I wholeheartedly agree with: we not only need to have a revolution of ideas that treat our society’s longstanding endemic problems, but we need to have a revolution of psyche, spirit, and soul. An exorcism, if you will, of mankind’s proclivity to either engender cruelty/violence/destruction/profit or turn the other cheek in face of it. And, yes, this can ultimately only be done through the harnessing of love and a spiritual, existential awakening, of sorts. And if we embed this concept deep into our political discourse in addition to — not in lieu of — our progressive plans of defeating climate change, rejiggering our healthcare system, or rewriting a humane immigration policy — we will fix a broken and divided America.

If we are indeed in a “battle for America’s soul”, then we must heal that soul first to win it.

hey young world, the world is yours

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