In a perfect world, philosophy and politics would be married. Instead, they barely recognize one another. The vocation did begin with people who were known for their intelligence and wisdom; called the Seven Sages of Greece which included Thales “Know Thyself” of Miletus, Pittacus “Democracy rules” of Mytilene, and possibly Aesop. Politics used to be applied philosophy, and you couldn’t do it without it.
The situation obviously has devolved greatly. We have a reality TV show gone off the rails down there, and sexy pandering nepotism up here (and grateful for it). “Philosopher” would probably be one of the last words used to describe any modern politician, and political philosophy is more like a form of history we study in school. Where it all began.
The question of what we do now when we can’t do a thing forces us to be the philosophers; the existentialists, where the question of “How can I be happy when life is meaningless?” is more like “how can I be hopeful with these fools at the wheel?” We know existentialism itself first became mainstream in a reaction to the absurdity that was Nazi occupation, and while with the U.S. it’s more like watching the sad decline of an empire from a less-obviously dire situation, the fact of Trump, the chaos of the last four years, and the actual possibility of either a legitimate or stolen re-election makes it similarly absurd. Like a histrionic sibling with the nuclear codes, it affects us all.
Existentialism has risen again, you can see it everywhere: in the comedy that is funny or news that is comedy, we grip the absurd by the ears and laugh in its face. More and more people are rebelling against the very identity they were born with or choosing to opt out of the existence they did not consent to. Mental illness is to be expected, and we aren’t ashamed to admit it anymore. We must know it’d be insane not to feel a little crazy if you’re paying any attention. If you choose to get help, by default it will be through some form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which hinges on a belief that our emotions need not be subject to our experiences.
The alternatives aren’t so easy to swallow anymore. Getting religious and riding on faith working in mysterious ways, believing we can control our environment on a mystical level by what crystals we invite into our space, all these involve expectation of how things should work, and the royal we are slowly learning that it doesn’t reliably work like that and accepting what that means – that it’s a form of denial. Existentialism is a cold embrace, but at least it’s not a setup for soul-crushing let down. Things are gonna get a lot worse. No one else is ready for it like those who embrace the absurd.