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Politics: Marrying Adversaries

“He is my opponent, not my enemy.” ~ Bob Dole in an election year

What is the political equivalent of marriage in an adversarial political system?

How does adversarial political or economic theories address marriage?

I am Canadian, and Canadians contend with these upsets and gripes. But when the biggest family on the street gets into a fight, the neighbours can't help but overhear.

If the frame is about oppression, and rising for power, then all of the policies and ideas to come out of that frame may involve power and oppression. Winning becomes the only ideal.

An "opponent" is someone you battle— in an election, on a ball field— but with a common understanding of the rules of the game, and a mutual willingness to abide by the outcome. ~ Jeff Greenfield

George Orwell warned us in 1984 - one group may overthrow another and seize the means of power. One class may resentfully battle another. But that doesn’t change anything. There is still this worship of power.

But an "enemy"?—that's very different; an enemy is someone who poses a threat to your survival, someone to be fought "by any means necessary". And that's increasingly how Americans have come to view those on the other side of the political divide. - Jeff Greenfield

Democracy gave us one of the most incredible political change imaginable - the custom of voluntarily handing over of power, as if to demonstrate that something is far more important than winning. Something is far more important than twisting things for power, manipulating a crowd for the support of power. But it can feel strained, to live in a democracy with your enemy.

Is today’s idea of democracy heading for an uncomfortable divorce? Not only an irreparable divorce between a parents or a hostile divorce between rivals but a divorce between perspectives on how to see the world. Perhaps there is a correlation - at a time people no longer seem to believe democracy is essential, we no longer believe marriage is essential. Greenfield in the quotes above compares an election with a ball game. He didn't compare a country to a marriage, or an election to a decision in a family. Why is it our minds do not go to those comparisons?

So how do we make this better? Is there a better way? Is there a way to find common points of reference after sharing different perspectives? What institutions are there to encourage resolution and collaboration after bitter fighting has shaped and separated identities?

There is an older process, older than the idea of nation-states.

Marry each other.

Have a fight.

Find a resolution.

Kiss, make up.

Move forward together.

Divorce lawyers may want you to follow another path after you have a fight. Your realtor might even want to help and step in, sell your house and find new separate homes for the two of you. Your business or your employer may see a single or divorced worker as an opportunity - commit to the company, and forget your loved ones.

War, servitude, contract - political theories can fit into these general broad categories. The assumptions of many grand economic theories seem to either begin or end with war, servitude, or contract.

But what about something more sacred and more positive than a contract? Is there a political theory that proposes marriage? What would that even look like?

It would mean the model is not about how the bourgeois exploits the proletariat, and the proletariat rising up to lose its chains. It would mean the model is not about the authoritarian control of others, twisting the world into our own image. It would mean the model is not about the blind pursuit of self-interest, regulated by clearly defined terms of agreement between honourable but separated parties. It would mean the pursuit of sharing an identity, of recognizing courses of action that benefit mutual interests, and holding one another accountable to something more important control and power.

In a successful marriage, power is voluntarily handed over and handed back. Gripes and resentments arise. But you don’t win at marriage by controlling it, by seizing power, by always winning. In marriage, you lose sometimes, and you still love your spouse because something is more important. In marriage, your spouse changes your mind, or you at least still care for your spouse while pursuing different things.

Imagine letting everything go to rot because of a fight over money, or a fight over who drives the car. When the lights go down at night, there’s more to us. There is something essential in us between the sheets.

Here is a challenge for the brightest minds out there - a political-economic theory that starts with an assumption of marriage, or union. A good theories would propose and uphold marriage as an ideal over war, over servitude, and even over a mutually beneficial, voluntary contract.

I dare you to think about that, because if we don’t get things right, everything may fall apart. The centre will not hold, and the dance will not lead to intimacy and strength but to vicious decline.

I dare you to find a theory that starts and ends in love.

1 Comment

Jun 26, 2023

When you have a system thats attainment of power is to shut the voice and exercise of liberty down by another and the other wants to be left alone you can see the problem.

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