Monday, July 27, 2020

The Proper Politics

...[E]very policy which boasts too much of its "specific, clearly stated objectives, achievable by specific, clearly defined means" and which is "the essence of previous (political) experiences" can be assumed in advance to be wrong, or at least suspicious, without us having to examine its objectives and means too closely. It is mere arbitrariness, a mere effort to reshape the community according to one's own ideas and one's own image.... The proper politics however means exclusively service to the community, service to a society of free citizens; the service does not consist of the imposition and enforcement of one's own ideas about what is good for another (one can perhaps raise small children by such a method; or better, keep watch on prisoners), but rather of attentive listening and deep respect towards that which the others consider good for them.... Politics is not distillation of previous experiences, but rather the will to go on learning; it is not a prepared program but rather the search for a path in complicated and rapidly changing conditions. In my opinion politics cannot, either today or tomorrow, do without humility (for the politician to be good and also successful, more of course will be needed--acumen, good fortune, the ability to catch the right moment), without humility with regard to reality, to the dignity of our neighbors (even the worst of them), and to their opinions (even the craziest).

[Václav Benda, The Long Night of the Watchman, St. Augustine's Press (South Bend, IN: 2017) p. 202.]