Politics: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, An Inevitable Part of Human Life.

by Placerville Newswire / Feb 21, 2016 / comments

  Editorial by Cris Alarcon.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."   Charles Dickens writes in the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities.

The year was late 1775.  The story includes the trial of Charles Darnay, a Frenchman accused of being a spy for France and the United States. Trouble was brewing in the French countryside near the time of the American Revolution. Apparently, the folks of France did not like to be starved and taxed to death.  It is this context that the United States of America was formed as it declared its independance from England.

Politics in an inevitable part of Human Nature and permeates all parts of our lives.  Nearly 2,400 years ago, Aristotle laid the foundations for his political theory in “Politics” by arguing that the city-state and political rule are “natural.”  Aristotle is considered the Father of the Scientific Method, the creator of formal logic, and one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the Western world.  

From before Jesus Christ was born, to today, humans have not changed much. The unexpected front-runner for the Presidency of the United States challenges the policies and position of the Pope in Rome as being too political.  The issue of contention is Immigration.

Donald Trump, in an interview recently said that Pope Francis is a political man and Trump even said that Pope Francis is a pawn, an instrument of the Mexican government for migration politics.  Trump said that if he’s elected, he wants to build 2,500 kilometers of wall along the border and that he wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants.  This has triggered the logical question, can a U.S. Catholic vote for a person like Trump?

This question was put to Pope Francis by Phil Pullella of Reuters news service. The Pope’s response has taken me aback.  I am not a Catholic, but my wife is.  I did not like the selection of Francis as Pope due to his very liberal stances on immigration and his clear personal political nature that he takes into a major religious institution.  I have read the Pope’s response and have a new respect for Pope Francis.

Pope Francis: “Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ At least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe, I don't know. I'll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

I had my eyes opened by his response and a new understanding on how he became Pope in the ancient, and acknowledged intense political nature, of selecting a new pope.  But more importantly I realized that politics is intrinsic in every part of our lives, because politics is part of Human Nature.  

Aristotle, a student of Plato, famously identifies human beings as ‘political animals’. By this he does not mean that we are all, by our nature, interested in elections, or lobbying, or community organising, but rather that we all, by our nature, belong to the polis, which is to say to the city or to the city-state. It is a corollary of this view for Aristotle that if a person lives entirely outside of the bounds of human society, he or she cannot partake fully of what it is to be human; the proverbial child raised by wolves inevitably grows into a different sort of animal than you or I: non-political, and so not fully human.

There is not in the end such a sharp distinction between 'political’ in Aristotle’s sense, and in the sense in which we usually understand it today (voting, lobbying, etc.). To live in society at all is inevitably to embody and enact social roles that have political significance. Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, understood this when he wrote that, “in our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics’ All issues are political issues.”

Today we see the best and worst of humanity playing out in politics ranging from small local elections to national campaigns.  Sometimes it is so ugly that people try to avoid it.  As the Orwell quote finishes, "and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia" so many shy away from it, but it cannot be avoided.

These famous lines "the best of times, it was the worst of times", which open 'A Tale of Two Cities,' hint at the novel’s central tension between love and family, on the one hand, and oppression and hatred, on the other.  This suggests that good and evil, wisdom and folly, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle.

"I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out. . . ."

Though much debate has arisen regarding the value and meaning of Sydney Carton’s sacrifice at the end of the novel "A Tale of Two Cities," the surest key to interpretation rests in the thoughts contained in this passage, which the narrator attributes to Carton as he awaits his sacrificial death. This passage, which occurs in the final chapter, prophesies two resurrections: one personal, the other national. In a novel that seeks to examine the nature of political revolution—the overturning of one way of life for another—the struggles of France and of Sydney Carton mirror each other. Here, Dickens articulates the outcome of those struggles: just as Paris will “ris[e] from [the] abyss” of the French Revolution’s chaotic and bloody violence, so too will Carton be reborn into glory after a virtually wasted life. In the prophecy that Paris will become “a beautiful city” and that Carton’s name will be “made illustrious,” the reader sees evidence of Dickens’s faith in the essential goodness of humankind.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known," Sydney Carton.


Cris Alarcon, Feb 21, 2016.