A Disturbing Story About Politics and Grasshoppers

Artwork: Artes Plásticas 3 | Fernando Muñoz

I was a shit child. Most children are honestly. Anything gross or cruel piques their interest. As long as they’re not the target of it.

One day I discovered that by holding two grasshoppers face to face you could get them to tear each other apart. There might have been some cannibalism going on too. Hard to tell. It was messy.

It troubles me that, as a child, I did this a few times.

I think the reason that this gets such a response out of the grasshoppers is that they’re not intelligent enough to understand the whole situation. They realize they’re in danger and attack the thing directly in front of them.

I think people do this a lot too. The world is complicated and when we feel that something is wrong we attack each other. Not necessarily the people right in front of us. We’re a bit smarter than grasshoppers.

But people attack whoever they see as being on the ‘team’ causing the problem. When given the opportunity to actually learn more about what’s going wrong in the world they’ll often ignore it.

It’s easier to see the whole thing as a battle. Our guys are the good guys and anyone who disagrees is on the wrong side of history.

Every Argument is not a Battle Between Good and Evil

Human civilization has been working its magic for a long time. Things have been truly awful a number of times. History is filled with genocides and plagues and sad ironic outcomes.

And yet if you look at human history overall it has progressed towards longer happier lives. If history is teaching us any one lesson in particular it might simply be that we are often too short sighted.

This may not actually be the final battle between good and evil.

This latest despot may not be Hitler.

Your pet philosophy may not be mana from the gods.

Politics is never as simple as we make it when we have an idea we think should be exalted. The main cause of all the changes we want to see in society is the gradual changes it makes over time.

The way this gradual change happens is not one hero fighting against all of the Nazis on the other side of the aisle. It is the effect of all of us, thinking and arguing and trying new things. That’s why it takes so long.

The Way Forward is Whichever Way Keeps Us Talking

Political philosophies need to be tested with this gradual process. Even when we are right in principle things never just fall into place and work straight away.

It takes time to sort out what the way forward is. And how to implement it. And the beautiful part of it all is that human civilization automatically does that. It is in the process of trying out all of our ideas right now.

The only thing that can stop it is if we stop talking to each other with the hope of resolution. If we all stop listening then there is no way forward. And our pet philosophies will fail along with society in general.

This is not to say that we should give up on all of our ideas. We should share them and test them like everything else. But when we get so focused on the success of our one idea we can short circuit the real engine of change that is chugging along behind the scenes.

So go ahead and try hard to make the world a better place.

But try harder not to be the thing holding it back.

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