On today’s podcast, we try to get to the root of the intense division that has our nation in a political chokehold.
Historically in politics, we have always been in a cycle of authoritarian governments usurping power at every level. One of the many unique American solutions to this problem was the civil society. This is what Alexis de Tocqueville called America’s “daring experiment” — to wield a diverse array of political, charitable, educational, religious, neighborhood, and professional associations in the fight against the loss of trust and sense of community, and the spread of urban decay, apathy, and selfishness.
But there have been two modern trends that have led to the breakdown of civil society. The first is that big government and big technology companies propose they can do things smarter, faster, and better than we could ever hope to do at the local level, so we “logically” abdicate responsibility. We’ve always had big government, but big, data-crunching, powerful technology is new. And big tech represents a new philosophy of life that says computers are more capable and better at making decisions than people.
The second trend, which is also partially driven by big tech, is the breakdown of civil society into micro-segments that stay indoors on their personal devices. We have become niche groups living in echo chambers, timid and much less involved in physical interaction in the public square.
On today’s podcast we host Brian Burch, CEO and founder of Catholic Vote. Brian states that the problem in politics has always been bigger than the left or the right but can be boiled down to the problem of original sin. No matter what party we stand for, we are all trying to solve the challenge of what it means to be a flawed human and how to live in a community where everyone’s imperfect.
We've been in a trajectory in the digital age where we're being lulled into this siloed synthetic existence. We are losing a sense of the importance of individual interaction with real things and real people and with real stuff. But the truth is that there's a part of our humanity that demands we interact with creation. Not only demands but that we are made to delight in interacting with our fellow human beings. It’s the same thing that grants us our capability to love.
There is no scientific equation that we solve to achieve happiness. It's an adventure, particularly in the social dimension through family, friends, community, and government.
If we were to be talking, debating, and resolving questions within smaller communities, our political climate would be radically different. There would be much more in-person lived out experience, much less tension as it would serve as an exhaust valve, and it would remake the way we think about our politics. This was the history of our country for so many years. The state was only a second-rate community that was subservient to much more foundational human communities. And to the extent that we're able to recover the sense of the importance of civil society, and are able to reinvigorate it, the better off we’ll be. There are a lot of different ideas about how to do that. Brian thinks the answer to our political challenges as well as the bigger human challenge of trying to fill the emptiness of modernity with meaning, is that we need to operate at the human level more.
The human journey is defined by adventure in the social dimension. Through love and sacrifice for others, our lives find their deepest meaning. Listen in to learn some more strategies and perspectives on how to reengage and restore the crucial associations that can make our souls thrive and our nation whole again.