The Politics of Inevitability

Timothy Snyder has laid out a thesis, in the beginning of his book, that has me constantly in thought. That’s a great way to start a book. I’ll elaborate in a moment.

This is the 8th book I’ve started since early February and I’m happy to say I’ve finished the other 7. That’s a pretty good clip for me since I managed only 9 complete tomes in all of 2018. Admittedly, last year was a tumultuous one.

The books I’ve tackled this year have been mostly elucidating ones. Concept books, and almost entirely nonfiction. I’ve read Harari’s 21 Lessons. The Righteous Mind, by Haidt. The Global Minotaur by Yanis Varoufakis. Bregman’s Utopia for Realists. By accident I started the Corrosion of Conservatism by Max Boot, and it proved more interesting than I expected. The only fiction book I made time for, so far, was To Kill A Mockingbird, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Worthy of the praise. I just finished Bill Bryson’s At Home, a 450-page hardcover that sat on my bookshelf for the last ten years. Bryson can take any subject, break it down into its various parts, expound upon each part voluminously, and make the whole thing interconnected with human ideas in an enthralling and enchanting manner. His gift is miles beyond mine.

All the books I’ve read this year are worthy page-turners. Enlightening tomes. I can’t give you any one above the others to refer but I can hope that, as soon as possible, you do read all of Harari if you haven’t, and take the time for Varoufakis and Bregman. I believe all three to be world-class thinkers and intellectual revolutionaries.

I don’t know yet whether I can place Snyder in that classification. I took his book from a list of Harari’s favorites, and the book qualified for a discount I received through my Prime account. Strong recommendations from admired thinkers coupled with low monetary investment? That’s just my thing.

Snyder has a scholarly philosophical approach to writing, and at times I even feel a hint of Joseph Campbell in his prose. If you’ve ever read Joseph Campbell you know that this can be a powerful but at times tedious approach to relaying information. Still, thus far, I am enjoying his words.

I’m 42 pages into Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom after two days. Those of you who read me in the “old days” know that I promised 20 pages a day at the beginning of 2018, a prospect that proved to be unwieldy. For whatever reason, my propensity to embrace distraction defeated my desire to absorb data. Well, this year, I am slightly over that 20-page/day mark, so therein lies at least one triumph.

The thesis that Snyder lays out, that I hinted at earlier in this piece, is the prospect of a world divided by two political entities, nations really, guided by either the politics of inevitability or the politics of eternity, terms it appears he coined. Rather simply, for expedience, I will tell you that the politics of inevitability promises an ever-evolving progression of a better future for all and there’s nothing we can do to stop that. It is somewhat related to the idea I have been expressing for months about the arc of history being a determinate march towards ever-increasing liberalism. In fact, it is almost exactly that idea taken to the extreme (with the further idea that we cannot stop that march no matter what we do).

The politics of eternity, by comparison, issues forth the premise that things have stayed relatively the same, should stay relatively the same, and that the ever-present “enemy” is always threatening to upend our world. The politics of eternity embraces nationalism and conservatism and, in Snyder’s thesis, the singularly all-powerful individual redeemer (Stalin, Hitler, Putin, Trump, etc). The politics of inevitability leads to democratization; the politics of eternity to totalitarianism.

Like I said, one (perhaps both) of these ideas are similar to my own, to ones I have laid out in the past here. The terms may be different, but the underlying premise remains the same. By this I mean that there are two ways to look at the world, and each leads us down a decidedly different path.

We can choose the path of hope, believing that the world can and will be better tomorrow.

Or we can choose the path of fear, dreading that unless someone comes along to save us we will all die.

As always there are nuances, my friends. But I reiterate what I have said a thousand times: the arc of history does show that, through conviction and perseverance, the plight of humanity continuously improves. Hope is a worthwhile emotion. The “other” is not our eternal enemy, whether that other is across our border or outside our personal spiritual faith. Donald Trump is not a redeemer but instead a petty, self-serving man with designs for power, not salvation. And, anyways, we do not need salvation from the enemies that he perceives. They are phantoms, fictions created to frighten the populace, embolden the politics of eternity, and create an authoritarian savior.

We don’t need one. What we need instead is hope, and leaders that believe enough in the politics of inevitability to create an ever-better tomorrow not for one man, or one class of people, but for all of us and the planet on which we reside.

Timothy Snyder is off to a great start, one I can wrap my head around and even agree with. Let’s see if he can maintain that momentum and continue to flourish. 👍🏼

19 thoughts on “The Politics of Inevitability

  1. I’m turning radical. I believe in the politics of inevitability, that us creating an ever-worse tomorrow for cheaters and liars so we all can flourish. What I mean is – a revolution! What’s the use of democracy when the weak suffer what they must?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The truth is we need our fear as much as we need our hope. Hope without caution has as much dire consequence as fear without wisdom. We must be wary of what may come as we fight daily for what must come, and what must come is a better world for all.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, your vocabulary has indeed expanded, I think I googled two words and three authors while reading your piece… wow. Cool! As for Trump, he’s only one man… there’s so many more to blame. But I don’t like to talk politics. I do have an exciting spin on hope. The hubby and I believe, “Hope is unrealized disappointments.” We never say hope. Hope is what we depend on when we are out of options and have no control over the outcome. I believe in due diligence, foresight, and taking action. So Tom, you can hope for an outcome, but you’ll probably end up disappointed. So many hope to win the lottery and don’t even buy a ticket. Sometimes life ain’t fair, eh? I did REALLY enjoy this post! Congrats on the reading. There’s a couple of new books going on my list. Thanks, Tom!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kim! Great response, and great challenge. I accept!

      (1) When it comes to words, I’ve got the best words! Seriously, though, I make a conscious attempt, most of the time, to use the simplest way to say something that I can. But sometimes, darn it, I feel like being magniloquent!

      (2) Trump is indeed only one man, and a deeply-ingrained symptom of the true American problem. In that, he is very much like the other “redeemers” I compared him to. Snyder is building a parallel between he and Putin – an autocrat who flouted legal norms to assert power beyond his office – and I see ’em. I’ve said since the beginning that the biggest threat to democracy in the United States today is Donald Trump, not necessarily because he is a great man but because he is a classic, political strongman, and he has the backing of a strong minority and at least one complete political body (the Senate/McConnell). His temperament and lust for power might cause him, when the time comes, to not cede office. His followers may allow it. The rule of law is only powerful if followed, and we’ve already seen that this man, who sits in the highest seat in the land, feels himself above such things.

      (3) I love to talk politics!

      (4) I see your point on hope! I, personally, love the word (and not just because it is Mrs C’s middle name 😉 ). Hope, as you define it, is like “a wish.” One can wish an ex who has moved on might come back to them, or hope the Senate will challenge the classless leader in the White House, but those are foolish hopes. That’s the verb version of hope, and I fully (fool-y?) understand it. But my use of hope is the noun version, meaning “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” As in “I have hope for the future of mankind,” as opposed to “I hope mankind has a good future.” The latter is nothing more than a thoughtful wish (and not a bad one) but the former is an optimistic belief grounded in certain research. Capiche?

      (5) The average person, who doesn’t stop to chase puppies or refill their coffee or research words and ideas on Google while reading, reads a page every two minutes. I read for about an hour each morning and get in 20 pages. Every morning I intend to take another hour to read a bit more later, but that hour never comes. I’m all about distractions!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wholly Moses! I feared reading your response… Hope is a Noun, Mrs. C’s middle name, and I am the verb! Capiche! One page every two minutes… and still, I hate politics! So for #2, I HOPE you know what you are talking about… verb. HAD to do it!!! HAHAHA!!! Uh-oh, where’s Marvel…? Have a great day! Mad respect for you Brother Tom.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL! Ditto, kiddo. Mad respect! But, hey, here’s another for ya:

        I have faith that America can overcome this assault on democratic norms, and I believe it shall!

        Like

    1. Haha! Thanks for the correction on that subject. Honestly, I think it was Stephen King who taught me to never use a complex word when a simple word will do, but I don’t listen to prolific, esteemed and extremely successful horror writers as often as I should!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always been in the inevitability camp, although I have to admit it reminds me of that line in The Matrix where the character Hugo Weaving plays asks Nemo if he hears what he termed somewhat maliciously as the fate in inevitability.

    I have also said that the 2020 elections is one the Democrats can easily lose if they don’t get their shit together

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Snyder’s idea of the politics of eternity and the people who turn to a “savior” out of fear, if I understand it correctly, illuminates something I’ve been considering lately. I’ve had regular debates with a family member who not only doesn’t believe climate change is occurring but also doesn’t believe humans could do anything to have a significant impact on the global environment.
    This person believes God simply wouldn’t allow climate change to happen. And I realize this person has a terrible fear that God either doesn’t exist or won’t save us from ourselves–a fear that manifests in a need for earthly “saviors” who offer the assurance that climate change is a conspiracy promoted by “the enemy”.
    As for me, in spite of my agnosticism I think there’s great wisdom in the old joke about the man who stays in his house in rising floodwaters telling every rescuer who comes by “God will take care of me.” Then he drowns and meets God and asks, “Why didn’t you take care of me?” And God says, “I sent a bunch of people by. Why didn’t you go with any of them?”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You not only understand it, Chris, you understand it brilliantly. That anecdote sums it up perfectly. As for that old “humans can’t affect the climate” thing it is reminiscent of the old Charlton Heston/Michael Crichton speech that Rush Limbaugh so loved (maybe still loves). I remember hearing it, as a conservative, some 25 to 30 years ago and it being one of the first breaks I had with conservative thought. How could we be so naive to think that mankind, which has split the atom and made enough atomic warheads to wipe out the population and create a nuclear winter, could not affect the Earth itself? It seemed, to me that it was something they were desperate to believe, or an attempt to deceive, more than anything else. Now the king of transparent deception, our current president, disregards it for political capital. Or he’s really an idiot. Probably both.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s a compelling and, I would say, completely accurate juxtaposition. The “politics of eternity” also reminds me of that quote from Orwell’s 1984: “Imagine a boot stamping on a human face–forever”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get the impression, as I read on, that Orwell’s quote might be inspiration for this theory. It certainly begins to boil down to totalitarianism (“eternity”) vs democratization (“inevitability”) with the current section framing Europe’s EU (democratization) against Russia’s hopes for “Eurasia” (totalitarianism), with Ukraine caught between. Fascinating read!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have hope, simply because of everyone who’s commented here. I find myself constantly saying ‘How has this happened?’, mostly in relation to our own political clusterfuck (which is unbelievably getting worse by the day). But then I read all these comments from people who care, who get it and will do what they can to even the keel. Sorry, what was the question again? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I think I laid out more comments than questions, but please do play along!

      “How has this happened?” is a question I think I can answer (but not everyone will agree with me). This happened because most people don’t pay attention to the complexities of our interdependent life on earth. Without true knowledge of history, of politics, of socio-dynamics and human nature (etc) or without the ability or education to process what they do know, folks look for the simplest interpretation. Those explanations take the form of “it’s okay if this guy is lying cuz they all do” or “those foreigners are destroying our country!” or even “that radio guy said that some preacher guy said that god said it must be this way so it must!” Now, when really boisterous liars come along preaching like they came from god and tell us over and over that the “other guy” is screwing us up, the ignorant have a voice, a leader, and a cause. And “this” happens. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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