Personal and Political

It’s almost a cliche now to say the personal is the political. Like any concept that’s been around long enough, it’s been deconstructed and problematized a hundred different ways, and the original concept it was a response to – strict separation of personal life and political activism – no longer really exists. Thesis breeds antithesis becomes synthesis, and so on. However, I think saying “the personal is the political” is still useful as a general rule.

Kierkegaard wrote a lot about the connection between philosophy and life. Less vaguely, he believed that how a philosopher lived had direct bearing on the quality of his philosophy. If a philosopher denied all values, advocated universal violence and degradation, then left his office and went home to his loving family, you might want to doubt his commitment to his ideas. Basically, if an idea isn’t powerful enough to capture the person who came up with it, it’s probably not true or useful.

So if your politics aren’t directly affecting your personal life there’s an immediate problem. If you talk about smashing hierarchy and abuse your loved ones, there’s a problem. If you talk about feminism in your papers and make rape jokes with your buddies, there’s a problem. If you believe policy should reflect a steadfast commitment to human rights and a basic human kindness, this means nothing unless your life reflects the same. To echo a post of IOZ’s that caused a mighty brouhaha, if you are an anarchist who doesn’t commit – I mean properly commit – to dismantling the patriarchy along with all the other archys, your anarchism is of no value.

Also: if your politics can’t easily translate into your personal life – if it’s about locking those Other People up or protecting yourself from those Over There, and you don’t personally know any Other People – maybe it’s time to give it up.


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