Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes: "What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted."
For those of you who don’t know, or haven’t guessed, I’m seriously considering running for the House of Representatives in LD 7. I will run only if it is a meaningful act, and by meaningful I mean, simply, that my presence in the legislature will make a difference in the lives of at least one of my constituents. Otherwise, why legislate? If the twisted cannot be straightened, and the lacking cannot be counted, why would I want to untangle and enumerate?
My answer, of course, is that I believe that good legislation, though always flawed, offers incremental improvement both in individual lives and in the character and quality of society. But watching Arizona’s budget unfold, from a safe distance, as well as Obama’s autocratic destruction of our nation’s free(r) economy, causes me to doubt my political optimism. I find myself vacillating between a feeling of helplessness, the Francis Fukuyama-Qoheleth view of politics as meaningless and futile, and a feeling of optimism, the hope that my small political acts conjoined with the acts of other politicians will enlarge the social space that ordinary people need to craft lives a wee bit better.
Fukuyama earnestly thought that Soviet-era communism had been replaced with a stable European-style socialism. Thus, the end of history. With total socialism, history will reach some sort of culmination, a thesis between capitalism and communism, a compromise that works.
But the second half of his book, though less well known, betrays his optimistic view of history. Even the title suggests that the second half of the book holds clues to understanding the first half: The End of History and the Last Man.
The last man? As in, the last man standing? Or, as in, Nietzsche’s vision of a society that had devolved, because of consumption and frivolity, to der letzte Mensch, the last man?
I do believe history is moving, inexorably, toward a terminus that my political acts cannot change or influence. I do believe that it ends, not in a political stasis, but in a way I cannot fathom or articulate. I see history, therefore, as linear, not cyclical or static. And because of history’s linearity, my wee acts have wee significance. They add to history as a drop adds to the volume of water in a moving river – my acts are not much, perhaps not measurable, but still significant in that they add to the total flow.
There will never be der letzte Mensch, thankfully. Political stability will always elude us. Certainly history won’t end with socialism. But my small acts may help create a better moment in history.
And, with that, I’ll be satisfied.