Where Politics Starts

I used to think that everything we do is political because politics starts with every interaction we have with the world outside our bodies. I am now of the opinion that this is naive because in actual fact, that is where ethics starts because we have to interact with the world around us in order to exist.

Politics is such a strange part of human thinking, and there are such definitive lines drawn on particular views on how to run society, that it is obvious to me now that what defines a political view depends almost entirely upon how much empathy one has with other living beings. It seems to me impossible to hold some views if one has empathy with the plight and suffering of others. And some views must arise naturally from the empathy one has for that suffering.

This is why a man like Shaftesbury in Victorian England, with all the lavish lifestyle of an aristocrat, fought for regulations to help the children of the poor, and why when he died many poor people followed his coffin. It also explains why not every aristocrat fought for better rights for others.

To walk that mile in another person’s shoes does not just give one an idea of what it is like to be that person, it makes one’s politics. And I have to say I side with those who show the highest empathy and understanding of others.

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