Words by Patrick Sumner, M.A.
It seems that people confuse politics with voting every four years and winning and losing like at a horse track. Fighting and cheering and jeering and politics are that too. But as I’ve navigated the narratives of corporate culture, non-profit enterprise and the grassroots and family I’ve realized it’s much more. Family what? What does that have to do with politics? If the individual and then various forms of family are the building blocks of society then of course there is a politics of everyday life. I see the struggle with my 12 year-old is as old as the earth, a compiling of complicated decisions over simple everyday ordeals like what to make as food.
Argument may be the basis of law and negotiations, the stuff of business, but it’s all simple retail politics at the molecular level. Spouses who negotiate each other’s insecurities or traumas and even single individuals navigating daily life form their own cultures. Yes, politics of the single mind at battle with itself may best represent the point. Organizations and corporations also are Byzantine labyrinths of power struggles and stupid decisions causing cataclysms or straight talk to the workers within that can be transformative. The Ivory Tower trope or meta-concept can’t work anymore. Only groups with empowered individuals within can effectively communicate.
So we have culture of the self and the politics of everyday life. I’m not a politician perhaps because I’m not a patrician, however I’ve always clung to movements, issues and ideologies. That said I learned that in the cultures of public and private life there is no real distinction. Of course the rich can afford privacy in terms of residential spaces and enclosed walls and trimmed hedges while the poor mainly even with housing live half the year outside on the stoop or street corner. Why do you think the marginalized are the bulk of the incarcerated? Because their “private” pleasures or sins are on public display. The uber rich pleasures and sins are far more menacing and sinister but wealth allows for inner sanctums.
I’ve long seen that simply listening to others is the greatest form of poetic and political expression. This is the germination ground of sheer mental ideas laid out in relationships or on paper as they used to say. Of course even paper is a mere commodity to lay out an expression that begins right here on the touch screen that created this essay. So much is lost with the loss of listening and observing everyday life. The word diversity can’t touch the real world of trillions of synapses firing at bus stops as cars roll by and just drop judgement from class position. Many of the greatest artists are behind cold steel and the most brilliant minds locked up in treatment facilities. So, there we have again the basis of the politics of everyday life.
As I said I’m no politician nor do I wish to be in a traditional sense. But everyone is a political animal as they gather their wits to just leave the house in the morning. It’s all about decisions and perhaps routines or chaos depending on how you prefer. I offer the freedom of thought to exist in multitudinous formulations of freedom. Negotiations of domestic space, whether or not or how or how long to brush your teeth are also choices and manifestations of thought and are personal politics. When you start dealing with others through verbal or nonverbal or written communication, then again decisions are constantly at odds. There is no limit to the human imagination. There is no limit to the creation of subjective reality.
Who is your master if not your own probing mind?
Shaking hands and kissing babies is not just for pantsuits and hairdos but are for each individual within any given system. I do shake hands and I do not kiss babies, at least not anymore as a parent of teens, but this is essential to human interaction. It is not the Cloud or mighty godlike computer that powers this world, it is each of us. Empowerment is in listening, observing and expressing in whatever form, this indeed is the politics of everyday life. Pizza anyone?