Something I never imagined would happen did, in fact, happen: For the first time in his adult life, I feel very sorry for Prince Harry. (I say “adult life” because I felt sorry for him back in 1997 when his mother died in the world’s most publicized car accident and he, a little boy, lost that love. Whatever my other opinions of Diana, I’ve never doubted that she loved her boys and they loved her.) As a young adult, Harry has distinguished himself by being a poor example of his class, whether it was dressing up as a Nazi or getting paralytically drunk in public. This was clearly a young man with too much time on his hands, too much money, and too little mental wattage.
And then he got sent to Afghanistan. His life suddenly had meaning and purpose. He was a soldier. He was there to kill the enemy and protect his fellow soldiers. According to reports, he did a damn fine job. Sadly for Harry, Drudge blabbed, and the poor boy who had instantly become the Taliban’s most desirable target was yanked out, not only to preserve his royal hide, but to make sure that he didn’t end up inadvertently turning other Brits into targets as well.
While I’m sure the anti-War crowd is delighted that poor Harry was saved from the horrors of War, poor Harry himself is much less delighted:
Speaking before his withdrawal from Helmand province, Prince Harry said he was enjoying being in Afghanistan and away from the British media.
The prince also said he would relish another front-line posting.
“It’s something I would love to do,” said the third-in-line to the throne.
“I don’t want to sit around Windsor, because I generally don’t like England that much and it’s nice to be away from all the press and the papers.” (Emphasis mine.)
That last statement just perfectly sums up just how meaningless Harry’s life is. When he’s not idiotically partying, he just gets to “sit around Windsor.” To him, life in England is boredom, humiliation and hangovers. He’s a healthy, extremely physical young man who needs purpose in his life.
We all need purpose in our life. Growing up, I was told that one of the reasons women lived longer than men is because, when men retired, their lives lost purpose (unless they had a hobby they really loved), while women, who managed the home, had multiple reasons (cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.) to get up every morning. It didn’t matter whether the purpose was pleasurable; it was enough that it motivated the person through the day. In my own life, it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, within months of retirement, my dad was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him. Although he’d dreamed of retirement for years, since he hated his job and it exhausted him, when he no longer had a reason to get up in the morning — well, he just didn’t get up any more. Once his spirit gave up, even though in a fairly pleasant way (since he wasn’t going to a hated job), his body apparently decided it was okay to give up too.
As always with me, these ruminations about life take me to politics and the difference between Left and Right. Thus, when I started thinking about Harry’s plight, and the absence of meaning in his life before his Afghanistan deployment, that Clintonian statement “the politics of meaning” kept popping into my head. As you may recall, when the Clintons stormed the national political scene in the early 1990s, much was made of the “politics of meaning.”
The “politics of meaning” is a phrase that originated with Michael Lerner, the radical rabbi who was Hillary’s intellectual mentor in the early 1990s. Jonah Goldberg, relying on a 1993 piece Michael Kelly wrote for the New York Times Magazine, has a nice summary of what Hillary meant when she talked about her understanding of this concept and the way in which she hoped to make its abstractions real in American government:
Back then Bill and Hillary thought blurring the lines between public and private was a good idea. These were the days before the health care debacle and the Administration was touting the election of the Clintons as “two for the price of one.” Indeed, the piece, brilliantly written as is usually the case with Kelly, reveals the extent to which the Clintons planned on digging deep, deep into the culture. Hillary believed that it was her place to take up the cause of “redefining who we are as human beings in this post-modern age.” And further, that we must be “willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the 20th century, moving into a new millenium.” In fact she enthusiastically agreed that she was looking for a “unified field theory of life.”
Cut through all the gobbledygook and something spooky emerges. Hillary is not saying that her life has meaning because she is a politician, or a politician’s wife. That is, her day-to-day activity does not provide her with the purpose that makes life worth living. She is not saying that her life has meaning because, in her role as the politician’s wife, or nascent politician, she is able to enact legislation that will improve the live’s of others, although that’s clearly what she believes she will do. Rather, she is saying that politics itself, without the necessity of any accomplishments or day-to-day process, is itself a transformative experience that is so meaningful that believing in it alone is sufficient to rejigger humanity to a higher purpose.
For those of us who have already figured out that, for Progressives, Leftist dogma has replaced traditional religion as the font of morality and spirituality in their lives, this actually doesn’t come as a surprise. We’ve all understood that part of the problem for those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome isn’t the fact that they disagree with his policies. It’s that he is Satan, occupying the heavenly throne that should have gone to the true annointed, either Gore or Kerry, depending on which candidate he beat. That Bush is a pleasant guy, that some of his policies have worked out well, that he is a great friend to the dispossessed in Africa — all of this is irrelevant. In the religious political universe of American Progressivism, he is Lucifer and cannot be forgiven.
Ironically, with their fierce belief that politics (and, by extension, government) is the answer, not just to physical needs of security and sustenance, but to fill the holes in people’s spiritual lives, the Progressives are doing their best to create for us precisely the type of meaningless world that Harry tried to escape. If Progressives have their way, government will ensure that we can sit back in our government-provided chair, watching our government-provided TV, eating our government-provided food, while our government-birthed children are taken care of at government-provided preschools and schools, as they train to take on government-provided jobs, with government-provided job security.
Our homes won’t be Windsor (they’ll be little government-provided boxes), but our lives will be precisely what Harry describes: we’ll sit around. For those who are true believers, who think that this will be the highest fulfillment of their religion, the spiritual uplift may offset the numbing boredom of a life sucked free of purpose. However, the healthy young animals among us might look for meaning elsewhere: in drink, drugs, crime, rigorous religions, warfare, or other activities and belief systems that, contrary to the government Nirvana the Progressives promise, actually make demands upon us, allowing us to witness ourselves living up to our own potential.
As I’ve said in so many posts, the Right’s view in this regard is the right view. To the Right, politics is not an end in itself (or, alternatively, it’s not the vehicle that leads to the end, which is a world of pure government). Instead, politics exists to create a strong security and economic foundation for citizens and then to get the hell out of the way. It’s up to each individual to take on the job of giving his own life meaning and purpose.
UPDATE: I could have saved myself some time writing the above post, since I just read Fred Siegel’s City Journal article entitled “Yes, We Can’t.” In it, he examines America’s past failed experiments with elevating politics from a means to an end and explaining why, whether he wins or loses, Obama’s “politics of hope” will still be a disappointment for those seeking Utopia in his political arms.