Frankly, reading about sex in the Nexus opinion pages, while being most stimulating in some senses, is not satisfying my desire for political and international intercourse. Thus the subject of this article, and if students at UCSB approach this article with the energy that they approach sex, then there may yet be hope for politics in this country.
Look for a definition of the term “theoretical” on Google and you will read, “concerned primarily with hypotheses rather than practical considerations.” This is the perfect summation of the American political and social condition. So, let us first consider the cornerstone of American society: the Constitution.
Based on the ancient principles of the Roman republic, the rights and freedoms of the American people are guaranteed by a system of checks and balances, the state will be politically self-perpetuating and the leaders, having been elected by the people, will work for the people. Sadly, the Roman republic fell into pieces, due, to cut a long story short, to the intrigues of individual, social and economic flux. Does any of this sound familiar? History doesn’t repeat, but human behavior, it would appear, does.
Indeed, the comparison is so unfavorable that modern American politicians would rather see themselves as the product of Athens, and propound the benefits of democracy and free speech. In reality, Athenian democracy was so radical that it fell apart from within, popularity taking precedence over policy. Again, does any of this sound familiar? History doesn’t repeat, but likewise humans, it would appear, don’t learn.
Theory doesn’t always work, and this has been key to other dark episodes in America’s history. Jump forward two and a half thousand years to the Vietnam War. Woodrow Wilson’s theory of self-determination – advocacy of nationalism-based independence for the colonial Third World – was thrown out of the window with the onset of the Cold War and replaced with Levi-Strauss’ neoconservative political theory. The theory that declared the fall of liberal capitalist America was due to its liberal capitalism and that armed conflict against a perceived threat was the glue that would hold the state together. This theory culminated in the Cold War, the Gulf War and the War on Terror.
Theory is dying. These notions upheld by the West are ridiculed by reality. Apathy is rife, politicians are either liars or inept, and western morality is obsolete. America is succumbing to the same fate as Greece and Rome; too much idealism and too much political inability. But surely, I hear you cry, we can stop this decline? How can I possibly live without my 12- liter V9 truck, and ranch with every meal?
The answer is realpolitik. America must be dynamic. Washington must adapt. Political discourse should evolve into pragmatic action aimed to solve the problems of the modern world. Addressing the conflict in Israel and Palestine and its implications for the Middle East, AIDS in Africa, and the global climate, domestic and international inequality is vital to the future of the USA and its status as superpower.
Theory – idealistic or realistic – is defunct, and it is time for the Americans, particularly the students of today, to realize that the future is in their hands. This quarter, pay attention in your history class.
Benjamin Corp is a British EAP student studying classics at UCSB.