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Today's Knight - A View on Politics

The genius of a democratic-republic is twofold.

Its democratic components allow citizens direct influence over their government through the electoral process.

Its republican structure of representative government provides safeguards from the capriciousness of popular opinion. It anticipates the election of quality people in leadership roles – our brightest minds, disciplined in temperament, well-versed in the art of statesmanship, and immune, on the people’s behalf, from the lure of self-interest.

The combination makes really good sense. Unfortunately, people at every level seem too distracted by human weakness. While we should all want our government to work at optimal proficiency, we fail to make it so.

Who is to blame for these failures? Partisans instantly point to the other side, ignoring their own contributions. It was George Washington who warned us, in his Circular Letter of 1783, that if the “citizens [of the United States] should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be completely their own.” This is true of any modern nation in which the people play a contributory role.

While critiquing today’s politics, we should stop now and then and consider if Washington was right. Are we are the ones at fault? As citizens, how do we absolve ourselves from the responsibility of our citizen government, when we are the ones who fail to partake in it properly? Dare we hide behind the excuse that our votes and voices (or lack thereof) are too inconsequential to make a difference? Or does responsibility lie, as logic would indicate, on those who either ignore what is going on, or complain incessantly while doing nothing to improve the situation?

The system has to fail democratically when the voice of the people does not assert itself properly – by which I mean in a morally honest, intelligent and positive manner. This failure can be traced to deceptive leaders pulling citizens astray, the blind influence of ideology and partisanship, and the withdrawal that comes from people who are just not interested.

Without informed, educated, free-thinking citizens, democracy becomes narcissistically all form and no substance. The collective benefit of diverse wisdom is replaced by political showmanship, rooted in special interests and personal ambition. Honesty, intelligence and dedication to the intricacies of government are no longer considered prerequisites for serious candidates. They are chosen instead by the adherence to ideological formulas and by vehement animosity toward the opposition.

What is missing is the kind of inspirational vision that elevates government to perform its much needed function: which is protecting the rights and freedom of individual citizens in their pursuit of happiness, promote the general welfare so that the pursuit is available to all, provide for justice, and national defense.

With this in mind, it is important to understand that the greatest poisons to democracy are ignorance, the lack of interest of a disengaged votary, and the willful spread of false information, be it from political strategies or media personalities. Reliable truth is vital to citizen participation.

The greatest poison to republicanism is the ineptitude and corruption of its representatives. The American founders envisioned leaders very much like themselves, visionaries who honored truth and justice, and served their nation not for personal profit, but for the advancement of the human condition. They anticipated representatives of intelligence, good will and noble qualities. Why would anyone vote for less?

Republicanism fails when leaders of unworthy qualities or intent cripple the system with corruption, personal ambition, and extreme partisanship. Under such circumstances, the workings of government simply cannot function as they should. Issues give way to partisan strategies. Winning replaces national concerns. When this happens, the very ideals that we depend upon become distorted beyond recognition.

When the people become disengaged or misled by media propagandists, when representatives become exploitive caricatures of what they should be, it takes far more than a Constitution to repair the damage. The culture, both inside and outside of politics, must reclaim its philosophical depth. This can only happen when everyday people generate the dedicated enthusiasm of the genuinely enlightened patriot, from whom constructive futures are built. Yes, the system counts. But it does not work unless the people are properly engaged.

Today’s Knight can contribute to this process. Modern chivalry maintains a virtual treasure trove of the philosophical depth we need to recover our cultural ideals. It reflects a moral ethic of honor and commitment, and advocating for what is right and just. It understands personal sacrifice for the sake of others, and naturally resists the dictatorship of greed, be it personal or corporate. It rejuvenates those who are discouraged by activating a new enthusiasm of conscience. It starts with the call to develop one’s life for the greater good, which contributes to the making of solid democratic citizens and republican leaders.

As a living embodiment of chivalry, today’s Knight is called to provide an example of an incorruptible advocate for truth, who instills in others a respect for truth, which then inspires cultural expectations for the same. He or she will be an embodiment of courtesy in thought, word and deed. The heroes who stand out will be worthy of their recognition, admirable, refined, trustworthy.

As the culture improves, the press will accommodate their demands for more fact and less bias. Politicians will adjust to a higher quality of popular opinion. Extremism will lose its attraction. The destructive ideologies of today will crumble

A cultural swing that incorporates a new depth of virtue is capable of healing all wounds, clears the path to new solutions, instills harmony, disarms enemies and makes new friends. Human potential gets back on track, and with it the approach of our greater destiny.

Once in place, the improvements of domestic life will be so noticeable, so attractive, that it will the draw the whole world to do likewise – thereby introducing a new age of peace and understanding.

“An interesting thought,” some might conclude, “but too naive to be taken seriously.”

Perhaps. Ideals present goals that are difficult or impossible to attain. The down-to-earth benefit is in trying. But what is the alternative? Accept things the way they are? Sit back as the conscience of humanity becomes more and more incognizant to its own failure to act? Excuse ourselves by saying that one person cannot make a difference?

The image of today’s Knight suggests otherwise. It tells us that virtues only exist when we bring them to life in the way we live. It defines hero as someone authentic, built from his or her own initiative. We can do that.

But then, perhaps our most debilitating fear is knowing that we can make a difference, but to do so means deviating from the crowd, stepping out of our comfort zone, accepting the responsibilities that life gives us as thinking, feeling creatures. Isn’t such initiative what heroism is all about?

If you are tired of your inner confusion, tired of a world where politics is never what it should be, tired of watching humanity plagued by violence and poverty and ideological conflict, then consider the possibility of Knighthood. All it takes is responding to the call that is within you already, the call for authentic living. Once you say yes, the door opens and the way made clear for your own personal quest.


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