“Freedom from Illusion”

I could understand if some found David B. Hart’s prose a bit overdone.  I, however, am usually delighted by it.  Here is particularly well-crafted paragraph from Hart’s recent musing at First Things:

Yet our system obliges us to elevate to office precisely those persons who have the ego-besotted effrontery to ask us to do so; it is rather like being compelled to cede the steering wheel to the drunkard in the back seat loudly proclaiming that he knows how to get us there in half the time. More to the point, since our perpetual electoral cycle is now largely a matter of product recognition, advertising, and marketing strategies, we must be content often to vote for persons willing to lie to us with some regularity or, if not that, at least to speak to us evasively and insincerely. In a better, purer world—the world that cannot be—ambition would be an absolute disqualification for political authority.

Of course, it’s not just the style that matters in that paragraph — Hart does have a significant point to make — but I am willing to bet you will never hear or read the phrase “ego-besotted effrontery” again.  The whole essay, cast in Hart’s distinctive whimsical, world-weary tone, is worth taking a few minutes to peruse.  In case it is one click too far, here is the closing paragraph and its good counsel:

. . . one can be grateful of the liberties one enjoys, and use one’s franchise to advance the work of trustworthier politicians (and perhaps there are more of those than I have granted to this point), and pursue the discrete moral causes in which one believes. But it is good also to imagine other, better, quite impossible worlds, so that one will be less inclined to mistake the process for the proper end of political life, or to become frantically consumed by what should be only a small part of life, or to fail to see the limits and defects of our systems of government. After all, one of the most crucial freedoms, upon which all other freedoms ultimately depend, is freedom from illusion.

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