We are paying more attention to politics than ever. Content seems irrelevant if not political. If a book does not explain how we got to this political moment or how it may turn out (dystopian), it may not sell. If an article wasn’t published today, it seems outdated. And one can no longer be apolitical; whoever you are, you helped bring this about.
But in contrast to widespread complacency and ignorance, this swelling of interest and civic vigilance should be welcome, right? It must be better, right? Maybe not.
More than ever, politics is entertainment brought to you by news media, a form of interactive theatre, and in the most gripping genre: horror. We cannot look away for a moment. Anytime we are lulled into our own concerns, a new crisis or intrigue is revealed, and we remain preoccupied with the behavior of elected officials.
We have not become more political; we have become hyper-political. By dramatizing politics, we make it less real, a spectacle. We fetishize the power of elected officials at our own expense; they who should be public servants accountable to citizens become brands more profitable the more sensational their doings.
Despite paying more attention to politics, we are not more engaged in thinking critically about it. We are missing the forest for the trees. What is the forest? Literally, the forest — and the global ecosystem of which the forest is a vital part and in which we humans really exist. The more entranced we are by the hyper-reality of spectacle, the less present we are to the here and now of life, and death, around us.