Man is a political animal. — Aristotle
The great political question, according to the philosophers of the enlightenment, was why would the individual give up her inherent liberty to another body, to an institution. Different theories arose, the social contract being the most dominant. But I think there is another reading possible: we come together, because we are hopeful, because we hope for a better life, a better world, a better future.
Hope is a dangerous thing; it can drive a man insane, as Morgen Freeman tells us in ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ But without it, the soul of being human is evacuated. We live into the future; we are futural, as Heidegger argues, and this means we are hoping beings. Politics, political structures and systems are the concretization of those hopes.
When hope fails, or when societies can no longer have imagined or possible better futures, then politics fail. Political structures also become repressive (more than they already are), and society seems to be a jailor’s game. In these situations, those offering any kind of hope become our leaders. History witnesses to the disasters that then unfold, because it is not merely a leader that can restore a society. All of society just be reshaped, offered new narratives, or old ones with new resources. Politics is the busy of societal hope, because each human being is driven by it, and each human being is a political animal.
The present day situation is no different. People are looking for hope in the west (and all around the world). There has been economic stagnation, material deflation, and the increasing instability of working lives and living situations. All of this brings about a desire to change the political situation, as we look for hope, for the one offering the hope we want — even if it turns out to be a false hope.
Today, Europe needs hope. Europe needs a soul, a purpose, a future. One that is not merely economic, but one that embraces the human project, one that is hopeful, touching the deepest parts of the human spirit. The protest votes across the Union evidence this, as people are looking for hope. But at the very top, where does hope even come from? What hope can counter the fear of our times?