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Rhona Burns


I had the chance not long ago to talk with some friends about the fact that puzzlingly enough, times of political election seem to be times of forgetfulness. Somehow we seem to forget our usual caution of words.

It is interesting that despite all of our awareness, our apparent cleverness and sophistication, we find ourselves again and again in the same silly circle of slogans, billboards and campaigns. This is high season for the act of speech. Despite the fact that in our day-to-day jargon the word “slogan” is often used to belittle some argument as an “empty shell”or as a general metaphor for voidness, most of us are drawn to the many election-related events, where we usually find exactly that.

As it happens, it seems that we want to hear politicians speak: we go out especially to listen to them in rallies, spending our time watching them on TV, where they are very prevalent. And the interesting part is that we do this with utter seriousness, and many of us with some actual hope that guides us through, even if we are let down time and again.

Usually, we are more cautious–We tell ourselves that words are not the important thing; “it is what one does or does not do that matters in the end”. But in fact, at times of election, we not only witness  our significant reliance on those good old dingy words, but we also realize our utter dependence on them.

It is like someone who chronically looks for more loans just to get away from previous debts. In these loudly outspoken words of others, we are looking for salvation, each time anew, each time we are hoping to be finally saved.

Friedrich Nietzsche tried to face this futile search by describing Man as a bridge:

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Overman — a rope over an abyss.
[…] What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going. I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.

(Thus Spoke Zarathustra ; see here)

The grammar of elections always has a goal, a purpose. The “down-goers”, on the other hand, have no goal except for continuation and evolution ( or as Nietzsche puts it: “I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers”).

The hope we project on words, and that stands behind the entire aesthetic manufacturing of instant-politics during elections, is based on the aspiration to lift the weight that hangs on all of our shoulders, the weight of responsibility and of serious decision-making. For the most difficult thing is not to accept what is so handsomely offered to us, but instead to insist on our free-“down-going” possibilities.

Whatever people might promise us while standing on glittering shiny stages, victory is not around the corner, thank Heaven. It is at such a time exactly–i.e. election time-that one should give up the search within this circus of words and well-spoken promises.When everyone around us seems to speak so nicely about everything, we must resist the well-articulated phrase. Indeed, it seems that this is exactly the right and best time to do so.



About this (edited!) picture see here

* This short piece was published originally in Hebrew during the Israeli election period