Our politicians are too keen to fight. Our political activists, whether from the Left or the Right, whether in the streets or in the media, are too quick to vilify and demonize those with whom they disagree. The rest of us are stuck in the withering, wearying cross-fire, wondering where this all goes; wondering when and how it might cease.
In the movie, Fight Club (which I recently watched anew), we can see where it might all conceivably lead: General alienation from civil society; general attacks upon civil society; and eventual implosion of civil society. We are not, however, beholden to the Fight Club path; we are not doomed to a Fight Club future. We can go a different way, if we recognize and seize our opportunities.
Tyler Durden, the character played by Brad Pitt, is the charismatic founder and father of Fight Club. He advances a destructive political agenda, Project Mayhem, by practicing upon the men in his community who feel disoriented, insecure, marginalized. Tyler is not offering to change society for the better. He is exploiting the vulnerable in pursuit of anarchy. He is offering momentary catharsis in exchange for a bleak future.
Edward Norton plays an insomniac dupe who succumbs to Tyler’s charisma, joins Fight Club, recruits followers, and discharges Project Mayhem. Toward the end of the movie, we learn that when Norton’s character succumbed to Tyler’s charisma, he was succumbing to a narrative; he was enlisting in a cause; he was adopting a method.
Brad Pitt’s Tyler, we realize, is not a person. He is a temptation. And a warning.
Tyler’s narrative is false; his cause is selfish; his methods are exploitative. Under Tyler’s sway, Norton’s dupe comes to objectify and use others. He destroys all that he himself possesses, materially and spiritually; he destroys as well that which others possess and enjoy. In return for which, he receives neither fulfillment nor happiness.
Our own future need not be so bleak. But we need to be on guard against the Tyler Durdens of our current day, who are on both the Left and the Right, inflaming and exploiting social resentments in order to advance their radical politics, from one side or the other, of hostility to the preservation and steady expansion of liberty, goodwill, justice, and prosperity.
We need to be on guard, too, against political charlatans who promise easy solutions to difficult problems; who vilify and demonize their opponents; who boast that they will fight, fight, fight for whomever they are seeking to flatter.
Political catharsis feels good. But it seldom brings good. That is the lesson of the false prophet, Tyler Durden.
Unfortunately, false prophets of the Left and the Right predominate today from the wings of the Democratic and Republican parties, in the halls of academia, and in the voices of the mainstream media. No wonder that recrimination and dysfunction reign.
For better debate and better results… for averting a bleak future that arrives with spite as a triumph of false narratives… we need a fundamentally different politics. We need a third party to break the political duopoly. We need principled, respectful voices in Washington to restore civility to debate.
The opportunity for the latent American majority of socially tolerant, fiscally responsible voters is to disavow lifetime political allegiances and coalesce in the Libertarian Party. For my neighbors in the Maryland 3rd Congressional District, the opportunity is to send me to Congress when voting on November 6.
If instead we stick with the two established and polarized parties, we will remain stuck in their cross-fire; we will remain at risk of Tyler Durden’s bleak future.
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Written by J. David Lashar