Politics and maturity

From the indefatigable Laudator:

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2001), p. 248 (tr. by Stephen at Don Colacho’s Aphorisms):

Man matures when he stops believing that politics solves his problems.

El hombre madura cuando deja de creer que la política le resuelve los problemas.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. EXCHIEF says:

    Therefore…all socialists are immature. The notion that big government can solve all of our problems is at the root of the destruction of this country currently well in progress and is the root of our nation’s increasing rejection of the Almighty.

  2. A. J. D. S. says:

    Don Colacho is great—and greatly undervalued, at least in the English-speaking world, as a defender of tradition and traditional values.

  3. UncleBlobb says:

    Since I have not learned to completely self-edit yet, I must ask the Don and the whole court of WDTPRS: what about the aspect of politics which removes the forces of death and darkness (“ahem”) from power, or at the very least, limits their power? Isn’t that a solution drawn from politics? [Not being able to self-edit is a “bad thing”. I hope your learning curve is good.]

  4. smw says:


    That’s not an unreasonable question, but you may have to read a little more of Nicolás Gómez Dávila to understand what he is talking about when he mentions “problems” and “solutions,” which he does often. “Problems” and “solutions” are really terms of art for him. (You can read collections of those aphorisms here and here.)

    I can tell you right now, though, that when Gómez speaks of “solving a problem,” he does not mean simply coming to terms with a situation; he means figuring everything out by our own power so that we no longer have to deal with any problem. “Removing the forces of death and darkness” is not really solving a problem, as Gómez would see it, because the forces of death and darkness will not be completely eliminated so that evil is no longer a problem. It is quite possible, after all, given our fallen nature, for the forces of life and light to be transformed into forces of death and darkness. Gómez doesn’t mean to say that it’s not worthwhile to fight for the good; all he means is that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that any victory we win here on earth will be permanent. His way of thinking bears some similarity to Tolkien’s, who viewed history as a “long, slow defeat.” (Incidentally, EXCHIEF is right, I think, to interpret this aphorism as a rejection of utopian thinking, which is certainly consistent with the rest of Gómez’s thought.)

    Maturity for Gómez, then, is accepting that we don’t have permanent solutions. Hopefully, this aphorism will make a little clearer what I have tried to explain: “Christianity does not teach that the problem is solved, but that the prayer is answered.” If that doesn’t help, all I can tell you is to keep on reading…

  5. jflare says:

    I think you miss the point we’re reaching for. Political efforts may indeed remove a “force of death” from power. At one time, I felt that we’d be OK if we voted a Republican government into office: They’d reduce the size, scope, and budget of government, eliminate or dramatically reduce abortion, better enable business to create jobs, and generally pull us from the deathtrap the Democrats had been creating.
    Thus I voted for George Bush and Friends in 2000. We had, even if by a narrow margin, a Republican-run government for a few years.
    They didn’t do much of what I thought they’d do.
    I learned the dark side of your comment: The same populace may ALSO vote that same evil force INTO office! (From my (biased) point of view, that’s what we did in 2008…..)
    Point is, I grew up in an era in which we had a strong, subtle hint that we could solve most of our problems politically. I’ve learned over the years that this only works IF the populace has decided to insist upon a morally virtuous group of leaders. AND has agreed upon what constitutes moral behavior.
    We, the Catholic faithful in America, along with our brothers and sisters of various faiths, routinely get smacked by political efforts because we’ve come to too little consensus with regard to what moral values ARE. If we don’t agree on that, our legislation looks pretty jagged.

    Thus, I suggest that rigorous prayer and rigorous catechesis between elections will provide most of the answers we need.

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