Ask Andrew W.K.: Why Call Them Political ‘Parties’ When They’re So Un-Party?


[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]

Dear Andrew W.K.,

Why are they called the Democratic “Party” and Republican “Party” when these politicians are the last people I would want to party with?


Dear J,

As a very wise friend once explained to me, the word “party” originates from the word “parté,” which means to partition or separate. It refers to a group intentionally removing itself from the larger whole. It’s strange how many of us — including myself — now use the word “party” to represent a kind of inclusive celebration. The most joyful parties thrive on a sense of oneness that defies separation and division, a sort of coming together that fuses a shared sense of joy with an understanding that we’re all here, whether we like it or not, so why not make the best of it? It seems that the spirit of professional governmental politics has tended to drift away from this idea of oneness in favor of a world of endless separation. The word “party” will always be a paradox in this way, a sense of oneness inside a sense of separation. But inside that separation should always be a desire to return to the whole.

Traditional political party pursuits appear to revolve around the unnatural results of intentional division and playing sides against one another. We see the creation of divisions where there aren’t any, and the twisted amplification of natural divisions being intentionally distorted. As such, people are divided for no good reason except to sow discord, or to stoke anger for the sake of perceived progress when that progress often later leads to further frustration.

Despite there being very real and urgent issues involved in governmental politics, some of us begin to develop an unshakable feeling that everything related to this strange sphere of societal management is descending further and further into a sort of self-perpetuating insanity, a spiral of disorder that seeks to overwhelm us, muddle our thinking, obscure the truth, and leave us with far less than what we’re worthy of.

It sometimes seems that we get addicted to this spinning confusion and the divisions that spring up as we try to steady ourselves and find clarity. Emotionally thrilled and stimulated by our endless defending of one side against another, we allow the giddiness and satisfying high of attacking and judging to fill our days and define our personalities. We almost seem to avoid solving our problems.

Many of us eventually identify ourselves by whichever battles we’re most dedicated to fighting. What would happen to our sense of self if we actually won or lost these fights? Better to stay engaged, until we completely lose touch with the mysterious part of our true selves that exists beyond positions, opinions, and arguments. We begin to live our lives with a mistaken sense that we are right while “the other” is not only wrong, but somehow a lesser person — perhaps not even human at all.

The focus on dividing, on picking sides, on drawing lines, on building walls, on amplifying opposites and corrupting polarities creates an incredible and unsustainable amount of tension that is heaped on the already very intense and confounding experience of just being alive. This piling-on of so much extra emotional anguish further pushes us away from our best selves and into a state of prolonged, all-consuming panic, with all our worst impulses rising to overtake the better aspects of our characters. There just isn’t any space in our hearts to access a better version of the world when it has been made into a battleground of noise and confusion. Our collective consciousness is strewn with madness and despair, and we’re struggling to maneuver through the wasteland, where the vague idea of perfecting the world seems hopelessly naive and laughable.

Who benefits from these conditions?

No one actually does in the long run, but in the short term, there do seem to be those who stand to gain from watching the majority of humanity lose itself in the darkness. While the world grows more and more complicated, and a feeling of imminent doom hovers in our culture and society, we notice predictable phenomena swarming around the mess and feeding off the disarray. Keeping most of us distracted and exhausted seems to allow others to plot, plan, and benefit for their own gain while we remain entangled in a manufactured chaos.

Stepping back from the conspiracy idea, however, perhaps we are not necessarily the victims of a malevolent plot engineered by a select and removed elite — these political parties. Perhaps we’ve all been part of a largely subconscious collaboration to involve ourselves in a self-induced cycle of calamity, bewilderment, and sadness, a pattern that we started innocently enough, and then kept spinning because we just don’t know what the world would feel like without it. Eventually this leads to complete disillusionment and a sense of resignation, a feeling that things are what they are, and that the systematic corruption and failed network of power is irreparable and not even worth trying to improve.

It can be painful to consider that what’s broken in the world might just be a reflection of what’s broken in us. But it’s also empowering to consider that if we fix our own life, we may actually be able to fix the world. Until we truly live our day-to-day lives with the same type of integrity and idealistic dedication we wished we saw in our surrounding sociopolitical structures, we won’t see the change we say we want. Perhaps the mirror of the world would then reflect what we want to see. After all, how can we expect the system to be good and trustworthy when we ourselves don’t operate in good and trustworthy ways?

If there is a conspiracy at all, it’s an insidious form of lazy bitterness that allows us to expect less of ourselves because we expect less of our leaders. In actuality, whether we like it or not, our government and our situation is just an extension of you and me. It really is made of us. It’s not separated from us, despite how much we believe it to be divided from our realm of influence. This is a difficult and painful realization to contemplate. Great efforts have been made so that the “powers that be” all appear very distant and separate from us — beyond our reach and out of our control. What do we do?

We become better. Now is the time to really become a better person. Now is the time we desperately need to lead ourselves and each other into an active life of goodness. And fortunately, this is something we can start doing right now, on our own. No more cheating. No more lying. No more scamming, cutting corners, hustling each other. We must start trying to live the way we wish the most powerful people in the world would live. Then we could form a party that we truly all deserve, a party of one-for-all and all-for-one, where the only separation is found in realizing our small but incredible singular location, unique in the vastness of space, working together to be the best we can be here in this world, as one. Stay strong, and never give up on idealism. It’s more important than ever.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.