- Social relations involving authority or power
- The profession devoted to governing and to political affairs
I was surprised when I read the primary dictionary definition of politician and found it to be something so innocuous as “a leader engaged in civil administration,” so I looked in a different dictionary, and found that the definition of politician was also innocuous. “A person active in party politics.” “This can’t be right,” I thought, so I looked at another definition. “A schemer who tries to gain advantage in an organization in sly or underhanded ways.” Ah ha! That’s more like it. So with a better definition to hand, let us begin our discussion.
I don’t know about you, but wherever I have worked, there has been a certain amount of “office politics” going on, with people “jockeying for position,” attempting to manipulate and undermine to gain some position or curry favour (seek favour by fawning or flattery) with their superiors. People gossip and badmouth others for no other reason than their own personal ambition. Although it can be destructive in an office, the poison normally only spreads as far as the company walls. The opposite can be said to be happening in the political world. The maliciousness spreads, not only across parties, but across borders too.
Politics has always been said to be a “serious” game, and it needs “serious” players. But all politics seems to be is like any other game where the object is winning, except the players employ more devious tactics and underhand moves than can ever be seen in a game of cards.
But the objective is the same. Winning.
The business of politics has nothing to do with ensuring the well-being and happiness of all on the planet, but is actually an end unto itself. Do you follow? What we are saying is that the objective of politics is just politics, where the participants are engaged in a continual tug of war (any hard struggle between equally matched groups). Sometimes one team wins, sometimes the other team wins. And they continue to struggle. Day in, day out. Year after year. Decade after decade. Century after century. And what gets done? Politics.
Some of you may be thinking: “What’s he talking about? If it hadn’t been for politics, the slavery act wouldn’t have been repealed, or the capital punishment act, or the immigration act wouldn’t have been passed, or the health and safety at work act…” But what I am trying to convey to you is that whether the result is positive or negative for society, it is just politics.
For people who are supposed to be engaged in real life decisions, they seem very removed from it all. They parade around, making powerful speeches, and introducing bills on behalf of their constituents. One day they fight for the little man’s working rights, the next they sign a bill allowing companies to fire their employees more easily, because the sponsor of that bill has agreed to support their bill on the environment! Do you see? Politics is no more than a delicate dance where you get what you want by giving up something else, and agreeing with one man to undermine another etc. there is no end goal.
“You’re not being fair, leave us alone,” cry the politicians. “We do our best, it’s a very difficult job!” and indeed it is when everything is tied up in the dance. It is a miracle that anything gets done with the amount of back stabbing and political infighting that goes on. But to be fair, things do happen – just very, very slowly.
I’m sure when most people enter politics they do not imagine it will be like this. I’m sure when they register their candidacy, they really do want to help make people’s lives better, but as soon as they are elected, they find out that the real business of politics is much more than just making peoples lives better. It’s about developing relationships, flattery, biding your time, aligning yourself with the right people, and you realise, that to make people’s lives better, you should have worked for a charity developing clean water supplies in africa. But then again, you’d be back into office politics.
“Alan, my boy,” says the political old timer, “you’ve got a lot to learn here. I know you just want to do good, but I’ve been here a long time, and if you want to get anything done, you have to get to know the right people.”
“I see,” I added nervously.
“See old smithy over there, he came into politics to save the world, but because of the company he keeps, he’ll be lucky to save his job, come the next election,” he chuckled. “I used to be just like you, so full of big ideas, so full of anger at the injustice going on in the world, but the longer I was in politics, the more I realised, that if I wanted to change anything, I was going to have to keep my job, do you understand?”
“I think so,” I said, looking a little more confused than maybe I ought to have been.
“Let me put it this way. Hang on to your job first, go along with a few things you don’t particularly like and vote for them, after all, it’s no skin off your nose, is it? Just an X in the box and you’re done, and by helping other people pass their bills you can then call upon them to help you pass your bills,” he added with all the wisdom of a sage.
“So let me get this right. You are saying that even if I think it is unforgivable what the logging companies are doing to the ancient forests, I should support the government bill which gives the loggers even more rights to log ancient forests, and in return they will support a bill that protects some of the trees in a new national park?” I asked.
“You’ve got it!” he replied with a smile.
“This business is complete lunacy!”
“You’re learning my boy.”
So why do we keep a system like this going?
Because those in power quite like it, thank you. It allows them to make magnanimous (noble and generous in spirit) gestures that make them feel like (a) they are very important, and (b) they are really helping the world, instead of either making it worse, or just talking. And boy do they love to talk! The thing is, they make it sound good, but most of it is pure waffle.
“Would my right honourable friend agree that by allowing the greenbelt (a belt of parks or rural land surrounding a town or city) land to be used for a new superstore, he is allowing the destruction of yet another area of natural beauty that is famed for its wildlife?”
“I would like to thank my right honourable friend for his question and ask him whether he cares more for a few ducks than for the future prosperity of this country and its citizens (much laughter in the house). Can a duck feed a man and his family? Of course it can’t. But the new employment that the retail park will bring will be able to feed a thousand men and their families, and I would like to assure my right honourable friend that his ducks will be moved to a new park a few miles up the road, all paid for by the new retail park owners. Is my right honourable friend still concerned, or have I answered the question?”
A sensible human being would say: “But hang on, you haven’t answered my real question, which is why yet another piece of unspoilt land is being built on, just so that people can go out and do more shopping,” but the cunning politician knows that it is better to accept a small concession (which after all, is a win) than to accept defeat. Defeat means he may not be elected next time round.
As we said earlier, he is engaged in a dance with complex steps, and he must ensure that he retains his balance! So, rather than going back to his constituents empty-handed, he can at least take something back to them, thereby (temporarily) placating those who were opposed to the development.
Back in his home constituency at the town hall meeting the politician stands up to speak:
“Now quieten down everyone. I am here to report some good news – a veritable success in fact (to which the small crowd applaud). Our valued wildlife, which is currently precariously close to the dangerous m5 motorway is to be given a new sanctuary where they will be safe from harm. A new lake is to be built and new viewing platforms created so we can observe them whilst not disturbing them.”
Suddenly a constituent stands up: “But what about the retail development? Is it still going ahead?”
“I would have thought that you would be pleased about the new wildlife park,” the politician scolds.
“Not if it means more of our green spaces are taken away from us!” the constituent replies.
“I’m sorry, I have run out of time, we can pick this up at the next meeting,” says the politician as he beats a hasty retreat away from his little constituency, back to the safety of parliament, where he feels much more at home.
“How did the constituency meeting go?” asks one of his colleagues.
“Well, I would have thought they would have shown a little more gratitude for the concessions I got for them,” replies the young politician.
“These people just don’t know what’s good for them,” jokes his colleague, “shall we retire to the bar?”
“Why not? It’s been a very stressful day.”
Well what can you do, that’s politics for you! You win some, you lose some, but as long as you keep your job, you live to fight another battle. And at the end of the day, that’s all it is, a job. The people engaged in politics are not more intelligent or better people than us, nor do they know what’s best for you or for the country. They just get paid to play a game. Unfortunately, the results of their games played in the political arena affect the rest of us, and the planet as a whole. They only care about winning the game, whatever they say.
We have no need for people who just talk, we need people like you to stand up and take action, not wait for somebody to get a concession for us. Stand up and be counted. It is time to act before those in power end up destroying everything that is on this wonderful planet, including us! What do you say? Will you stand?
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’