9th February, 2019
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about politics, which is unusual for me as I’ve long held the view that politics, being the land in which principles of the masculine are systematised and dominant, whether they are played out by men or women of parliament, is no place for me as an older woman.
I watched the prime media time coverage of the latest ritualised brutalisation of Theresa May and her efforts to sort out the Brexit mess in which government gave her a vote of no confidence. The behaviour and sound effects of her fellow MPs prompted me to comment in a derogatory tone on the farmyard antics of government and I was chided by a young male member of my family with “in other parts of the world challenges to government result in people being killed in the streets”. I appreciated his point but on reflection I think this scenario was not unlike voicing distaste for women selling their flesh, either on a viewing or sex trade basis and being met with the idea that in some parts of the world women have their sexual organs removed, i.e. female genital mutilation. In other words two wrongs don’t make a right just because one wrong is less wrong.
The day after that particular parliamentary debate I listened to a radio debate on the conduct of parliament and the main justification appeared to be that it ‘de-personalised’ matters. That is an interesting construct and, I’d venture, a singularly masculine one. I’ve heard it used to justify so many practices; legal, academic, scientific, commercial and there are more. This making a virtue of rational objectivity and lack of emotionality makes sense to some degree for getting to some essential, clean and absolute truth is useful and necessary for getting things done, making sound judgements and establishing and maintaining rules. However, when empathy and personal congruence depart alongside emotion we have a problem for these are important checks to the worst and most destructive human behaviour and actions.
So, as I began, I’ve been thinking about politics and been realising that despite its seeming complexity it could be very much simpler and much more benevolent than it is at this time. The word ‘politics’ is multi-layered, imbued with many meanings and, apparently, as old as Greek civilisation although I am cautious in the use of this term because civilisation can be attributed to many sources such as the Assyrians or Egyptians as well as the Greeks. Aristotle’s 4th century renowned work ‘politics’ argue that the governance of the city (polis in Greek) represents the highest form of community, i.e. higher than other forms of community or alliance such as the family or village. He also states that the ethical and philosophical aspects of human affairs can be examined in their most important form at this level. If Aristotle was right then an examination of our present day politics should give us cause for concern. If Aristotle was, perhaps, a little skewed in his value system and judgement, i.e. representative as he was of entitled and affluent men in power, we should equally question the idea that there is a hierarchy of community and human endeavour, the most important aspect of which is the city or state.
One of many definitions of the word politics, available in one of many free on-line dictionaries (Farex) is:
Politics as a noun means:
1. the science or art of political government.
2. the practice or profession of conducting political affairs.
3. political affairs.
4. political methods or maneuvers.
5. political principles or opinions.
6. the use of strategy or intrigue in obtaining power, control, or status.
Or as an idiom:
a. to play politics,
b. to engage in political intrigue.
c. to deal with people in an opportunistic or manipulative way, as for job advancement.
Am I alone in noticing that when politics is considered as an entity or thing the general meaning is quite constructive, even noble? However, when it is viewed in terms of acts or conduct, much less positive connotations creep in, i.e. opportunism, manipulation, personal advancement in terms of power and control rear their less palatable heads. Perhaps Aristotle’s original premise that politics and ethics are intertwined needs to be considered again but also simplified back to the ‘do as you would be done by’ ‘one-human-to-another’ basis for political interaction. The inextirpable nature of politics, i.e. it is impossible to eradicate, means that it is here to stay so a position of disdaining or even rejecting it is not viable and we all need to think about how it can be improved and how it can be made more humane.