Monday, December 24, 2012

Politics is about relationships....Happy Christmas!

It is Christmas Eve, 2012, and the world is still waiting for the birth of a new way of living, and forgiving and birthing hope.
And there is a growing consciousness of a disconnect between that universal search and the way humans "do governance" and grow our cultures and our societies.
Utilitarianism is supposed to find application in the principle of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number"....
Emmanual Kant reminds us that 'we are not to be the means for another's ends'...
Frankl tells us to search for our meaning while
The existentialists tell us that our 'existential moment' occurs at the moment we become conscious and aware of our own meaninglessness...and then move to take responsibility for that vaccuum.
However, politics is about policy and not about the relationships between people, in the insightful words of the former Speaker of the House of Commons...
when at the core of our society is the question of the relationship between human beings...
Policy, it would seem, is the instrument that legislators use to define the interface between the 'state' and the 'citizen' and in most cases it is the result of some kind of "brew" that includes the latest polls, the public opinion winds that are 'in the air' and a hefty dose of the ideology of the people who have won the most recent election, with a dark dash of the resistance from those who lost the last election.
And we call that mixture, "democracy" because we exchange rhetorical 'shots' as opposed to 'ballistic' or 'bullet' shots in our debate.
And yet, there is a case to be made for using the concept of relationships as a guiding principle for the governing class...
And that starts with the relationship between the voter and the politicians...if and when it is open, frank and authentic, that is if both are demonstrating those qualities, there is a greater likelihood that both will buy into the decisions taken in the legislature. If, on the other hand, it is contemptuous, deceptive and arrogant, on the part of the legislatures, then there is a high degree of probability that the citizens will grow restless, discontent and even contemptuous.
So, in the event that "public perceptions" (by the citizenry) are incongruent with the "mind-set" of the government, the disconnect is so dramatic that the healthy functioning of the state dissipates, atrophies and even grinds to a stalemate.
By the same token, if the relationships between those in power and those in opposition grows toxic, a similar stalemate results, and the public good is rendered mute in the direction and purpose of the debate among the legislators.
So in a very provincial, parochial way, relationships between and among people are extremely important to the effective governance of any healthy civil society...
And when those relationships break, so does the machinery of government grind to a halt, or the effective semblance of a car stalled from a broken timing belt, for example.
And it is often a perception of how that timing belt is working, how the parties to any agreement to govern perceive the timing to be either congruent or not between the parties, because timing in relationships can be considered the ingredient that is the most likely of negotiation.
If you think that it is time to do X, and I think it is not time to do X, we are at an impasse. Similarly, in reverse.
So, how do we get our clocks, and our timing into synchronicity, if the purpose of the political game is to "beat" the other in the public eye?
We have set our machinery of government on a faulty premise, if we think that we can reach agreement, compromise, a bold piece of legislation in the public interest, when those attempting to come to that place have contempt for one another, in the ideological sense, or in the dogmatic, and faith sense, or in the ethnic and linguistic sense, or in the economic and financial sense.
So, when and how do we bring our political discussion to include a formal and a disciplined examination of the relationships that are required for democracy to work....and we have not succeeded in that goal...
We are watching, in most western democracies, a plague of ineffectual and blatantly self-serving rhetoric that is far more committed to the personal aggrandizement of those uttering the words than it is to serving the people whose votes put those people in power. Their posturing with their electoral "base" takes precedence over the potential historic accomplishments that everyone who is awake can see on the horizon. Their defaming their opponents supercedes their dedication to the goal of achieving a community that is willing and able to move forward together in a spirit of co-operation, compromise and good will, in hope and in courage.
The notion of "power" and its residual aphrodisiacal impact on both those exercising it and those observing the exercise has become like a drug for both. And the pundits feed on the dysfunction, clearly not on the achievements of healthy leadership and governance. So with both those in power and those writing and talking about their own seduction with the fleeting encounter with the aphrodisiac of power, and sustaining in the process, their own competitive positions, we are left with a drama of failed relationships, feeding the power needs of the actors, the critics and the audience is leaving the theatre because we have been left out of the "play"....and everyone knows it.
So to the Speaker, I say, that if politics is not about human relationships, and that includes the relationships between those who are gay with the body politic, and those who are hungry, poor and unemployed with the body politic, and those who are born on First Nation reserves and the wider body politic, and the relationships between teachers and students, and between men and women....then politics is less than useless, less than doing its job and less than hopeful in sustaining its hold on "power" that fleeting aphrodisiac that, like a very strong light bulb, attracts thousands of moths to is rays, only to find that the closer the moth gets to the "light" the more quickly it dies on the pavement below....
Let's bring a little less seduction to the political game and a little more vulnerability at this birthing time of year for all of us living in the western world.
Happy Christmas, dear reader, and may 2013 bring each of you those relationships you cherish most, because that will require of each of us a commitment to grow those healthy relationships on which all healthy democracies are fed.

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