Continuing from the last post and staying with the theme of politics, today we ask ourselves: How can we select a politician? This is a pertinent question because most politicians are actors. Their dialogues are scripted, their body language, their clothing, everything about them is crafted so as to achieve one thing and one thing only – to get you to like them. They are masters of deception. I use the term deception because they are out there to impress you to get you to vote for them. This is deeply inauthentic. We call someone inauthentic because they present to us something other that themselves. Indeed, they are often not true to themselves at all! And most politicians exemplify this trait to the highest possible degree.
Of course, its not just politicians that are culpable of this, this is an established societal dysfunction that stems from each of us. You see this ‘fakeness’ in the corporate world. You see this is large dysfunctional families. You see this in friends circles. You see this in social clubs. The underlying theme in all this is that most people are inherently inauthentic. It is exceedingly rare to find a human being that is simply themselves. Why does this happen? Why are so many people not themselves? Why this mask?
The reason people disguise themselves, is to be liked. Period. All of us want appreciation. All of us want others to think good of us. No one among us want to hear disparaging comments about ourselves. The notion of who we are appears to be very dependent on the people around us, the things we possess, the accolades we have earned, the knowledge we have gathered, the power we have and the people who like us and clap to our words. We appear to derive our sense of self externally. And that is why we constantly depend on the external – people, things, situations and events – to define ourselves.
It is perfectly normal to enjoy people, situations, events and things around us. We like to enjoy that beautiful dinner. We love to spend a nice time with family and friends. We feel happy with our jobs and our contribution at work. These are all healthy and perfectly acceptable. The challenge comes about when we begin to identify and derive our sense of self from these external things. What does that mean? Does the absence of any one of these things cause you restlessness, pain, misery or sadness? Identify the thing that brings you these negative tendencies. This is our hook. This is where our sense of self is trapped.
The lack of being at home with ourselves. The lack of being comfortable with who we are. The lack of acceptance of both our virtues and flaws – leads us to run away from ourselves and seek to gain eternal glory in the external world. The need for power is simply this – I am powerless. The need to influence is simply this – I am weak. The need to accumulate is this – I am afraid of losing myself. Fear of losing oneself motivates people to put on the disguises. Fakeness comes from a lack of being comfortable with who we are.
So what has this got to do with politicians? Everything. Politics is a game of power. A game of defeating others to climb to the top. To gain control over society so that you are perceived as its leader. This is why elections are termed as battles. We have translated actual battles with bloodshed into electoral skirmishes with bloodless ego clashes. With the exception that there are no lives lost (which in no means is trivial of course), politics as practiced today is no different from the kings and queens of yore. It is one big power grabbing stunt to feel good about themselves. And most politicians (not all) are people who suffer from a lack of comfort with themself. One who is happy being who they are will never attempt to grab power, seek positions of leadership. No! Leadership is thrust on such people naturally. They do not even consider themselves to be leaders. They see themselves as people who are just doing what comes naturally to them. Their actions are a reflection of who they are and not what they aspire to be. This is crucial while selecting politicians.
When we seek to elect someone – look for signs of ego. Examine where their sense of self worth comes from. Do not believe what they say on television, in interviews, in front of audience – all that is scripted, practiced and utterly fake. Look at how they treat the lowest person in their team. Look at how they treat someone who can give them nothing. Egocentric people love the limelight. They feel the buzz around people, events and the glamour. Examine them when they are alone, away from the blitz of flashing lightbulbs. And this is the hard part. We simply cannot access our politicians in such a natural setting. We are presented a scripted movie, where they are the protegee.
This brings me to the final point. The way our political process is designed today, favours this fakeness. We only perceive this person through the television or social media. These are screens that politicians use to present the best version of themselves. It is therefore virtually impossible to be able to know who we are voting for. But all is not lost. We can develop our intelligence to see through the lies, to look past the false sales pitches, to grasp what is beyond their masks. How? Become centred. Develop the ability to hear people closely. Listen to each word. Look at each body movement. Examine their words, their ideas, their speeches and the way they interact with people. As we become more attentive towards them, we gain the ability to see something beyond what they want us to see. This ability can easily be developed by each of us only if we quieten our minds.
Our minds are constantly chattering. Constantly buzzing with activity. Most people today are perpetually restless. They cannot sit still for an hour without doing anything – without reaching out to their phones. Without needing to talk to someone. Without needing to move their bodies or shake their legs. This constant need for distraction has come to define our age. This is the age of perpetual distraction. And the need to constantly seek dopamine driven inputs means that the mind is never calm enough to develop intellectual independence. Independence from external inputs. As long as we remain dependent of external inputs to bring energy to our minds, we are slaves to people – like these false politicians – who can manipulate us, who can fake us. The minute we bring awareness to our own minds, we begin to bring awareness to what people say. We develop almost psychic abilities to read people and understand their true motivation. We begin to see beyond the smokescreen of words and quickly begin to understand intentions and motivations.
Therefore, to select the right politician, gain the ability to select correctly. Gain the ability to be calm, centred and perceptive. Gain the ability to be intellectually independent. And when each of us move towards this path, society begins to move there too. And when a critical mass of people move in that direction, fake politicians cease to sway us, cease to delude us, cease to appeal to our sensibilities. I think this is what Tolstoy meant when he said,
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”