There are two broad definitions of politics.
- the activities of the government, members of law-making organisations, or people who try to influence the way a country is governed:
- the job of holding a position of power in the government (cambridge dictionary)
The first definition, that is, law-making and the good governance of the country is imperative for any society to function. Power though is often the barrier to the first goal.
Power is inherent to human societies. Throughout history kings have exercised power over one’s subjects, men have exercised power over women, one group of people over the other. Power always needs the other. It cannot exist without the other. It is the ability to have influence and control over other people. We all seek power and influence at every level. A child seeks power over its parents to have its way. A lover exercises power over his or her partner. Similarly, politicians exercise power over the electorate. Power makes us feel good about ourselves. It makes us feel relevant in this finite, often meaningless life. Power gives us a sense of strength.
However, such a power that is externally derived can never truly bring us the contentment that we seek. This is very evident in politics because a politician isn’t satisfied with winning one election. He or she wants to win the next one, often with a greater vote margin. This ties in deeply to an innate human problem – the need for more. Power that comes with grabbing vote shares, grabbing attention through media, grabbing money and resources may bring a short-term sense of excitement, but will fail to bring us the joy we seek.
Any system of government – whether democratic or autocratic or anything else – will continue to let humanity down if this fundamental need for power isn’t examined. It’s not that power is bad. Some social change makers use power for the benefit of society at large. The difference is that they are given power and do not seek it for themselves. In general, people who are aligned with their true nature, do not need to fill themselves with adoration and recognition from the world. They are intrinsically motivated.
Politics, as practiced today, is based on division. That is, the politician seeking to be elected, divides the electorate and captures vote share. We expect that these divisions automatically heal after the election. But this is never the case. Society is divided again and again and these fissures remain. The politics of power divides us. And magically we expect the country to have consensus on emotive subjects such as abortion, immigration, vaccination, human rights, and so on. This is why polarization is rampant today. Our politicians have polarised us, by making us identify ourselves strongly with emotive subjects. If you examine this carefully, we are not really seeking to work on abortion, help downtrodden people, understand fears of vaccination, and so on. We are really seeking an identity – to be heard, to be recognized by shouting louder and louder. Many of us don’t really care for the core issues. If we did, we would put our heads down and get to work, one child at a time, one abandoned woman at a time, rather than using empty posturing on social media and rallies.
In order to change, as always, we must change. We must stop looking at external sources to determine our inner worth. Who are we? What are our talents, What are our proclivities? What excites us? What echoes in the deepest realms of our emotional psyche? We need to begin to define ourselves by our own beings – not through externally projected fantasies on film stars, politicians, and CEOs. We must be ourselves.
When we know ourselves as human beings who must express our true potential, we recognize that all humans share this right. And this shared sense of purpose becomes a felt reality in us. Slowly this percolates into our families, our neighborhoods, and ultimately our society. Then, we do not fall prey to politicians who divide us based on seemingly unbridgeable topics. We understand that we are all unique, and at the same time, we share a sense of common purpose. This togetherness is the basis of a functioning society that is inclusive, that cares for people and the planet.
We must change the way politics is carried out today. But this cannot come about by changing laws, rules, electoral systems, or even systems of government. The change must begin with us. We understand that we do not need power to control, to lead, to dominate others. This is a sign of weakness. When we can simply be ourselves and express that which is natural to us, there is no need to exercise power over others. We are happy and content being ourselves.
Once this becomes the gestalt of our civilization, then, and only then, can laws, systems of government, and society work for us. Otherwise, no matter what we do, what laws we enact, what transparency we bring, these will be used to increase power. We need to realize that we don’t need power because we are already powerful. We are amazing, unique beings with such creativity and vitality, which remains to be explored and expressed.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by the fictional character Albus Dumbledore.
“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”J.K.Rowling through the character of Albus Dumbledore. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows