Is politics a cancer to be eradicated?

We must declare total independence from the tyranny of politics before we are crushed under its weight.’

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

So seemed to think Paul Kindlon, in an article in The Duran of November 9, 2018. The title of his article was categorical and set the tone for its unforgiving contents: ‘Politics: The Cancer that must be Eradicated once and for all’.

His starting point was the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president, which ‘set off a tidal wave of anger and resentment that has divided America into two bitterly opposed camps. Those on the left consider Trump to be the embodiment of evil whereas many on the right see him as a “disrupter” and champion of the common man.’

Whatever be the merits or demerits of Trump is for the American voters to pronounce upon. They have already given a hint in the election of last November, replacing him with a Democrat. But indications are that he is far from being a spent force, and in fact is due to address a rally in Florida in the coming days. However, it is a fact that the deep polarizations, differences, divisions and inequalities that had existed in American society from its very beginnings, according to their own analysts, not only ‘continued unabated’ during his mandate, but worsened as the country struggled to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As ‘the political divide in America now is characterized by revenge-minded Democrats who are determined to remove Trump from office and those who will fight to prevent this from happening’, the result was that ‘the country will be mired in a lengthy political power struggle while important issues affecting the lives of millions will be neglected.’

As is known, he was not removed but went on to complete his term of office, Black Lives Matter and similar other movements notwithstanding. Which gives us matter for reflection, what with our own local versions, BLD and BZTD. Whether early elections can be forced on the polity is therefore a question that will have no easy answer…

In the meantime, the country will have to make do with the kind of scenario described by the award-winning Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, as quoted by Paul Kindlon:

‘Across the Western world, political parties have turned parliaments into digital circuses, provoking waves of contempt among ordinary people…by actively preventing party members from speaking for truth or justice, modern political parties cultivate mendacity the way cell phones archive selfies. Party politics demand that politicians must, on a daily basis, lie to the party, lie to the public and lie to themselves.’

These words capture the contours of a template of political cacophony that will surely ring many a bell, as they resonate with what has been witnessed in several countries, not sparing even our tiny island – where the echo chambers are becoming louder by the day.

The follow-up comment to that observation is that: ‘This is a damning indictment of politics not just political parties. And it should be clear to any clear-thinking citizen that the time has come to abandon this morally bankrupt system that has mismanaged our affairs through influence peddling and legal bribery innocuously labeled “campaign contributions”.’ There have been endless discussions about the modalities of political financing, with no definitive conclusion: if ever there will be one, the cynic might be tempted to observe.

The author continues: ‘If a team of scientific crisis management experts were assembled to assess the cause of this problem they would surely arrive at the conclusion that it is “politics” pure and simple. The solution, therefore, would be the abolition of all political parties.’ (italics added)

And apparently, ‘this is actually not a new idea. The French philosopher Simone Weil made this suggestion more than seventy years ago.’ (italics added) Looking back over that period will surely make us realise that this is perhaps wishful thinking, as political parties are still thriving. We humans seem to obey an unwritten convention – rule, law or whatever – that ‘two is not company but politics.’ Could it that peace in a twosome is monotonous and the excitement of sparring is needed to keep the set lively??

What appears as this ‘radical proposal – of abolition of all political parties — has been resurrected and supported’ by the same award-winning Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk and his colleague Weil.

But ‘Weil and Nikiforuk are not anarchists and they are not proposing some form of extreme libertarianism requiring the dismantlement of government. Governing should be left to capable administrators and professional managers who are not beholden to wealthy donors or special interest groups. Rather than being “elected” they should be hired, paid a decent salary and evaluated for performance by a non-partisan committee of informed citizens.

If we fail to take this step then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past – suffering from a deeply flawed system that only produces corruption, conflict and economic woe.

We must declare total independence from the tyranny of politics before we are crushed under its weight.’

This sounds like a tall order, when we look at the history of the world and how politics is so ingrained as a system of ruling countries. Even the idea of professional administrators and managers, or of technocrats, taking over may have its limits, though it has not been tested yet, and given the tussle for power among those keen on wielding it, this possibility may perhaps never materialize. Which leaves us therefore to fall back on politics and political systems, the least worse of which is supposed to be democracy, whose flaws we have been witnessing live all over the place as it were, and we too here being entrapped in this infamous game.

Mark Twain once said that ‘the more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.’ There must be some way to paraphrase this to suit the political context. I leave it to the imagination of the reader.

* Published in print edition on 23 February 2021

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