Monday, 31 July 2017

The Wider World, the Unknown World

A Latin American writer wrote some time ago a book entitled "El Mundo es ancho y ajeno" "Broad and Alien is the World" (Ciro Alegria - Peruvian writer). The title comes to mind when we try to focus on policies and on trying to make peoples' lives better. Never mind the world outside the country in which we live. Never mind the country in which we live. Never mind the city or town where we live. How much do we know about the people living next door? How much do we know even about our own families, our relatives and about ourselves?

Most of the time we make abstractions, or all the time we make abstractions, of the world in which we live, making working assumptions, to issue policies, to design strategies to get things done because in fact we know very little. What we don't know, replace with statistics and presumptions and ideological stances. We are guessing. And politics is - most of the time - about guessing what can be done and how it can be done. When we get things wrong or not nearly as exactly as we wanted them to be, there is always somebody or something or both to blame for the outcome of our endeavors. And this when and if our intentions are honorable.

When our intentions are based on vested interests, never mind statistics, abstractions and presumptions. We are just single minded about what we are trying to achieve come what may with total disregard for the likes of those who are bound not to benefit or even suffer the consequences of what we are trying to do. And this is politics too.

So there is everything in the political garden, including flowers and weeds. The ones who try to do good for all and the ones who with intent try to benefit merely themselves and some vested interests. But behind it all there is a great amount of ignorance about what is the real world and therefore the chances of success in any case are a mere gamble.

Behind words like 'I don't believe in politics anymore', 'I don't trust anyone' and the like there is the overwhelming reality of 'we know very little about the world in which we live' and 'we know very little about what people actually want and how they are going to be affected by the things we do'.

We must reflect then on the words of Rudyard Kipling, his poem IF, for many of the things that happen in our lives in terms of success and content, are the direct consequence of what we do and what we don't do as individuals. Our perceived success is very much the outcome of what we do, what we don't do, the personal and working relationships we have got, but our collective good and our collective evil are still attached to our perceptions about the world and about the political world. People celebrate/complain when a certain political party wins an election and at this point Politics is a bit like Religion - you either believe or you don't believe - because there is very little factual evidence to prove that our celebrations and our lamentations are justified. We still need to believe because life without hope is unbearable.

Elections are a step into the unknown, a leap of faith, and most importantly elections are about abstractions and we come to the point to know why people vote for a certain political party. We go straight into the field of presumptions. We presume that if a certain political party wins, the said party will do this or that. We also presume that the thing we want a political party to do will be beneficial either for the common good and/for ourselves and for those whose aims and needs we identify with. Elections are also a blank cheque. There is no written guarantee. There are just beliefs, hopes, wishes and expectations.

What we call Democracy is a blend of uncertainties, of don't knows, of blank cheques. We celebrate Democracy, even when most of the time, people don't really have real knowledge regarding what they are voting for. We do have expectations. We have beliefs. We have presumptions.

Even when choices might be made to appear as simple options, a single change can be bring about a chain reaction with many unexpected consequences. Let's say that you are a navigator and that you are about to make up your mind about the direction of travel. Should the course be 30 degrees or 31 degrees? The difference between 30 degrees and 31 degrees might appear to be minimal but, as time passes and the length of the journey increases, you could end up somewhere far away from the desired destination if you choose the wrong direction.

Whatever your intentions, to sum up, politics is about faith. Politics is about believing that you are making the right choices. The world is too big a place for us to be able to have a real understanding of it.

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