The Sunday News
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena
It is chiefly the politicians and their political parties, the world over, that have given the grave vocation of politics a very bad name.
Politics and its important affairs has, at a world scale, been reduced to a profession at worst and at best a business enterprise. The cliché that “politics is a dirty game” has been given respectability in the way politics has been conducted as war upon the powerless and the powerful have either been exercising themselves as slippery tricksters or ruthless gangsters.
In veracity and in justice, uncorrupted, politics should be that virtuous arena where people come together to own power and to bring the powerful to accountability in the protection of freedoms and the interests of fair and just distribution of resources. Access to the good life and the pursuit of happiness and liberation should be the purpose why individuals, communities, societies and organisations participate in politics and public affairs of their countries.
Sadly, under the care of political professionals and political entrepreneurs the political public square and public sphere have been turned into a dangerous site where the proverbial angels fear to tread. Many good men and good women shy away from political participation, because, the world over, politics and its affairs has been colonised by hard punchers. For that reason, part of decolonising politics and liberating it is ensuring that the political arena, in any country, does not become an enclave of the tough but a territory of virtuous men and women that can be trusted with the lives, happiness and liberation of populations.
The ancient Greeks were much more brutal than us in their demand that all people should be involved in public affairs and therefore in politics and the negotiations, and navigations of power. The word “idiot” which refers to an ignorant and foolish person originates from the Greek description of people that were not interested in political affairs. Not participating in politics and not getting involved in public affairs was considered an endorsement to bad ideas and bad rule.
To stay away from the political public square was to support the continuation of unsatisfactory political systems, processes and leadership. The Greeks put much premium in all the citizens having a say in public and political life. They understood and understood it well that everyone in any community is naturally involved in politics only that those that do not actively participate in political affairs participate by their passivity and apathy and therefore endorse toxic status quos.
Pericles was correct in that “we do not say that a man who shows no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.” The pursuit of justice, fairness and human happiness which are part of the central concerns of politics are actually part of the reason why people exist and must sustain their existence, I argue.
The fuller and the good life that people must live can only be achieved where power is exercised with justice, resources are distributed with fairness and the freedom and happiness of individuals and communities protected. Colonialism and slavery became the crimes against humanity that they became because they were said to be for the modernisation and civilisation of man when they were for domination and exploitation of the conquered. In the present, in their international relations, some super-powers among world countries claim to be advancing democracy and development in the world when their agenda in the globe is imperialism and enduring coloniality. International relations and the politics of global affairs are still to be decolonised and liberated from imperialism and coloniality that make the world political and economic system colonial and imperial.
The Greeks did not go far enough. More than just calling those who did not participate in politics idiots they should also have called those who made world politics dirty with slavery, colonialism and imperialism, idiots. International affairs, world politics and economics are still hostage to the idiotic politics of conquest, domination and coloniality. For the world to be a better place, which it must, politics needs to be liberated from paradigms of war, corruption and oppression. And free from the powerful idiocy of imperialism and coloniality.
For Just Deliberation
Just last week I noted in this column how Hannah Arendt correctly emphasised that people must be freed from poverty and fear first so that they can be “free to be free,” that is have the liberty to freely participate in politics without fear or favour. With tricksters, gangsters and charlatans holding politics hostage the poverty and the fear of the people are naturalised and normalised, and freedom is made impossible, and liberation unimaginable. Poor and fearful people cannot freely deliberate on and participate in public affairs.
Deliberations, in such a situation, are left to gangsters, tricksters and profiteers that generate political conversations and deliberations that emit more heat than light. What tends to dominate the political public square becomes cheap propaganda, empty rhetoric and pure wind, sounds without sense. Political parties, ruling and in the opposition, should participate in the decolonisation of politics by changing the political paradigms that inform their political thinking and practice. In other words, political traditions, cultures and systems should be decolonised so that public political involvement can be free and fair, without the pressure of poverty or the fear of harm. Politicians, in a decolonised setting should not be gangsters or tricksters, not even political professionals and entrepreneurs but missionaries of justice and public happiness.
The world over, good men and good women, should find it easier to walk into the political public square and make goodness natural to politics and politics normal to goodness. A large part of decolonising and liberating politics is ensuring that good, fairness and justice are natural and normal political qualities, the norm rather than the exception of the noble vocation that has been reduced into a dirty game by all sorts of scoundrels in the world.
The politically correct do-gooders of the world, in governments and civil society pay loud lip-service to political education. The call is that people should be given political education concerning their rights, freedoms and responsibility to participated in politics as citizens.
The decolonial argument is that political education should not be special education but part of all education and socialisation of children, at home, in churches, at school and in the media.
Politics and political deliberations should be open to free and just deliberations in the public squares. The argument for public political involvement is that, just as war is too deep an event to be left to the generals and their soldiers, politics is too grave a human vocation to be left to the politicians and their political parties, in the governments and their oppositions.
Members of the publics, the world over, invest too much time and effort in participating in the Olympics of power, contests between opposition political parties and governing parties, instead of working on liberating and decolonising politics itself from danger and dirtiness. Political education and participation should be understood as duty to humanity and service to divinity, not a luxury or choice.
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from Sunnyside, Pretoria in the Republic of South Africa: [email protected]