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THE ENIGMA OF POLITICS

Politics is many different things and is viewed through many diverse lenses around the world. It can be a game to those who have power to shape the destiny of nations, or a passionate endeavour to those other few visionaries that come to empower the masses. It can be an opportunity to the cunning or an income venture to the shameless. It can be a mistake for the impatient and even a bridge for those who seek hope. It is the unnecessary necessity prepared for any eventuality. It can be conventional or unconventional, dangerous, unkind, rewarding, fulfilling, hypocritical, honest and anything or everything in-between.

The original term (etymology) in Greek is Politika which loosely translates to ‘a way of living’ or ‘affairs of the city’ for direct translation. For everything it is and can be, I will propose that it is the clearest form of communication irrespective of whether the message is positive or negative. Politics will dutifully communicate any message with pristine clarity or deliberate ambiguity. It is an avenue through which people await to be convinced or confused, to be promised prosperity or respected enough to be told the truth.

For instance, politics can convey the supposed supreme position of one race above another with such unequivocal conviction. Indeed, history shows how an entire planet once based its global commerce and financial architecture on the buying and selling of human beings in the most deplorable way and still called it legal. Suspiciously, it is the same politics that u-turned and banned the slave trade which it once considered normal and proceeded to create other laws to distance itself from acrimony. Even worse, politics has the proven venom to posture the preference of one tribe above others and potentially cause irreparable damage through genocide, civil wars and other calamities, internecine and external.

At its most extreme, it can justify the annexation or extermination of a people depending on the situation and who intends to benefit from it. Few examples include the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the 1904-08 genocide against the Namibian tribes, Hereros and Namas, by German soldiers – a fact which was denied until May 2021. There is obviously the apartheid in South Africa and the confusing situation of the Rohingya of Myanmar that have been deemed stateless.

Once irrational political behaviour is institutionalized, those who run institutions of government will see nothing wrong with closing borders to one group of people seen as unworthy based on the socio-political consensus of that country. Shockingly, such systems will see no wrong to opening up the same borders to those others they consider favourable or humanly close to them. In this regard, politics can be hypocritical and self-serving. In other instances, it has the unique ability to introspect and change according to the tide. An example is that governments once barred women from voting and this was seen as completely normal. Again, it is through the avenues of politics that such archaic laws were upended, revised and curtailed for the most part.

At a higher level, whether one agrees or not, the creation of global institutions like the United Nations (UN) and its precursor the League of Nations is one the highest human achievements to pacify inherent differences among the many nations of the world. Yet and still, a case can be made that the UN infrastructure leans more towards countries considered superpowers than those whose membership fees at the UN are either in arrears or paid by others.

Another case can be made that the political views of dominant nations have largely become the global norm or yardstick when it comes to how we perceive forms of government, what to consider as human rights, election cycles, which leaders to trust and so on. Politics even suggests which wars are important and which can be ignored with blatant nonchalance or convincing subtlety.

In 2014 for instance, Russia hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics at which Ukraine, the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany all participated and won medals. It is as if this never happened. Today, politics demands that we all take sides between Russia and Ukraine the two neighbours with families spread across each side of the border. Politics further demands that we agree on who

the victims are and that we reprimand the aggressor in every way possible. This same politics that creates wars simultaneously calls us all back to seek and find peace through political solutions.

What, then, can we conclude about this most complex and ancient undertaking except this: that if we allow ourselves as people to be defined by the disloyalty of politicking, we will undermine our duty to that much higher calling that prioritizes people above political interests, and life above situational convenience. We may not be the same all of us as people, but we must not allow politics to keep us apart. To clone the eternal words of scripture: before politics was, we were. It is but a mere tool which must, at all times, be subject to our higher human calling and by presenting ourselves at its behest, we must not allow it to set the tone for a world with subjective values appreciated only by those who set the political narrative.

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