by Jay Gutovich
Have you ever felt like you wanted politics to disappear? I used to think that it was far away, scary, and untouchable. I didn’t like voting, I didn’t like reading about it, and I didn’t like seeing it. If I were to have taken the time to define politics then, it would have looked something like this (care of urbandictionary.com): Poli (many) + tics (bloodsucking creatures) = Many bloodsucking creatures.
I think that many people share this sentiment, but now I take it upon myself to first share with you what politics really is and why you don’t hate it as much as you think you do. In fact, you probably like it.
So what is politics really? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is: “The total complex of relations between people living in society”.
A ‘society’ is any group of people, and ‘relations’ is when one relates to or with them. Practically, politics is what happens whenever you, yourself, have any interaction with another person. Thus, we deal with politics every day. It is not something to be scared of, but rather something that you are already good at and that should be embraced.
Allow me to explain: Not so many years ago I realized that my interactions with other people were really important- not only professionally but in other areas of my life too. I was more than a little bit frustrated about how we as a community – both locally and globally – needed to find ways of efficiently and ethically working together, because if we didn’t we would never get anything done!
After much contemplation I came to the realization that children consistently find brilliant ways of working together to make new ideas and games, which in turn create tremendous enjoyment and productivity for all. Imagine a group of children playing tag. There is a disagreement about whether or not a player was in a safe zone. The outcome of the ensuing dialogue will not only affect the rules of the game, but will ultimately determine the amount each child enjoys playing. Imagine a time when you successfully contributed to the rules of a game you were playing with your friends. Remember what you said, how they reacted, and how much fun you had together as a result of your new collaborative creation! We have all had an experience like this, and it has happened countless times in the life of every child; different children have different ideas of how the game should be played, and this variation of opinion will develop into a dialogue of the specifics of the rules of play. The purpose, although probably not deliberate (or even conscious) is to make guidelines that will allow the most fun for all players.
This dialogue is politics. The purpose is to establish rules of the environment, the “relations between people living in society”. We can now apply this to our modern democracy: Upon comparison, we see that the environment experienced by all children matches our current adult model almost exactly. All of the ways we can communicate with our government are really means of talking to each other to figure out how we want to play. When a vote is called, when a poll is taken, when a letter is sent to a Member of Parliament, all of these things form the ‘society’ version of our game of life that we are all playing together. It is just on a bigger scale.
Group games are fun because of the group aspect. Remember what happens when someone decides that they don’t want to play anymore, and how that wrecks the game? The same thing applies to adult life – when people are passive, it affects the game for everyone else. The more we participate the more we will like the game because we are part of it – it makes the experience real. Everyone loves to play, and being part of making the game is what makes it fun.
Remember back to how much fun it was to play with you friends. Recall what it was like to get together and make up your own games together! I challenge you to take that creativity and inspiration and let it loose into your adult life. Don’t be afraid! These are skills you already have, and just need to be applied in a new forum. Back to the original question of what is politics to me? It is the chance to make my world really mine, instead of living in someone else’s. Capture the flag, anyone?