I am safely writing this in the relatively Covid19 safe Australia, but I am thinking of all those around the world who are not so fortunate. It is amazing how this pandemic has effected different countries in different ways. Is the reason for this the particular governments’ doing? Or is it the way individuals have acted or reacted in those particular countries? Is it politics, or is it individual actions that have made a real difference in one country, as against another?
Understanding how us all knowing human beings usually react, we usually blame somebody else. In many cases, the politicians are blamed. It is easier to blame someone else than take any responsibility yourself. On the other hand, there have been a number of countries whose politicians have either made poor judgement decisions, or have denied themselves and their country what the science has been telling them. Denying that the pandemic even exists during the early months certainly put their whole country behind the eight ball. Once they took such a strong stand in the first place, it was very difficult for them to announce a change of mind. Politics being what it is, most politicians find it extremely difficult to appear in any way weak, as electors are inclined to punish them at the ballot box. This usually happens even if the change of mind was to the long term benefit of the country as a whole.
As an ex one-term politician, I have a little knowledge of how the system works and how a politician seeking re-election needs to have acted during his/her first term. Firstly, as party politics predominates in most countries around the world, the internal party factions and systems greatly affects who gets to be nominated by their own party. This, in itself, means that the politician himself/herself needs to have kept on the right side of the powers-at-be. This often means that a persons internal sense of what should be done is compromised, because without the support of their colleagues their chances of being successful is minimal. Otto von Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best”. Unfortunately, this is so true.
Most electors are not really interested in what is right for the country in the longer term, they just want to know what is in it for them in the short term. This means that successful politicians have found the knack of saying what their constituents want to hear, and, at the same time, acting in a somewhat different manner. The short 10 second grab on a news service is what most in the electorate remember, not what actually happens. In any event, every party member in government is virtually forced to adhere to their parties dogma, because we all know what happens when this rule is broken. Most politicians go into politics in the first place because they believe they can make a real difference and they are usually genuine about this. Unfortunately, the system wears them down and if they want to continue in politics, many compromises have to be made.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The government you elect is the government you deserve”, and this is certainly true. How politicians and their governments act is a reflection of what the electors want and how they themselves behave. Governments can be held to account before the next election if enough voters express their wishes. Politicians have to react to such pressure if they wish to hold onto their often slim margins at the next election. Those politicians who believe that their “died in the wool” supporters will follow them regardless, often ignore outside public sentiment. This is where the ardent supporters of the so-called right and left of politics become polarized. It becomes a matter of “if you are not with me, you must be against me”, which translates to “I am right and you are wrong”. As the saying goes, “they took the bit between their teeth”, certainly applies when referring to such politics. Common sense is inclined to go out the window.
Do politicians lie, cheat and deceive? Yes, they do sometimes, but they usually only tell part of the story, leave out what people do not like, stress what they think is important and generally say what they believe will benefit them. They continually are reminded, by their colleagues or party bosses, that the next election is not far away. What they say and obviously do becomes important, and every action is published by the media these days and therefore is open to close scrutiny. The media themselves often have pecuniary interests, which only adds to the confusion of what many electors can believe is real or not. The term “fake news” maybe somewhat relevant here. In many cases those complaining of fake news are creators of fake news themselves. How is anyone to know the real truth?
Is politics a dirty word? Well, yes and no. While the real truth is extremely hard to obtain these days, remember that action speaks far louder than words and that long term policies are far more important than short term fixes. Democracy, while it is the best we have got, can be extremely fragile and it needs to be fostered, and every individual needs to participate in one way or another, even if it is just by voting at the next election. I can remember, when I lived in California, clearly the words of John F Kennedy when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. Contributing to democracy in the best way you can will go a long way towards answering this call for action. Don’t just blame it on the politician – do something!