Saturday, July 30, 2005

Why one thing or the other?

Yes, I was listening to BBC Radio 4 again. I do listen to it quite a lot when I’m pottering around, washing or cleaning etc. It does have quite good programs. This week, instead of Any Questions and Any Answers, Nick Clarke led the program Straw Poll. They debated the motion that: "Political parties are dead, long live single issues".

Again. I wrote already a boring piece on this yesterday… I thought they missed the point. Why choose between political parties and single issues? It’s a pretty western way of thinking – either one thing or the other. Why not both? Eastern thinking tends more towards incorporating or assimilating rather than separating ideas.

I remember a couple of my friends, who were studying theology here in Oxford, cornered in this way. For example, in essays they had to choose between God being within time or outside of time, for He couldn’t be both simultaneously, could He? This is very strange thinking for a Hindu, what to speak of a Vaishnava-Hindu. If God is God, He can be within time and outside of it simultaneously – if He so desires. If He is the source of time, He can do whatever He so desires with it. But this is not enough – we have to argue for one or the other! Like if He cared what we thought. :)

So back to exciting politics… Why argue for one or the other, and miss the point? One lady calling in did mention the position of ideology, and how this is missing today. In a way it’s true. All parties have succumbed to market forces, for what else can you do if you’ve decided that economic development is the goal of life?

Even utilitarian philosophers had a drive some time ago to explain how if happiness is the goal of society, economic development is not the way. There’s no correlation between more money and happiness, from their perspective. I agree. Happiness comes from within the soul and not from gadgets. They might not agree with me on this point, for even if they recognise that happiness is on a deeper level, they have nothing in their utilitarian philosophy to explain why this is so. So while they think about this a bit more, I’m free to assert that hapiness comes from being connected with the source of happiness, with God. That’s why one of God’s names is Rama – the source of all joy. Hare Rama!

Wise words

"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway."

Mother Teresa

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Political apathy

I heard Analysis today on BBC Radio 4, which dealt with the subject of community. They talked about how the UK government wants to involve more people in politics by devolving power to local communities; but their powers are minute and lack funding. In that regard it’s not serious.

I personally don’t think that an artificial involvement of people in local issues will increase people’s interest in politics. This sort of thinking belongs to a time that has passed. In the 60s and 70s people became members of political parties, and gradually moved up the ladder to higher politics. The legitimacy of politics and the ideological debates came from within the political parties. This is no longer so. This is not the route most people would like to take.

People nowadays are engaged various charity works, or in focus groups, or in their own work. They care about society and its future, and would like make their contributions to it, however they don’t want to do it by joining a political party. The future of politics will therefore lay in tapping into those networks and harnessing their expertise and energy. It’s a total paradigm shift, from expecting people to approach the political machinery to politicians searching out people that can be consulted on the issues at hand.

Another related point is how matters are dealt with and solved. People today are not interested in politics because politicians seem more concerned with scoring party political points than solving issues on a deeper level. For politics to come alive again, politicians will have to work on solving problems holistically; i.e. working for society as a whole rather than for a lobby group or a pressure group. They might even have to cooperate between party lines (scary thought!), and my feeling is that they would command more respect if they did.

Governance has probably always been a sort of balancing act, although it’s maybe more so today than previously. The calculation governments seems to be making is between the balance of gain and pain; i.e. how much gain can we get, and how much pain can we tolerate? Media is one factor in this. Although they do a great service in scrutinising politics, they thrive on sensationalism, and thus they are eager to create controversies where there is none. Often politics feels like a tennis match between politicians and the media, and so the general public become reduced to mere spectators to this fascinating game. No wonder people have lost interest.

So creating small community groups that can decide how the playgrounds can look like and where they should be can be of some use, but it will not solve the issue of public apathy for politics in general. For change to happen we need to think anew. Sorry, there are no shortcuts…