Just a week ago, in philosophy class, my teacher said something that caught my attention. We were all discussing politics and he started to ask us questions such as “what does politics mean to you?” and “what do you understand is a politician’s job?”. Things started to get heated up, everyone talking about specific politicians or political parties and whatever else they felt could add to the discussion. While we stopped raising our hands and started screaming out our answers (rather loudly), the teacher waited a while and then quieted us down.
He started to explain about how the word politics was originally perceived by the oldest philosophers as something of the people, the junction of the Greek politikos, from politēs ‘citizen,’ and from polis ‘city.’ He continued by talking about Plato and his contribution to what a politician would be: a subject that, after breaking barriers of his own ignorance, would go to the truth and then return to help others in the task of breaking their own particular barriers. The action that this politician/philosopher would do is very well-explained and described in one of Plato’s most important pieces: Allegory of the Cave, or Plato’s Cave.
With all the talk I started to wonder: when did we stop perceiving politics as something that could benefit the whole? And it felt so scary to realize that the first things that came into my mind when I thought about it were words such as corruption, injustice and dishonesty, when in fact, it’s all supposed to mean the opposite!
The thing is, after this class, I realized that we have all become ignorant in relation to our own perceptions. We’ve gotten so blind from the semi-reality we have going on around us, that we have stopped to look in deeper for whatever this all truly means. For instance, I realized that politics is something that should be practiced daily, almost everything we do, from complimenting the cleaning lady to watching debates in the Senate is related to politics on the most intimate level. And the distorted ways we have been taught by life to cope with it has been tremendously influential on the adults we are going to become.
Politics need to be perceived in a different way, we must open our eyes and go beyond what the current political leaders have to say.
It is of great importance to acknowledge the harsh reality of the world, not so we can ignore it, but so we can learn to act politically and responsibly in favor of a bettering of the present day.
Photo: Damien Corby