REYAZ AHMAD MIR
I believe (very strongly) that we need – today more than ever, enlightened and thoughtful politicians. Surely though, they need to be bold and broad-minded to consider things that lie beyond the scope of their immediate influence in both time and space. We need politicians willing and able to rise above their own power interests, or the particular interests of their parties and act in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity today.
Right now, we are in a political mess. We are directionless and unaware of the science of politics, thus fall prey to anyone appears his face at the canvas of political spectrum. Never before has politics been so dependent on the moment, on the fleeting moods of the public or the media. Never before have politicians been so weak and myopic to pursue the short-lived and short-sighted ends. It often seems that the life of many politicians proceeds from the evening news on television one night, to the public-opinion poll the next morning, to their image on television the following evening. It can’t be said surely whether the current era of mass media encourages the emergence and growth of politicians of high stature. I rather doubt it, though there can always be exceptions but the actual condition is worse.
The less our epoch favors politicians who engage in long-term thinking, the more such politicians are needed, and thus the more intellectuals should be welcomed in politics. Such support could come from, among others, those who – for whatever reason – never enter politics themselves, but who agree with such politicians or at least share the ethos underlying their actions.
It is generally perceived that politicians must be elected, people vote for those who think the way they do. If someone wants to make progress in politics, he must pay attention to the general condition of the human mind. He is supposed to endorse ordinary voters’ point of view. A politician must, like it or not, has to be a mirror of that. He dare not be a herald of unpopular truths, acknowledgement of which, though perhaps in humanity’s interest, is not regarded by most of the electorate as being in its immediate interest, or may even be regarded as antagonistic to those interests. I hold it strongly that this ordinary perception needs to be corrected.
We are to be convinced that the purpose of politics does not consist in fulfilling short-term wishes. A politician should also seek to win people over to his own ideas, even when unpopular. Politics must entail convincing voters that the politician recognizes or comprehends some things better than they do, and that it is for this reason that they should vote for him. People can thus delegate to a politician certain issues that – for a variety of reasons – they do not sense themselves, or do not want to worry about, but which someone has to address on their behalf. We need to learn it.
But, this aspect is misused as well. There are certain politicians who lure people in the name of certain brand names. They are potential tyrants or fanatics who have use spurious arguments to make their case. They declare themselves the most enlightened segment of the population, and, by virtue of this alleged enlightenment, arrogate to themselves the right to rule arbitrarily.
The true art of politics is the art of winning people’s support for a good cause, even when the pursuit of that cause may interfere with their particular momentary interests. This should happen without impeding any of the many ways in which we can check that the objective is a good cause, thereby ensuring that trusting citizens are not led to serve a lie and suffer disaster as a consequence, in an illusory search for future prosperity.
It must be said that there are intellectuals who possess a very special ability for committing this evil. They elevate their intellect above everyone else’s, and themselves above all human beings. They tell their fellow citizens that if they do not understand the brilliance of the intellectual project offered to them, it is because they are of dull mind, and have not yet risen to the heights inhabited by the project’s proponents. After all that we have gone through in 21st century, it is not very difficult to recognise how dangerous this intellectual – or, rather, quasi-intellectual, attitude can be. Let us remember how many intellectuals helped to create the various modern dictatorships!
A good politician should be able to explain without applying the seductive methods. He should humbly look for the truth without claiming to be its sole professional owner; and he should motivate people to the good qualities in themselves, including a sense of the values and interests that transcend the personal, without taking on an air of superiority and imposing anything on his fellow humans. He should not yield to the dictate of public moods or of the mass media, while never hindering constant scrutiny of his actions.
In the realm of such politics, intellectuals should make their presence felt in one of two possible ways. They could – without finding it shameful or demeaning – accept a political office and use that position to do what they deem right, not just to hold on to power. Or, they could be the ones who hold up a mirror to those in authority, making sure that the latter serve a good cause, and that they do not begin to use fine words as a cloak for evil deeds, as happened to so many intellectuals in politics in past centuries.
Dr. Shah Faesal, one of the celebrated intellectuals of Kashmir, has left the most prestigious job and is joining politics. He need not be educated to learn political ideals. He is a potential and soulful personality who, at one point of time, drove the youth behind him to pursue career in civil services.
But, this is Jammu and Kashmir: the political theories of rest of the Indian subcontinent hardly survive here. The political dynamics particularly over the last 30 years have carved their own niche here. The conflicted status of the state ultimately lays its shadows on every political activity and politicians, no matter what his or her stature is. So, whether Shah Faesal, even being an undisputed intellectual, will be able to express his intellect for the good of people, is doubtful. People would somehow identify themselves with him relating to some bigger issues much bigger than Sadak, Paani and Bijli. This would include the serious development with respect to Kashmir issue too. But, the backdrop is so complex that we can’t predict anything with certainty whether will he emerge as a true statesman or end up as a mere politician at end of the day.
—The author can be reached at: reyazmir58gmail.com