What does it mean to be political?

[এই লেখাটি বাংলায়ে পড়তে।]

Not having an opinion in this dirty world, is safe. Until it isn’t.

Think about it for a moment. As you are stuck inside your home in the lockdown, with work or with none, what do you depend on to get by? Relationships with people. You need to buy ration, vegetables, raw food. If you are in a containment zone, then someone has to reach you with that. On your own, you are no one. That ration has been packed by someone, brought to you by someone else.

How your relationship with others are shaped, is decided by whom? The rule of the land. In a democracy, the rule of the land is determined by different governments; the executive is to ensure their maintenance; the judiciary is to uphold their validity in case of conflicts; and the media is supposed to report on incidents covering all these aspects, bringing to light of the common mass the interplay of these three functionaries. The relationships of these four subjects with you, is politics. From the rice you eat to the way your sewage is treated, everything is a political subject. Let’s not behave as if we are apolitical beings. Apathy to the relationships that define how you go about your life is not being apolitical, it is a pretense of being apolitical. And the pretense is a political move.

Look, being apolitical is not a choice anyone has. Only they can be apolitical who can have no relationship with anyone. And that is, simply: no one. Sapiens is a social creature. You cannot live entirely on your own, unless you are Robinson Crusoe. Even then, you have a relationship with nature. Hence, everyone is political. “The personal is political, and the political is personal.”

Now, a very common phrase I hear when I say that I am political, is that I am going to run for elections. Politics is easily equated with the politics of power. Electoral politics. While being a subset of politics, it is a subset only. By extension, politics does not mean the game of power. The question of how the defined aspects of democracy are connected with the lives of people, is a political question. The question of who can run for an election and who cannot, is also a political question. Politics is connection, and connection to people, is politics.

Your being silent against injustice around you, is a loud and clear political statement. Your being apathetic to the questions of how food reaches your plate during the lockdown, is a political blunder.

Some of my friends keep telling me about the vices of certain political parties. While I wholeheartedly listen to them, I cannot fathom why I am put into a position where I need to defend the vices of certain political parties I do not associate with. Political parties are a machinery of electoral politics, which are sometimes connected with the masses at the grassroots. They are a machinery of winning and losing, power and positions. My political ideas cannot be attributed single-handedly with a singular political party. And definitely not in the large country that India — my motherland — is. The democratic system of the Republic of India is very dear to me.

Next I come to my personal brand of politics. It is that of ideas on which the society should be based, and a way to consistently work to achieve that. I believe that everyone is entitled to clean air and water, and a safe environment. I believe everyone is entitled to three square meals a day, primary education, shelter, minimum securities in life like health, and protection against losses of economic activities. These are basic ambitions that I have for the people around me. I want people to consistently move in the direction of education, universal healthcare, similar (and not equal) distribution of resources, a culture of democratic values and scientific temper, and a collective form of peaceful living that facilitates everyone.

Some of my friends keep telling me that these are “all just ideology.” That such ideology is all good for talk, and theory, but not good in practice. Today, I want to tell them: that restructuring my life to achieve the changes is my politics. Living a life that facilitates in very small ways the changes that can push the society to one that I want to see, is my brand of politics. If that is “all just ideology,” then trying to achieve a day when they are not perceived that way, is my political stand.

I want to end this post by summarising:

  1. No one is apolitical.
  2. Politics is not just electoral politics. And by extension, politics is not just political parties.
  3. My dreams of the society are based on certain ideas, and the way I want to see those ideas implemented — is my brand of politics.

I will come back with more on this, in this series Being political — please stay tuned (consider subscribing to my blog! — button on the bottom left of this page).

Reference: আমিও আছি এবং আমার দেশটাও আছে, ১

5 thoughts on “What does it mean to be political?

  1. A lot of people by saying they are apolitical often simply mean they don’t align with the ideologies of any political party — they hardly understand the deeper connotations of being political.

    I will probably stay tuned because I have always been curious about how you hope to see the change bottom up, but the people who wield the largest collective political powers are parties, large corporations, governments, and influential people. Hence they become crucial to the discussion but of course I am curious to see how you perceive it.


      1. Right. My point was many people call themselves apolitical because they are tired of the hypocrisies of political parties.

        I also think, regarding ideologies, it’s important to consider why when adopted by a group it starts to lose its meaning. An ideology by itself means nothing, it is people who adopt them. Why did certain movements fail? How did certain ideologies get tainted beyond repair? I think it might be worthwhile to analyse the data at hand. Cheers. 🙂


  2. Reading this changed my perspective entirely on what it means to be political, in a really positive way. This a must read for everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

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