“A Week is a Long time in Politics”

Dr Asangba Tzudir 

With ULB election voting day barely a week away, the local election flavor smells ripe with 523 contestants in the fray. However, as former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson said, “A week is a long time in politics’, while referring to the fact that political success and failure were never far apart, tables may turn in a week’s time which could make all the difference either way. In fact, 64 contestants have already been elected unopposed.  

To say that “a week is a long time in politics,” also raises the question of the ‘language of politics’ that is applied in the propagation of a political narrative. In the domain of politics, terms which are closely related to politics are politician, political and politicize.

Looking at the word Politician, few words in English carry such negative connotations as the word ‘politician’. A denotative definition of the word ‘politician’ is something like ‘a person who is practically engaged in running a country, district or town’ but the connotations surrounding the word ‘politician’ are nearly always negative, often strongly so. Brewer’s Dictionary of Politics describes a politician as, “a practitioner of the art of politics, essential to the working of human society but frequently despised by those outside the political arena, indeed a word that also finds connected with the term abuse.

While a ‘practitioner’ of something carries connotations of professionalism, and describing politics essentially as an art also places the politician in a good light, which also implies someone who is doing for the good of the people in the ‘society’. However, politicians are frequently despised, and considering the fact that “a week is a long time in politics” and which is better known to the politicians themselves, and that the despisers are mostly outside the arena of politics, it then calls to question the despisers qualification to talk the truth about politics, that only politicians really know the truth about what they do? Whatever the connotation and the denotation be, history attests to the fact that the term cannot be stigmatized because of those politicians who has achieved and attained universal popularity and acceptance as a statesman who places the nation first.

The term ‘political’ has its roots in the form ‘politic’ which comes originally from classical Greek, meaning ‘city’, ‘citizen’, ‘civic’. However in contrast, Greek philosophers like Plato described politics as ‘nothing but corruption’. While the original sense of the term, of being ‘concerned with people and the lives they lead in organized communities’, was reflected by George Orwell, yet he too viewed politics negatively saying that, “politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

The understanding that the Politics broadly referred to the people and the lives they lead rather than party politics and its associated battleground of politics gained prominence in the 1960s. It saw Feminists engaged in positive moves wherein, themed on sexual politics they argued for the need to examine culture, human behavior including the use of language, and accordingly change. As such the feminist’s agenda of politics went beyond the election of a government or voting for representatives. 

Now, looking at the context of politics today, the application of politics is tilted more towards party ‘politiking’ rather than people centric ‘politics of policies’. That, the understanding and context of politics continues to lie at a threshold, and in context the code of the ULB politics, like in all spheres of social activity, is also caught at the same threshold. And the present ULB election has also created a battleground because of its unnecessary contest within party color.  This has only renewed a language of politics within the battleground of party politics. It is interesting to cite an instance of such a language of politics applied in the present ULB election campaign: “Ruling government kon ase? It does not matter who wins or lose. Rule tu kon kuribo, NDPP kuribo. In Dimapur-III, there is no space for Non-NDPP members… and I cannot be a team with those who are not part of the party I represent.” This is cited, in no way as a sort of condemnation, but very ironically, that is the kind of narrative in which the very language of politics is built upon, reinforced and normalized today. 

Sadly, the language of politics rather finds devoid of welfare policies at the grassroots. While ULB elections have actually presented a window opportunity to address issues of planning and development and for people’s welfare, it will be a lost opportunity if it operates within party color and which party is ruling in the state. 

In praxis, knowing the fact that the idea of politics lies at a threshold between one that refers broadly to people’s welfare and the lives they lead as a community of people, and one that is narrowed to conventional party politics, the general public therefore should know when governments or those in the ‘political’ should be merited through its allegiance, and when they should be denied.

(Dr Asangba Tzudir writes guest editorial for the Morung Express. Comments can be emailed to asangtz@gmail.com)