‘I don’t want to sound too political.’
Having grown up hearing this sentence thrown around, I’ve used it many times myself, even as a (rather ignorant) student of political science in the twelfth grade. I’ve heard teachers, friends, and people around me use it, as though issuing this disclaimer would really separate them from the innately political subjects they follow that sentence up with. But, instead of pointing this out, I would be better advised to uncover the roots of why ‘politics’ or ‘being political’ is so repulsive- repulsive enough to warrant such disclaimers.
This inability to acknowledge politics and its effects manifests itself every single time someone’s beaten up in a university for voicing their opinions, every silent glare or click of the dislike button at the outspoken ‘activist type’ at the table or in the online forum, and the very tense hush that sweeps across the room when a ‘sensitive’ subject is brought up. Political differences are characterised as ‘mood-killers’ and of course, every person who takes an active interest in politics is subject to a variety of (rather unflattering) labels. The perceived discomfort with politics permeates every level of society, even among people who confess not knowing very much about politics. To know why exactly this happens, is not very difficult. Two very pertinent reasons come to mind- the fact that we don’t know how much politics involves itself in our daily lives (and refuse to learn), and the fact that we, collectively, really can’t discuss anything.
Addressing reason number one is easy, because this can be blamed on the system. We’re made to believe that politics isn’t something basic, ordinary and everyday, but something that only stays with politicians and governments, something that is out-of-reach and difficult. In reality, the very premise of living in a democracy makes the ‘political’ accessible to every citizen. With the right to vote, the easier access to information and the improved infrastructure in the twenty-first century, politics should be easier to digest. Granted, democracy is not implemented very well- but it is the closest we have ever come to playing an active role in the future of society. Moreover, politics has so many other forms- the hierarchy at workplaces, the power structure at colleges and schools, and even families. This crucial point is overlooked by how our society, through education, defines politics.
Reason number two is a lot more difficult to grapple with, because we have nobody else to blame for the fact that we cannot discuss anything. We view discussion as something that can only take place between equals- the rather Confucian notion of obeying seniors and respecting ‘values’ passed down to us is the largest impediment to discussion. This is something inherent in us, due to social conditioning, and isn’t something easy to remedy. However, the more confounding reason is our inability to accept new concepts because of how different they are. This is a problem with both the right and the left- the inability to accept alien concepts, or even any form of nuanced debate. It is very convenient to create a narrative- a rather divisive narrative, vilifying the other side. But what is easy isn’t always necessarily what’s right.
Politics isn’t simply the study of power relations or resource allocation, but an evolving entity that evolves only with genuine, well-placed debate. Debates about feminism, environmental causes, the issue of caste and poverty are the reason they’re acknowledged today. What we simply refuse to understand is that discussing something need not devolve into a battle of superiority or acceptance. FOX News, NDTV and Aaj Tak don’t really represent nuanced political debate- and simply contribute more to the collective apathy and borderline dislike that surrounds the word ‘politics’.
The very fact that people talk about their jobs, their bosses, their schools, families, countries- all indicate their involvement in some form of politics or the other. Keeping this basic assumption aside, even if we belong to opposite ends of the political spectrum, politics shouldn’t be the sensitive subject that it is, simply because politics implies the ability to debate rationally (emphasis on ‘rationally’).