Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Art of the Possible

One thing is consistent throughout my years of blogging: I've avoided the subject of politics--the raison d'être of many other blogs in cyberspace. I steer clear of political topics not because I abhor the subject; far from it: I do have firmly held political views and follow the local political scene closely, but I'd prefer to keep my opinion to myself. The closest I'll go is to reflect on politics, as a subject, philosophically.

Political debates tend to stir a lot of passion among readers. The Malaysian blogosphere is already filled with way too much partisan vitriol; I do not care to add more to it. Technology, the Internet in particular, is a double-edged sword: both the good and the evil are equally amplified. It is also a sad fact of human nature that the vilest, meanest and the most fantastic half-truths often get the most attention.

When political idealism is charged with extreme religious fervour, it becomes a potent mix. Inflammatory rhetoric can often lead to physical violence. This stems from the fact that political and religious world-views have deep psychological roots. Our personal experiences (usually painful ones) and our cultural programming play a big part in shaping them. We all want to preserve our own comfort zones and tend to be wary of change.

From a superficial perspective, there appears to be universal values that we all share--justice, liberty, freedom and economic prosperity. But when we look a little bit closer, we find that there are deep cultural and philosophical differences on what these abstract concepts mean, and how we, as a society, go about achieving them.

Bismarck once said that politics is the art of the possible. We can either take this statement negatively (there are no principles in politics, everything is negotiable) or otherwise (always seek the most pragmatic solution, given the circumstances).

Ideally, all political debate should be driven by the need to explore what's possible. Without it, political rhetoric, is all hate-fanning and fear-mongering.

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