Let’s start off by splitting politics into two distinct, yet interwoven, halves. The first half is to please the people which is helpful for maintaining order, preventing revolutions and keeping your job: public politics. The second half is compromising with, and in some cases manipulating, other people in power to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish: private politics. Government officials must be savvy at both sides in order to truly achieve progress.
We’ll say that a productive society is one that can further progress, or at least narrow the gap between its most and least powerful citizens. A society with citizens who are relatively close in power will encourage competition and further progress even more. A nonproductive society would be one that stagnates progress in exchange for temporary power for a few. Throughout our time here, we’ve tried out some very productive and some shockingly unproductive societies. To find the best method, we must look back to move forward.
Politicians must be able to access their empathy for every aspect of their job, public and private. They must be able to see the world through the eyes of the people they are governing or representing. In other words, they must be able to see how their citizens view them. They must also be able to see the possible advantages to partnerships with other politicians. Here, they must see themselves from the eyes of their potential partner.
It sounds like a lot of mind games and you’re absolutely right! It’s the classic, “What if he thinks that she thinks that they think that he thinks….” With all that confusion, and the high stakes of ruling millions of people, it’s no surprise that politicians all sound like they’re saying the same phrases. People aren’t that different from each other, despite the statistics that show otherwise. The more generic your platform is, the wider your audience can potentially be.
Politics is a game. A game played by people with flaws and biases and the repercussions can potentially affect everyone. Your experiences affect your priorities and the choices that you make. The people ruling others cannot possibly empathize fully with their citizens because they all inherently have different experiences and different priorities.
The problems come when unresolved fears seep into law making. We’ve seen this happen in societies throughout time: those that were different were feared and eventually harmed by the government due to the fears of an individual. Sometimes it feels bad to take a look at the unjust things that we have done to each other but it’s important to understand our flaws before we can begin to fix them.
Politics has stayed mostly the same throughout the ages: policies change as new technologies become available to the government and public. However, the rise of the Information Age has changed modern politics more than ever. With footage readily available, wars were criticized more heavily. Wars seem to lose their prestige when the entire population can watch a prisoner execution on YouTube.
The Information Age means that there is more access to information but it also means that there is a need for information to fill all of the news networks that formed for the sake of sharing information. A politician’s private work can now be thrust into the public by several “talking heads” that give opinion pieces in the form of angry rants or arguments. Those same “talking heads” are even outsourcing their opinions to the general public with Twitter-based segments, an interesting crossover between the public and private sides of politics.
The wealthiest citizens can now donate their money to open bank accounts that a politician can withdraw from. This one is kind of an embarrassment, we’re okay with the private bribes being disclosed publicly because we simply don’t bother to follow the money trail. But even worse than that, the integration of politics into the Information Age has created a scared and confused modern politician.
Modern politicians are confused because the culture is changing at a faster rate than ever before, and it’s still accelerating. This means that the experiences your representative grew up with cannot possibly apply to your current situation. They couldn’t even Google something until they were well into their adult lives! Their lack of aptitude with the modern, app-heavy world doesn’t stop them from trying to keep up, but it definitely shows the widening generational gap. The fear comes from the very real idea that something they say or tweet could end up going viral and cost them their jobs.
The goal of the modern politician is to uphold the status quo: if everyone is doing it, then nobody will stand out. I’d like all those current and future politicians to pay attention: politics is a game, which means there are winners and losers. Currently, the only winners are a few politicians and the people pulling their strings which means the people are losing. If nobody speaks out, nothing is going to change.