Politics, Laugh, Cry?
By L Murbandono Hs
CONGRATULATIONS! All of us have won a sweeping victory in our national politic, although it was overkill. The cost has become “whatever” – at all cost in doing businees with mastodons of Orde Baru’s Soeharto. And, the national political pendulum is now swinging our way as well. Our democracy and or democrazy has done its jobs!
But, our great 1001 democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man and our politicians take advantage of this by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them (Bertrand Russel, 1951, in his New Hopes for a Changing world).
Let’s face it. Our politicians have a serious image problem and it’s getting worse. So, what’s new? Haven’t all pollies always had an image problem? Yes, they have, sure, 100 %. Even Napoleon Bonaparte, who knew all about image problems, said of them: “Put a rogue in the timelight and he will act like an honest man.” Also, one-time Soviet leader, Nikita Krushchev, was equally unflattering: “They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river.”
But, politics is politics. We can always improve the technique of promising A and or B where there will be no A and or B. The safest by-election is enough to hypnotise a MP’s candidate into an aquatic fantasy. Accordingly, you can’t believe what you read in newspapers, because there are so many quotes from politicians.
So why are things getting worse for our polliticians nowadays? Partly because it’s becoming much harder for them to deliver what we want, now that our country is geared into the so-called global economy. But be sure that everything will be allright. Because, since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him (Charles de Gaulle).
That’s why in the context of the way we think, promise, just promise, is more than enough for our people. Like a crocodile without smile, a politician without a promise is an incomplete, pathetic creature. The promise is the political mating call in the electoral season, a bid to change sullen bystanders into frenzied supporters. Without the promise, what have you got?
You can never separate the promise from politics. Our “competitive” system is based on the promise that the other side will always try harder and “do better with its new extra-dynamic policies”. Nothing is ever resolved but it allows them to ignore the real issues while indulging their sense of dramatic conflict.
The promise also distracts our leaders temporarily from dreaming up more red tape with which to regulate our lives. That’s why there will soon be so much red tape we will all have to stay in bed to avoid breaking the law.
So, don’t worry and be happy! Because there are always golden rules of political promising. It is the explicit, hand-on-heart, headline promises that are real meat of politics. For even as we weigh them up we can, in most cases, anticipate with relish the squirming that will inevitably follow when the promiser has to explain why they were broken.
Accordingly, remember three golden rules. First, never make a promise without an escape clause. Building of rooms for creative squirming is a must. It is a lot wiser in the long run. Second, never promise anything that has to be delivered before people are likely to have forgotten it. Third, only make promises so vast or vague that you can never be held accountable.
Also, don’t forget a lament over the impact of technology on the art of promising. Only old-timer, can recall the heady days when promises were more prolific than lantana. When broadcast journalism was in its infancy, a politician in a country town could promise the mugs anything – and usually did.
Nowadays, with instant mass communications – and dealing with our political objective conditions – the promises are directed at the “I don’t know” groups and or at “interest” groups rather than specific electorates. Sure, it is a mystery but the goverment, no doubt, is always preparing a package for them.
Perharps, before the next election in 2004 (?), the fairest idea would be to have a mystery package for all those who have been left out. It could be opened at the campaign launch and all voters who do not belong to interest groups (the “I don’t know” groups) could get a whistle, a motorbike, a balloon and a yellow or white or red or green t-shirt.
THAT’S why, once again: don’t worry and be happy! Because, if you are a little bit serious, it is not only fun and just fun in politics. As Sir Robert Menzies said in 1946, “In the long run there can be no high politics unless all parties have a sense of direction. We need to return to politics as a clash of principles, and to get away from the notion that it is a clasch only of warring personalities.
But speaking of personalities, most politicians don’t even dream of it. Not seriously. A ministry, yes. Perhaps even a high place in Cabinet. But not the leadership. That requires ambition bordering on insanity, although they go on regard themselves as somehow special, as the Chosen One (COs).
Ordinary people have ideas, the COs have “visions”. Ordinary people talk, the COs “consult”. And if they lose a battle, they don’t kick the cat like everyone else. They respond with immense dignity and grace.
The COs, naturally, also are masters of the art of political speak – especially pledges of loyalty to those temporalily above them, and displays of absolute confidence in themselves.
How is it that all politicians seem to be able to talk under wet cement, to find triumph in the great calamities and to declare sincere loyalty while they plot against each other? Because they live in a bizarre, upside-down world where the rewards go to those most skilled at saying what they don’t mean and convincing the voters that Utopia is just around the next corner.
Politics is the peculiar world inhabited by politicians, revealing such tricks of the trade as insults, promises, leadership coups, media grabs, pork-barreling and old fashioned double-speak. Politics is the peculiar world inhabited by bemuses voters and aspiring pollies. And, we laugh. Or cry?
L Murbandono Hs
Rakyat Biasa Warganegara RI