POLITICS, PHILOSOPHY & THE PLANET
A politician, so says Wikipedia (the oracle of all knowledge in the 21st century), is an individual who is involved in influencing public decision making through the influence of politics. The word derives from the Greek polis, from a time when the thoughts of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would go on to form the beginnings of so many modern disciplines including science, mathematics and philosophy. Socrates continued his mission to the point of death, losing his life for refusing to conform and lay down the ideas that the powers of the day found so fearful. In the years that have followed we have advanced greatly as a society, specifically in the fields of science and technology, yet for all our progress and the eras of enlightenment we have grown through we now live in an age so far distant from these great minds where very little upsets the proverbial apple cart.
Plato suggested in The Republic that the ideal state of utopia should be led by philosophers with wisdom and reason, much like the head rules the body. However, philosophy now appears to have been left mostly to the field of academic institutions, whilst the unsavory parts of the human anatomy have been left ruling. In the capitalist western world we continue to grow beyond our means, consume beyond our needs and act with the motivation of personal and financial gain. This is none so more prevalent than in the men and women who we as a nation have chosen as our elected representatives leaving the word politician now lingering with dark connotations of corruption, greed and disconnection. In a year when the gambles of rich city bankers have cost the British tax payer dearly and the scandals of politicians have shown how they abuse the trust placed in them by their constituents surely it is time to begin a new age of politics, to take the word back and re-affirm it with positive connotations, to begin thinking again instead of blindly meandering along in the accepted social structure and to place decision making safely in the minds of those who have always devoted their time to wisdom and reason.
Even with the incessant media hype surrounding the recent uncovering of MPs expenses there still remains an intense feeling of helplessness that we, as individuals, have no control in our three party democratic state and, therefore, over our own lives. It is easy to see how cases of mental health have become more prevalent in a society where we, as humans, have been left trapped in the same faceless concrete institutions that J.G. Ballard so vividly addressed in his writings. We have as our leader a man unelected by the electorate, who did not even face a leadership contest to head the Labour party. We also still have in power a parliament that took us to war illegally, has refused to give us the referendum on Europe that it promised and appears to be full of malaise and corruption right from the House of Lords down to the Commons. Add to this the fact that the head of our state is an unelected monarch and it is easy to see that we need change. Without deferring to anarchy or bloody revolution there will be no quick and easy way in which to redress the current political system but that does not mean we should be defeated. There is still sufficient thought, care and consideration in the world to give us hope. What we must realise is that some of that rests in ourselves, as well as our potential leaders. Instead of simply voting for the opposition when the current government begins to leave a bitter taste it is time to start seeing the wider picture and realising that control of our lives is not reduced to the opinions of privileged lords and out of touch businessmen.
It is hard to say whether the current climate will result in even more people staying at home abstaining from the ballot boxes on June 4th, thereby denying the right that historically so many have fought for, or whether people will take this as their opportunity to vent their anger and possibly to realise that we are not reduced to being led by a finite group of individuals with limited experiences and backgrounds. Refusal to take part in the political process may well be a way of showing dissatisfaction with the current system but it also means that the current status quo will likely continue to take precedence or, even worse, that extremist groups like that BNP may well benefit. Our options are not limited. There are others out there who have not been corrupted by the power of money and who believe in considered thought before thoughtless actions.
As their recent party video suggests, The Green Party have evolved, unlike their Westminster counterparts. An instant criticism of the party may well be the fact that they have no experience of political office but what does experience count for when those that continue to remain in office fail us time and time again and do not represent the true feeling, thoughts and diversity that this country offers. It is time for fresh thinking, and that doesnt simply mean fresh spin and rhetoric. The Green Party has no history of sleaze and stands for everything which opposes such rottenness. In fact the very nature of the party and possibly part of the reason it has often not been taken seriously in the past is the fact that its individuals are solely motivated by moral and ethical standpoints. That does not make them weak, unless strength is defined as the ability to use spin and any manner of aggressive and self-motivated tactics to elbow your way to the top of a political and economic system that will reward you unfairly and with highly disproportionate benefits. We need a different kind of strength in our new leaders.
The European elections offer a perfect place for reconstruction. We live in an increasingly homogenous world and the major decisions we face are global. Whether you oppose the European Parliament or support it, at present, so much of what happens in this country begins in Brussels that it would be foolish to ignore it. The challenges of the 21st century require world unity, not isolation, and if the current European Parliament is filled with as much, if not, more corruption than Westminster then this is the time to elect individuals who will fight against it.
Two of the biggest challenges that face us as individuals and a society are the dehumanising affect of capitalism so abhorrent to Karl Marx and, consequently, the destruction of our planet and, indeed, ourselves. Throughout the ages we have searched for meaning, which is more likely a subjective search than an objective one, but what meaning can there possibly be for any individual if we continue to numbly respond to modern marketing, work like mindless machines and forget our basic humanity and compassion? Moreover, what point is there in anything, in even worrying about MPs expenses and consumerism, if we do not have a world left to inhabit?
So much of politics now is taken up by the centre ground so that we muddle along in mediocrity not really getting anywhere. Now is a time for big decisions and the biggest is whether we sit back and continue to do the minimum for the environment to make sure we dont disrupt the strength of economies or whether we stand up and realise all that will be irrelevant if we dont start being bold now. We take care and great pride of the houses of brick we live in yet we do not feel the same about the world around us. When you take time out of fast paced modern western life to actually look at the world, as the early Greek philosophers did with great interest, you will be unable to deny its attraction and yet we are leaving a hefty scar on it. Apathy, a refusal to accept personal responsibility or denial of the facts will not be a good enough defence when we reach the point of no return. There is currently a movement called 100 months which claims that in that time (we are now down to 91 months) we will have reached the tipping point, when the planet can take no more and we will push it over the edge, and when that happens we will have pushed ourselves over as well. It is quite possible that humanity itself has even less time.
Not everyone can be a philosopher and the world surely does not need everyone to be one but that does not mean we cant all re-assess ourselves and the world around us and decide what we want without the imposition of impenetrable institutions and corrupted corporations. Platos ideas about the eternal truths that exist beyond the tangible world may have lost their relevance but his analogy of emerging from the shadows of the cave may well hold firm in a different context as something that humanity now has to do.
People are at their best when they are united but often these days we only seem to be united in the trifle affairs of the football terraces or against each other in the struggle for land and in the opposition of religious beliefs. Every single human on earth now has a joint goal to unite us to save the home that belongs to every one of us. Instead of being a part of history that may never be written because there will be nothing left to judge our actions, let us write our own history. If you want to cling dearly to the concept of Green Party members as tree huggers then do so but do so with the knowledge that the passion they put into saving those trees, saving the very planet, and ourselves, you, is a passion and an honesty that is totally lacking in the current leadership or opposition of this country. How refreshing would it be to switch on the news in the morning and not hear about the profits of giant corporations or the latest spin of politicians who claim that their deceitfulness has merely all been a mistake? The general public in this country have been insulted for far too long. We have been told how to live our lives by a nanny state that over-generalises wherever possible. Socrates never forcibly imposed his views on others, instead he discussed and debated with them until, by means of reason, the truth was attained. Philosophy is not an answer for everyone, it is a mode of thinking and right now any amount of thinking is better than none.
Rupert Read is a teacher of philosophy at the University of East Anglia, a man who I studied under and greatly admire, and a candidate in the Eastern Region for The Green Party in the elections for the European Parliament on June 4th. His motivations are selfless, his thoughts considered and his actions positive. This is not some distant being like the politicians we see on the television but a man of the community who will bring change. If you want the same tired excuses and lies, if you want consistent failures and broken promises, if you want league tables and empty enquiries, if youre happy for your money to be wasted on bonuses, expenses and bombs then you may as well stay at home or vote the same way you always have done but if you want real change, not merely rhetorical change, than it is time to start thinking differently. The Green Party is committed to a living wage for everybody, affordable homes, safer streets, free school meals, better public transport and, ultimately, green energy for all. As they say themselves; We dont want to find scapegoats. We want to find solutions. Together we can make this happen. Isnt it high time for that change?
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