Politics is a game in the true spirit. It has two or more parties contesting each other, each being equally dedicated to win. Each maintains a team, whether close knit or not may be circumstantial, and has a lot in stake. Like any other game it has not only the player taking interest but also a large audience to watch its every minute movement, cheer its wins and boo its losses. It has its own set of supporters, who may however be divided on their favourites from the team. Any game requires a balance of the mind or the physique or both and politics requires both.
One has to not only have a sharp mind but be also physically resilient enough to fight elections, do campaigns on a day and night basis, listen to a thousand voices at the same time and so on. Just as in any sports, the match or game may last for a short while but the preparations go on for months or even lifetimes. Practice makes a perfect sportsperson and so also practice makes a mature politician. Any sport lasts or is popular till people have interest in it, and politics scores very well in this front. People are addicted to politics and there is no drawing room where heated discussions over politics have not taken place. It is in acknowledgement of this fact that the media today focuses mainly on politics, relegating everything else to the background.
But is this phenomenon new? Is it a product of the modern age? Certainly not, politics seems to run in mankind’s blood. Man being a more intelligent species realized early on that everything does not work on brawn. He realized that if you did the right thing, things would come to you without even moving you limbs. He realized that it was not always necessary to tackle others physically, a sweet word or gesture here and another there was more powerful than his muscles. Man is very much a social animal and has always craved for societal acceptance and praise and later status. This is from where politics was born. As man’s physical necessities came to be easily achieved, he looked up to do greater things, to organize himself and others into families, groups and societies.
And it was in this organizing that he first realized the potentials of playing the game of politics. Simple societies played a simple form of politics but as society became more complex their games became more complex. Small groups gave way to full fledged kingdoms and states and each of these massive societies had their own political ideas and ideals, the matter of running the state in an appropriate manner came to be known as politics. This however did not mean the end of politics in other spheres of life. Theories on political thought and process began to be discussed, and a new era in politics came about.
The institutions and customs and political ideas of the ancient civilizations grew up slowly, age by age, no man designing and no man foreseeing. It was only in the sixth century B.C., that men began to think clearly about their relations to one another, and first to question and first propose to alter and rearrange the established beliefs and laws and methods of human government. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, who studied at Plato’s academy, is generally regarded as the founder of the scientific approach to political theory. His Politics, which classified governments as monarchies, aristocracies, and democracies, according to their control by one person, a select few or many persons, successfully combined an emperical investigation of the facts and a critical enquiry into their ideal possibilities, thus providing a challenging model of political studies.
The glorious intellectual dawn of Greece and Alexandria however did not last long, as the slave-holding civilizations collapsed and the clouds of religious intolerance and absolutist government darkened the promise of that beginning. The light of fearless thinking did not break through the European obscurity again effectually until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Meanwhile the Arabs and Mongols had also put together some kind of a political structure. And just as in Greece the bold speculations of Plato came before Aristotle’s hard search for fact, so in Europe the first political inquiries of the new phase were put in the form of “Utopian” stories, directly imitated from Plato’s Republic and his Laws. Sir Thomas More’s Utopia is a curious imitation of Plato that bore fruit in a new English poor law.
Indian political thought too seems to have matured early. We hear of ‘Ram Rajya’ in prehistoric times. The panchayat system too seems to have been in place very long ago. The earliest written evidence comes in the form of the ‘Arthashastra’ by Kautilya. The title, Arthashastra, which means “the Science of Material Gain” or “Science of Polity”, does not leave any doubts about its ends. According to Kautilya, the ruler should use any means to attain his goal and his actions required no moral sanction. The only problems discussed are of the most practical kind. Though the kings were allowed a free rein, the citizens were subject to a rigid set of rules.
It remains unique in all of Indian literature because of its total absence of specious reasoning, or its unabashed advocacy of real-politik, and scholars continued to study it for its clear cut arguments and formal prose till the twelfth century. Espionage and the liberal use of provocative agents is recommended on a large scale. Murder and false accusations were to be used by a king’s secret agents without any thoughts to morals or ethics. There are chapters for kings to help them keep in check the premature ambitions of their sons, and likewise chapters intended to help princes to thwart their fathers’ domineering authority. However, Kautilya ruefully admits that it is just as difficult to detect an official’s dishonesty as it is to discover how much water is drunk by the swimming fish.
Politics and political thought has come a long way since and is no longer limited by states and territories alone, the politics of today has global implications and is of interest to both the intellectual and the common man. The wave of a general globalization of things could definitely not have overlooked the most important aspect of man as a social being. In these times everything is global and local politics is invariably linked to world politics.
The game of politics is played as passionately and as meticulously in any part of the world. Theories do not alone suffice one to become a good politician. One has to live through the twist and turns of a political career. Maturity obviously comes with time. The real-politik still continues though in a more subtle manner but its vicious inclinations remain the same. Today’s politician has less conscience and more greed for power as well as money and will go to any extent to reach his goals, even if he has to declare war and walk over the bodies of the thousands that die as a result.
Like any other game politics too has some rules but they are rather flexible and the rules of the game keep changing as and when desired depending on who carries how much weight. The attack on Iraq is a case in point, the rule says UN sanction is required for any attack of the kind that is now going on in Iraq, but America being the sole superpower and having the support of another global power, namely Britain, has flouted this convention. Not many have openly opposed this, because even milleniums down the line, might is right, only physical right has been replaced by political and economic might.
America and Britain have their own political gains involved, even though they may mouth things like the common good of mankind. Even today, it is self service of the mighty as it was centuries ago. Terminology has changed but basics remain the same. Hunger for power and control drives man in all fields and it will continue to do so into eternity, only the modus operandi will change. Politics was there and will continue to be there even if it turns from global to universal or to even inter galactic. Just as man is a social animal so also is he a political one. This game will go on, and with renewed vigour through ages.