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In the early days of doing her PhD, whenever Emma Claussen tried to explain that she was working on ‘politics and political actors in 16th-century France’, she would often be interrupted:

I’ll tell you what politicians are. They’re self-interested, backstabbing, Machiavellian, hypocrite liars!

(Thus begins Emma Claussen’s article, “The Politician is the malformed monster of our coexistence“.  She would pedantically refuse to say ‘politicians’, since politique meant more ‘civic administrator’ in that period, strictly speaking).

Tell us what you really think

Indeed, there’s barely an opinion poll today that does not list politicians at the very lowest rung of any trust scale. This is how ‘political actors’ are often described, but where did this descent begin with flourish? Claussen suggests the French experiment with politics became a kind of “crucible in the process of politicians becoming more prominent and more problematic in Western culture.”

They are problematic because politicians are in an unenviable and, I add, unsustainable ecosystem of politics – the rough and tumble, win/lose team sport where the thing that matters most is your side winning… at all costs… including any integrity.

As I said in “And so it begins: a spectacle for mockery“, our politicians (the people we elect to represent our views in government?!) act more like “interchangeable bobbleheads who vote at their party’s call.” How radical it would be again if politicians did what was the original dream of modern democracy: represent their constituency.

During this election season, we will get party lines with party promises, and partisan criticisms of the other parties/teams. But when the dust settles, and after the verbal contamination and the visual pollution subsides, what difference will there be?

Could there be worse monsters?

Claussen writes sardonically I suspect:

“After the [French] civil wars [1562 to 1598], French leaders established an official policy of ‘forgetting’ the fighting that had torn towns and families apart. But the politique monster is worth remembering. It was intended as a slander, a warning as to the monstrous, amoral purpose of politics – that is, to suffer compromise and betray ideals. Still, this vision of the political person is also of somebody who uneasily embodies coexistence. It’s not a facile fiction of unity, but one that acknowledges the discomfort in cohesion. There could be worse monsters.”

I am not sure there are worse deformities than the monstrous mutation of modern day democracy that has become so detached from the people for the people, and so unfamiliar with truth telling. It is what it is, and we suffer the charade of democracy as politicians open-face lie. They’re the only ones who do not appear to know they are having problems with their relationship with the truth – – and then they think we are so easily sucked into their theatre of the ridiculous. Well, some are, and they’re counting on that.

What to do, what to do

With comments so critical, you might be surprised to hear I am not cynical. If you will permit me – here is a little advice:

Go and vote. Do whatever it takes to be registered, and get yourself to the ballot box!

Be politically informed and engaged.

Escape your echo chamber; if all you hear is what you agree with, you may need another perspective (strike that: you actually need other perspectives!).

Be open to opinions different from those you hold.

Protect yourself from blind partisanship.

Pray for the political process and the politicians. That’s right: prayer will get your focus out of the cynical and into the possible with the One who remains sovereign none the less.