Any expression or interaction of power between people is a political act. This is, in fact, what politics is – a consolidation and exercise of power by one or more people to affect change.
Initially envisioned as a description of how Greek city states were run, the idea of politics is far reaching and touches on a variety of subjects well beyond those initially envisioned city states or our current parliamentary system.
With this in mind one can see politics at work nearly everywhere – at home, at work, in schools, amongst friends and neighbours. Humans are very political animals it turns out.
Given the interwoven nature of power and politics it should come as no surprise then that war, conflict, violence, sex, money and death are often political tools. Rarely do any of these things exist without some form of power dynamic at play.
We learn about politics from almost the moment we can walk.
Children at play on large snow hills in the playground are exceptionally pure examples of politics at work.
Initially the most powerful takes position at the top of the mountain and removes contenders for the prize by sheer force. Eventually a clever, smaller child, will form a coalition with other, clever, smaller children, and together they mount an offensive and topple the king or queen of the mountain.
Politics in action. Perhaps a power-sharing arrangement was negotiated. Eventually the vanquished, having watched the group and analyzed them, returns with new strategy and the game goes on and on.
Politics at play.
Anywhere people exercise power with, for, and over other people, there you have politics.
Murder is a political act. It is the ultimate expression of power over another or others.
This is why I find it odd when a murder or mass murder gains public attention and people rush to say “let’s not politicize this.”
It is already politicized. The act itself is a political act. How much more politicized can you get then one person literally using their power to eradicate others who they find threatening in some fashion?
In fact the statement “let’s not politicize this” is, in itself ironically, an attempt to exercise power over the narrative people are engaging in and thus – politicizing.
Statements like “let’s not politicize this” betray a fear that by engaging in a discussion, say for example, of the need for gun reform in the United States, a shift of power may occur away from the gun lobby and toward gun control.
By condemning discussion of such events as “tasteless” and “crass politicization” there is a hope to push such conversation into the future when people are less likely to care and more likely to apathetically accept the status quo.
This is what politics looks like at its most crass and devious – a shell game designed to confuse and obfuscate until opponents give up out of sheer exasperation and the power remains where the power has always remained.
This all depends largely on understanding and manipulating public inertia – that is, our natural resistance to change.
However – ultimately all political power is derived from people.
We all bestow power on others either by giving it or simply being too inert to care enough to effect change. Power depends on our laziness and contentment as is expressed in the Roman poet Juvenal’s observation that all people wanted was “bread and circuses.” Keep people fed and entertained and you can do whatever you want.
This is also expressed in Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal statement “let them eat cake” when told the poor had no bread. A massive miscalculation on her part that resulted in the poor rising up and exercising political power by removing her head. These days we call that the French Revolution.
The point? Don’t let anyone shame you into silence by telling you not to politicize something – everything is political and so are you.