To Whom It May Concern

meaningful political life

Posted on March 16, 2017

 

Events are the building blocks of realities, realities are the building blocks of long term processes, long term processes are the building blocks of histories and herstories, histories and herstories are the building blocks of everything, usually imagined as a singular universe or multiple universes expanding in time, real and unreal. Or are they?

Once upon a time, inhabitants of a middle-sized city in Europe managed to organize a festival of poets, and called it Poetry International. Poets came and in spite of the need to translate the most intimate motions of their hearts and minds, they met with interest and empathy. Meetings continue, events take place time after time. Their fellow-citizens from a larger city decided to organize a festival of public intellectuals and called it Essay International. They travelled around Europe and talked to ministers of culture of many governments and to leading critics writing comments in their native languages and publishing them in the most prestigious newspapers. Essay International, as opposed to Poetry International, never took off.

Critics and journalists, who fill the pages of newspapers with their comments usually do so by focusing on events, which are politically charged. But is political charge enough to sustain a long-term genuine interest of human individuals leading a meaningful life? Perhaps a relative success of Poetry International and a relative failure of Essay International demonstrated the limits of politics in shaping of our lives. Politically formatted issues can mobilize and antagonize individuals, and this can be turned into a political profit measured in numbers of votes and in numbers of seats in national parliaments. But can these political comments trigger genuine non-partisan interest and generate authentic and intimate experience time after time and place after place, as poems do? Poetic comments could. Political comments could not. Perhaps political comments are less balanced and appeal more to fear than to selfless appreciation, fair acknowledgment, truly meaningful experience? Perhaps the aggressive rhetoric of media communications makes us distrust political commentators more than we distrust poets? Perhaps redressing this imbalance requires more decisive steps towards the ecology of mind? What events could nudge me towards concerned citizenship? To Whom It May (Should) Concern?

Well, perhaps it is not a bad idea to analyze what democratic societies have to offer their citizens in terms of events adding up to a meaningful participation in political life. One vote in five years for one person in a parliament? With a referendum once in a while like another roadside attraction to fill in the long years between parliamentary elections? No wonder we are not amused.

 

Rotterdam, March 16, 2017