Is all politics negative? I think not.
A reflection on local politics
There is a lot of rhetoric thrown-around in meetings and committees that “politics needs to be removed from” this or that process or project. Recently,the City Commission mentioned it while discussing the 20-year infrastructure plan. I squirm every-time I hear it. Is politics that repulsive?
Why would you try to remove it? I question if it is even possible?
Politics by definition is simply the process of diverse set of parties coming together to govern a system; it is inseparable from governance. You can’t remove politics, you can only try to tuck it into corners, block its open expression, and limit broad participation. Thus, excluding some perspectives and views from equal access to the process comes with consequences that express themselves in money, energy, levels of acceptance and knowledge by the general public. Note, at times, this is completely legit, as long as the process and reasoning is transparent and accepted.
More importantly, I’ve been in meetings where inquiries to clarify the decision-making process have shown a disheartening attitude amongst professional government employees. When I express frustration with the lack of clarity of roles, process, and decision-making, I’ve more often than not received a version of the indifferent reply, “that’s politics.” Complete with a shrug of shoulders and a unverbalized, “deal.”
Positive or negative politics is a choice
Again, I squirm. It is indeed politics, but that by nature isn’t a negative as oft implied. Bad politics, thus bad governance, is a negative and it is a choice. Politics is naturally neutral. Am I wrong to assume that when the dismissive “that’s politics” comes out of someone’s mouth, that what we are really stating are our own inabilities? Failures? Our own handicaps arising out of ideology, protection of power, or flat-out deception? Or, are we simply telling someone to keep it to themselves?
I’m not applying this to any specific item or city project. I’m mostly reflecting on the past 3-4 years of my direct engagement with local government. I’ve been on transportation committees, steering committees, exploratory committees, I serve on the City’s parks and recreation commission, and I try, I really do, to approach each role with optimism and a respect for those at the table. It is hard to engage with an open mind when repeatedly met with a lack of communication, indifference, and an ideology of community that seems rooted in cynicism.
I’m exploring. Discovering. Developing. Still keeping the humor.**
What’s your theoretical experience/perspective on politics?
** More humor than fire, despite the headline.
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