These words are spoken by Marty Kaufman1, a character in Barack Obama's 'Dreams from my Father' (the book I am reading these days), in context of Chicago of early 1980's.
However, isn't this statement true for the socio-political nexus of any place at any given time? Lets take a proximate example, that of India. Here the 'Black or White' can be substituted by 'Hindu or Muslim', 'Upper Caste or Lower Caste', 'Outsiders or Native' or by any such polarization and we are instantly reminded of the politicians and parties which made the best out of it.
Its not necessary that in a society polarized into two groups A and B, the politician has to be the member of the group A to win its loyalty. Even a pseudo-support can do. However, even if the support is genuine, it cannot be denied that the polarization helps him to create a vote-bank.
It is hard to find a much needed polarization along the lines of political ideology and we end up having elections fought on the platforms of Hindu Rashtra and Marathi Manoos among others.
Moving back to U.S.A., they have elections fought between the Democrats and the Republicans on the broad issues like 'for/against gay rights', 'pro-choice/pro-life abortion laws', 'progressive/regressive taxation', 'diplomatic/belligerent foreign policy' and 'gun-control/gun-rights' respectively. However, these issues remain epidermal and on seeing beneath, one can notice clear polarization based on socio-economic conditions.
So, while Democrats have a huge support of Black and Hispanic populations; the main-stay of Republicans are Whites. However, within Whites too, while religiously orthodox and the richer sections stick to Republicans, the educated liberals and lower-income voters converge towards Democrats.
It is like asking, "Who came first, the hen or an egg?"
Polarization has always been there, thanks to 'God' and 'Men' alike. So while God2 decided to send his creations to the Earth in all sizes and colours, susceptible to polarization; His creation, the Men decided to compartmentalise themselves further on the basis of their belief system, occupation, birthplace, etc. This polarization is itself an act of Politics3, i.e. the competition between individuals or groups for power and leadership.
With time, Politics, i.e. the art and science of winning and holding control over a Government, was born and it very conveniently clung to this already polarized society like a parasite4. So while it fed upon it to prosper, it used all the resources available to aggravate the polarization and hence kept feeding itself and prospering in turn.
However, why couldn't the Society remove this parasite and throw it away? It was because the various sub-systems of the Social System like religious factions, economic groupings etc. benefited from this politics of polarization while the overall Social System degraded.
This is an ideal antithesis to the principle of Synergy5 where 2+2 becomes -5 instead of 5.
So Society at large allowed the Parasitic Politics of Polarization (the 3-P's) to prosper while some concerned individuals and groups sulked.
Continuing with this symbiotic6 analogy, we have an ideal example of Mutualism7 in politics of polarization too. It is the recent election drama enacted in Pilibhit constituency of Uttar Pradesh. While Varun Gandhi, the BJP candidate tried to garner Hindu support through his shameful vitriolic against Muslim brethren, the BSP government under Mayawati went overboard and booked him under N.S.A. to gain the appreciation and votes of Muslims. However, this turned out to be an antithesis to mutualism as Congress, another pesudo-secular party turned out to be a net-gainer in U.P.
Sadly, the distasteful concoction of these 3-P's seem perpetual. However, education can act as a great tool to erase polarization from an individual's mind and hence check the further degradation of Society at large. One hopes that a day comes when the reverse process of depolarization begins. However, to hope that this polarization will ultimately end one day is nothing but wishful thinking. Nonetheless, a dose of Empathic Libertarianism will definitely help.
- Marty Kaufman was the man who hired Obama to come to Chicago to work as an organiser in 1980's. In 2004, Obama revealed his true identity as Gerald Kellman.
- By God, I mean the Source of Origin without any religious connotations.
- The word politics can have two interpretations as already elaborated in the post. Firstly, in general terms, it stands for the competition between individuals or groups for power and leadership, without any specific relation to governance and public policy. Secondly, it stands for the art and science of government, of guiding or influencing governmental policy, or winning and holding control over a government.
- Parasitism is a form of symbiotic relationship where one member of the association benefits while the other, known as host is harmed.
- Synergy is a term used to define a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome. Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of individual parts.
- Symbiosis describes a close and often a long-term relationship between different biological species.
- Mutualism is another form of symbiotic relationship where both the members of the association derive benefit out of it.