The Future of Politics
What will Happen to Politics?
Think of our world, a few years back. The whole humanity can be thought of as consisting of two types of people. One, who had the capability produce things thanks to the open, receptive, and innovative approach, and two, the many, who needed to buy such produce for their convenience. The many, the ultimate users, had to be made aware of what the producers made, and how desirable is it for ones life. Thereafter, making the product available for the many, to buy, was a challenge, more so, since transportation was not easy. Those who were involved in the business of familiarization and supply of goods happen to become the best known names in our society, and the ones employed there, most sought after friends. (Thanks to these people only, we in our young days enjoyed good things like Australian cheese, Egyptian cotton, and English medicines.)
Where we Are
Think of our world now. Now we have many who take up production, and many who remain ultimate users, but hardly few are there involved with familiarization and supply of goods and services. Reason is very clear, both transportation, and communication have become fairly simple tasks, given the progress we have made in such areas. If there are any, who still cling on to the old tasks of familiarization or supply of goods, they are looked down upon by our society, as someone who profiteers, called commission agents. If things are in short supply, or if they are priced high, those following such professions stand to bear the brunt.
Something similar is awaiting politicians. In yesterday’s world, people were neither educated enough, nor well informed about their rights and duties as a member of society. In fact, neither were they fully aware of their role in society, nor the society had crossed the evolving stage and reached a semblance of maturity with more or less defined roles for its members. Politicians came to fill that gap, and acted as a bridge between the citizenry which was fairly ignorant, and the arms of government which was at a distance from citizens. And that was a necessity.
But in today’s world, things are different. People are educated enough, and well informed about the society, their rights and duties. There is no discernible gap between those governed and different arms of government, thanks to better communication and transportation. The populace being well read, closer ties exist between the ones governing and the ones governed. Politicians, hence have no role to play. They are on their way to becoming unnecessary baggage.
Signs of Change
A good sign of this is politician bashing, a common sight these days. Whether in west or east, irrespective of presidential, military or democratic dispensation, no country is free of this entertainment. Nowhere else can this be seen more clearly than in the violent and widespread objections to the continuation of a few, even insignificant privileges, politicians, traditionally, used to enjoy. (Otherwise, how can things like, “the minister drinking say 300 cups of coffee at government expense”, become newsworthy items?)
I think it is a result of this; politicians in general are losing their sheen. And they find the citizens, either not cooperating enough or disinterested with such an important task as governance. Consequently, they may find the need to introduce new things to our society to make the populace deserving of a good, trouble free life. A proposal which is in the air, one aimed at making voting an essential duty of all citizens, and more or less mandatory, should be seen in this light.
Perhaps due to the above only, the populace is in a sort of disarray. There are signs that a significant number of citizens do not feel their concerns well addressed by the mainstream parties or the political system. There are two main reasons for this. One, from the citizen’s side; they confuse government with politicians, which is because the politicians are the ones most easily identifiable with governance. And two, from the politicians’ side, they take the rather lighter responsibility of delivering governance, rather than thinking about governance in the abstract, their rightful job. This is because, unlike the past, the best of the generation do not opt for politics as a natural destination.
What should Happen to Politics?
At present, political dissatisfaction is on the rise among members of the majority of the populace, 'the white working classes’ in some countries and, ‘the middle class’ in some other. This dissatisfaction, incidentally, manifests in many other forms also, having religious, societal, economic, or military dimensions. An immediate offshoot of this, disengagement of a considerable part of the populace from playing their role as responsible citizens, further accentuates it. We need to recognize the role that the people will continue to play, when they turn well to do, educated and empowered. Which should suit the working majority, mostly white collared and well placed.
Lower participation in formal democratic processes may not mean disengagement from all forms of politics. On the contrary, it should only be seen as warning to alter the political processes appropriately to enable better participation. There could be many methods to see that such a thing happens, if it is confronted imaginatively. Forcing a huge populace to tune themselves to certain archaic systems and procedures is certainly not one of it. A satisfactory answer to this, of course, might entail a shift in our basic approach to governance.
For example, many new opportunities exist to collate wants, opinions or desires of a large population, if the capability of information technology is made to work for us. Also, appropriation of resources or, fetching other forms of wealth, becomes child’s play, that too, with hardly any possibilities of dissatisfaction or mistake, if the phenomenal computing power made available by the digital revolution is put to use. Even the introduction of a new type of governance, 'real time democracy', is possible if all citizens are connected to a central server directing the various elements of government, which is programmed to act on the input from citizens thus connected, appropriately. Computer programs, in this case, shall be taking over the role of politicians who in turn, can be making a graceful exit to the higher planes of abstract thinking, like implementing appropriate hardware or software or both.
Where You Stand
Digital Politics is the Future
A Happy End?
Just as we saw earlier, how advances in communication technology and transportation made the profession of ‘commission agents’ redundant, the strides in IT have the potential to make whatever is left of politicians, fade away. In the interim, quite sharp and rather unpredictable reactions can be expected from all politicians, even to events that are not very noteworthy. With snowball effect making the whole populace resort to unexpected alternatives.
Many of these, mostly from those who presently are in positions of power, would be of grave consequences. These are but the gasps of a dying profession.
It is quite probable that this will lead to large scale restructuring of our society, whereby, more people will be busy in ‘productive’ ventures, and less in activities of controlling nature. This can leave one with a happy thought that much brighter tomorrows shall then await tomorrow.