Thursday, March 10, 2005

It's Always About Politics

At one point or another, we've all probably blamed politics as the cause of a problem. I mean how many times have you heard people claiming that they quit because of office politics? Or perhaps blaming certain authority figures for being too political? Or simply sick and tired of how in a certain social group, you have to be careful of what you say for fear of being socially ostracized? It all boils down to politics, and I for one hate it.

Yet as much as I dislike being political, I'm guilty of it at times. I think in the end, acting "political" can't be avoided. In fact, it's a part of life. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, it'll certainly be interpreted in the wrong way by someone. I mean just the other day, I was just giving a counter-argument to a certain idea when the discussion blew up in my face and the other person got angry at me. I certainly wasn't intending that to happen but let's face it, some people take things personally. And since we each have our own unique preferences, whether it's likes, dislikes, or preferences, somebody somewhere will always be offensive to us.

Actually if you want to remove politics in any equation, then you'll have to remove a person's individuality, their personality. I mean computers and robots don't have political problems. Then again, they don't have emotions (at least at this point in time) or egos. They simply exist and do their job. As much as we wish people to simply to do their job, whatever that may be, they'll always be doing something else. It may be daydreaming while the teacher is lecturing, or as complex as gossiping while you're on the opposite end of the cash register. Whatever the case, we're human, and we'll almost never act mechanically. Heck, I was in a call center before and despite the heavy multitasking involved, some employees manage to do something else on the job, whether it's nibbling a snack or surfing unnecessary websites.

So what's the solution other than "get used to it". I mean isn't there anything we can do to reduce politics? While it's perhaps impossible to remove the politics and intrigue that arises in a situation, its adverse effects can be controlled. I mean some politics exists because we want to appease too many people (and more often than not end up pleasing none). I think it should begin there: we can't please everyone. Accept that fact. Someone, somewhere in the world, will always find your opinion objectionable. If you can't deal with rejection, this is the time to learn it. If you're too cautious around people, afraid of showing your true self, you might end up being a non-entity. I mean the world will like and dislike people who have strong opinions, but they tend to forget those with average dispositions. I don't know but honestly, there are worse things than being disliked. Like being ignored.

Perhaps the second lesson there is that it's not personal. I mean someone will always be disliking someone else. At different points in time, it'll be you. It's not because you're you that they dislike you, but rather their own sentiments about you. Of course if you happen to dislike that other person as well, conflict will soon arise. But if that's not the case, then there's nothing you should fret about. Don't take it personally. And perhaps that's also the third most important lesson: don't take things as a personal attack on you. I mean what's the difference when an African-American calls another African-American nigger from a Caucasian American calling a dark-skinned American nigger during a pre-civil war America? In the end, it boils down to intent. The former certainly doesn't mean to insult the other person (or perhaps merely in a jesting manner rather than a wholehearted attempt to degrade the other person). Here in the Philippines, we Chinese are called Instik. It was intended as a derogatory name initially but nowadays, I don't really mind people calling me Instik. I mean if I wanted to act politically correct, I'd tell them to call me Filipino-Chinese (because that's who I am). But even my friends call me Instik and they don't mean anything derogatory about it, so it's fine with me. That's one step of not taking things personally; I'm judging the intent rather than the inherent meaning of the word (and in the end, we decide what a word really means). One of the reasons why political maneuvering is necessary is because people take things personally. As much as I love to live in a world where people can freely debate ideas and philosophies, that's not always possible because people tend to act in an irrational manner. Emotions such as jealousy, anger, denial, and pride enter the picture, and you get results like people shooting each other over a silly argument, or even losing friendships. No one wants to get shot or lose friends, and so we practice the art of politics as a barrier to prevent outward hostility (and the other side retaliates with similar political tactics). Does it work? Well, at least enemies who meet each other in public don't always result in cat-fights. There's an insult or two, a thinly veiled criticism, and then they move on. While that's not exactly an optimistic view of things, at least while there's life, there's hope.

So what does this all mean? Well, one is that as long as there is human emotion, there will always be politics. If you bitch about it, you're only digging your own grave. No matter where you go (short of finding yourself a deserted island), it'll always be there. The second is that we can control it. Politics is a product of our emotions and if we can control that, well, we can minimize the tension and conflict we might receive from such experiences. No one's promising a turmoil-free life but at least this way, one feels more confident about one's self, and we can realize who we truly are rather than keep on wearing a fa├žade just because we're afraid of offending someone.

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