If we really want to understand politics, it would help to define it and document its origin. If you’ve read the first articles in this series, you’ve hopefully already been convinced that politics is much bigger than politicians in stuffy suits, even bigger than government.
Let’s try and figure it out, with a little help from political activists and biologists.
P.S. Politix isn’t a real word; it’s just a whimsical term I coined. If you really want to understand politics, you have to learn how to look at things in a different way. To really drive that point home, I sometimes spell politix with a backwards p — . The word politix further emphasizes the point that politics is far bigger than government.
So what is politics? In fact, there are many definitions, some of which you can see here. I like the definition “The art or science of government” because it’s so concise. Yet that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Politics is the art of controlling your environment.
The word politics is closely related to political science — “a social science concerned chiefly with the description and analysis of political and especially governmental institutions and processes,” according to Merriam-Webster. Yet many people will tell you that politics is half science and half philosophy. (It seems like political scientists and armchair politicians alike are always quoting philosophers.)
But politics is still bigger. It’s hard to separate government and politics from society in general. Thus, people often speak of sociopolitical (social + political) issues, like hunger or education. And what about the environment? Global warming and militarization are issues that affect Earth itself, thus the term ecopolitics. And how can you understand ecopolitics without knowing something about the natural sciences?
Spartacus, Crazy Horse, Malcolm X and Osama bin-Laden weren’t politicians, yet they had an enormous impact on political systems. All four can be loosely classified as political activists. Politicians can be political activists, too, but most aren’t.
The famous Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara was a political scientist, political activist and politician at the same time. Presidents George W. Bush and Obama were nothing more than politicians.
Changing perspective a bit, politics generally revolves around power. We can therefore think of political science, in the broadest sense, as the study of power, focusing on both the people who have the most power and the people they almost inevitably exploit. Just as biologists study paleontology (the study of fossils and ancient creatures) in an effort to understand life, so do political scientists study history, which is largely the story of an endless war between the rich and powerful and everyone else.
The measure of a man is what he does with power.
So we can think of politics as the art or practice of acquiring and using power, whether that power is wielded by political activists, government or the very rich, corrupt people governments often work for.
Forms of PowerEconomic
precious metals (e.g. gold)
Power can take many forms. A strong man has more power than a weak man, but physical strength generally isn’t used to measure political power.
On the other hand, military might is a very common measure of power. In fact, history can almost be defined as an endless arms race, which has taken us from spears to gunpowder to nuclear weapons and beyond. The technology needed to create new weapons is a form of power. In that spirit, education can be seen as a form of power. That helps explain why some governments don’t want other countries to have good education systems. In fact, some governments don’t want their own citizens to be well educated, largely because ignorant or brainwashed people are easier to manipulate than well educated people.
But the greatest source of power may be financial. Governments or organizations that have lots of money can buy lots of weapons. They can also bribe people, perhaps even members of foreign governments. As they say, “money talks.”
On second thought, the greatest form of power is advertised on almost every page in the Geobop family of websites. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see what it is.
Origin of Politics
It’s impossible to determine exactly when politics began, but we can make a good guess. Since we’re exploring political science and a unique species of animal (humans), let’t turn to biology for guidance.
Humans aren’t the only animals that wield power over other members of their species. Consider a bull and its harem, a male lion and its pride, or a colony of ants or bees, with a queen, drones, workers and soldiers.
The social insects (e.g. ants, bees and termites) are especially interesting because of their caste systems and the specialized roles each caste performs. Of course, it’s hard to ignore the size of social insect colonies, which can number many thousands.
But we don’t normally apply the words politics or political to animals other than humans. Practically speaking, politics is a people thing.
Man is by nature a political animal.
Early humans lived in family groups, similar to gorillas and chimpanzees. The invention of tools and the mastery of fire allowed them to congregate in larger groups (e.g. tribes), with more complex power structures. But the biggest political event in world history was probably the birth of agriculture. That event was to politics what the Cambrian explosion was to evolution or the Big Bang was to the universe itself.
Once people learned how to domesticate animals and grow crops, they began congregating in villages, which grew into towns and, eventually, cities. Such vast collections of people couldn’t operate like families or tribes. A completely new power structure evolved, a power structure we call government.
Thus, a knowledge of biology and history can help us expand our definition of politix: the art or practice of acquiring and using power, a process that accelerated with the invention of tools and mastery of fire but really blossomed with the birth of agriculture
There are various ways of dividing politics into disciplines. Most people equate politics with government, which is generally seen as a relatively orderly process. However, political activism is often messier, ranging from simple criticism to revolution.
The term political science describes the serious study of politics, even though most political science courses are manipulated by corporate interests. Political scientists are more apt than public officials to indulge in political theory and philosophy.
One of my favorite disciplines is political psychology — an interdisciplinary academic field dedicated to understanding politics, politicians and political behavior from a psychological perspective.
By the way, not everyone involved in politics is a politician. That term is broadly applied to elected and sometimes appointed public officials. Politicians and activists alike can be described as politicos.
Even if you don’t have a clue about politics, you’re probably familiar with the words corruption and apathy. More than that, you’re probably aware that corruption and apathy are both major problems in the U.S. and many other countries today. Of course, corruption is typically associated with the “establishment,” apathy with the general public, though they actually overlap widely.
Brace yourself: It’s far, far worse than you’ve ever imagined.
Are you familiar with the saying “You can’t fight city hall”? If you become a political activist and fight for a cause, you’ll quickly discover you’re up against much more than city hall. You’ll probably clash with government, the media, the corporate sector (which essentially owns the government and media), and an army of fake activists and “shadow people” (undercover cops and attorneys, spies and informers, etc.). The stunning apathy displayed by your friends, co-workers, neighbors and even relatives may be even more overwhelming.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to Washington, D.C. Imagine attending a meeting of the Seattle School Board. You walk into a room and see fifty people in the audience — a shocking number when you consider that the district employs about 1,500 educators and serves perhaps ten times as many parents. You assume the people in the audience are all teachers and parents.
However, it’s a good bet that every Seattle School Board meeting is attended by at least one attorney, one media whore, one fake activist and one undercover cop. I’ve attended Seattle School Board meetings where I’ve spotted three or four fake activists (one of them was sitting with Governor Gary Locke’s aunt, Francis Locke) , several media whores and several attorneys. I’ve also encountered a number of derelict principals.
The remaining people may be actual teachers and parents, but they earn’t necessarily “ordinary citizens.” On the contrary, many, if not most, are likely spies and informers. Some support the school board by applauding in approval or booing critics on cue. It’s entirely possible that you could be the only genuine member of the community in the room.
You will also discover that apathy isn’t the only societal problem you have to wrestle with. Arrogance and selfishness are rife in American society. Then there’s apathy’s handmaiden, ignorance, which can often be spelled s-t-u-p-i-d-i-t-y. You will quickly understand why many political science students describe U.S. citizens as sheeple.
At least it ain’t Iraq...
Fortunately, U.S. citizens don’t have to deal with the incessant explosions, beheadings and acid baths that seem to dominate the news on the other side of the world. But that doesn’t mean Americans are nicer than people in other countries. In fact, the most disgusting acts you read about are orchestrated by people in the U.S., Israel and allied countries. Various torture techniques and devices, from waterboarding to sinister drugs, are developed right here in the U.S., maybe in your own community. (Biotech is a huge industry in Seattle, for example.)
And don’t forget the people who support the troops who are doing all the killing. They include many, if not, most liberals. How many of your friends are addicted to Xbox and Call of Duty (a popular war game)?
There are so very twisted people among us, some of whom are too twisted to realize just how twisted they are.
White Knights — NOT
Fortunately, there are some shining stars that are only too eager to guide us — inspirational truth mongers and activists like Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Jesse Ventura, Alex Jones, Dennis Kucinich, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and even local newspapers like Seattle’s The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly.
Are you erasing?If you’re a big fan of any of the bums mentioned above, then you need to start erasing some bad information from your mind. If you aren’t convinced, then take a closer look. Do any of them offer beginners anything similar to Geobop’s Politix 101 series?
Brace yourself again: All the people and publications mentioned above are examples of “controlled opposition,” even if much of what they say is true and even inspirational. They’re all very clever propagandists who speak with forked tongues.
In summary, you may find politics ten times as frustrating and depressing as you imagined it could be.
I’m not trying to scare you away; once you catch your breath and get over the initial shock, you may feel a little less queasy. Simply studying politics sin’t likely to get you into any kind of trouble. Even if you become an outspoken activist, you probably don’t have to worry about getting assassinated or even physically assaulted; it’s much easier (and safer) for the establishment to simply ignore you.
Once you understand political reality, you might think of it as a challenge, similar to climbing Mt. Everest or traveling to Mars. The difficulty of getting your head screwed on straight, finding a cause and sticking with it can be its own reward. You may understand why I like to say Viva la revolucion!