Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Scripting History on the Wrong Page

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By Banlam K Lyngdoh

If politics is a game then it is like any other game. Rules of the game are clearly spelled out and one has to abide by them. But more important than respect for and obedience to rules is the acceptance and practice of a set of unsaid norms and principles that are intrinsic to the spirit of the game. One of them is, “Respect your opponent,” because he is not your enemy. He is playing the same game you are in and you are defined by his presence. Another unsaid norm is “Don’t beat your opponent when he is down.” Doing so amounts to trickery and viciousness and even if you win you win alone and your victory doesn’t taste so sweet as you would want it to be.

True victory is when your opponent is persuaded of your better combating skills and especially of your fairness in the process by which he is defeated. Like in soccer you don’t capitalize on a free-kick you’re awarded when you see that a player of the other team has somehow got himself injured. So when you kick the ball you either send it outside the boundary so that the other team gets a ‘throw’ or you simply kick it respectfully somewhere near any player of the other team. In other words, you think it below you not to care. You think the game lasts only one and a half hours and those ninety minutes should not make a selfish animal out of you even if you desperately need to win. You respect the bond more than the game itself.

It is indeed sad that a seasoned politician and leader of the State did not grasp this simple equation of the game. It will be tragically sad if he had recognized it but nonchalantly had chosen to sidestep it for the sake of power and more power. I said “tragically” because in classical terms that is the fate of a tragic hero. A tragic hero is brilliant (even noble in his bearings), authoritative, confident in his own machinations, admired by all and sundry. Even the gods are jealous and envious of him. But he has a flaw and it is a terrible flaw. Hubris blinds him of the bare facts surrounding him. Blinded by pride and ambition he overdoes and overstretches trampling beneath his mighty feet all cautionary whispers of wisdom and reason, shoving aside with his furious sword all feelings of family, friendship and cordial bonds forged in the past. Only the future matters to a tragic hero. The past he crushes for it threatens to incapacitate him some way or the other.

As long as we believe that politics is a game then we need to accept that like any other game it has its limits. Recognition of those limits strengthens the player as it moderates him and moderates as it strengthens. Appreciation of those limits makes a player realistic without losing sight of the sense of justice and decorum. To stand on a platform and announce one’s belief that in politics there is no mercy is to trample on every inch of justice that politics emanates from. It is to spell out the perception of politics in the obsolete context of kings and courts. To fight modern democratic elections with a mind to conquer and annihilate and to pronounce such intention out in the open is to comprehend and value politics only in its petty and shallow dimension of conquest and annexation and of imperialism. It all amounts to attempting at scripting history on the wrong page.

When you attempt to scribble history on a wrong page you become delusional. The three witches are always there at every shady junction to spur you on. They will invite you to behold what the future awaits for you in the cauldron of their concoctions. Then you will be convinced that your love for Rome is at all times greater than your love of Caesar or that Scotland is yours and yours alone. But you must also stop and think awhile. For surely, sometimes the impossible happens, and the Hill is on the move, as the witches foretold.

If politics is a game then likes any other game it truly has its glorious moments off-field. Magnanimity in politics rarely comes from scoring goals and winning laurels. It comes from sensitivity, from knowing when to fight, when to laugh together, when to cry together, when to let go and when to forgive.

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