Many people think that politics is what happens between politicians and political parties. These are the people who make promises they can’t keep and defend their behaviour even when they are wrong. They thrive on arguing and attacking opponents, scoring points and posturing on issues. They arrive when there is a crisis and disappear just as quickly. They tell you what the solution is but rarely listen to what you have to say. They appear to cut ribbons and make speeches without putting in the hours along the way.
Bullying, lying, boasting and posturing is not acceptable behaviour. We would never tolerate this in our relationship with friends and family or even in our community but we’ve come to expect it from politicians. No wonder most people think politics is a dirty business and don’t want anything to do with it but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Wherever we live in our city we experience the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. We are still divided into islands by our race, religion, class and ethnicity. We are still wracked by deep and enduring poverty and inequality and many wards still face chronic unemployment and daily violence.
Politicians often try to use these divisions to secure a support base. They say that if we trust them and they are elected and are able to take over the city, then they will look after our interests. While we argue about who should be first in the queue, those who have money and power and those who seek it continue to benefit.
Wherever we look we see people organised in hierarchies that look like pyramids – political parties, unions, government departments, businesses and many other organisations concentrate power, resources and knowledge amongst a few people at the top. Even in democratic organisations we tend to elect co-ordinators and chairpersons to run the show (and they are normally men).