Thursday, 6 April 2017

Politics is Personal

At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper-no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point. (Winston Churchill)

Speaking in the States on the debate on electoral reform, Rod Bryans began by saying: "At 4.00 a.m. this morning when I woke up I had a fantastic speech in my head. It was full of rhetoric, it was full of wit and wisdom and then I went back to sleep again and I woke up with the ghost of the bare bones of a speech. It will not be the one that I was hoping to give to you."

But I welcome the fact that he lost that fantastic speech, because what we had instead was one of those rare glimpses of personal anecdote. So often we don't really know what motivates politicians, and of course, a lot of motivation is complex, but here is one insight worth sharing: it is the faith people have in a politician to do the right thing for them, for the ordinary person, and not lose sight of the common man or woman who voted for them, who put trust in them.

There's a paragraph at the end of science fiction Robert Heinlein's only overtly political novel, "Double Star", where the hero of the book, who has agreed to take on the responsibility of "Supreme Minister" of the earth and colonies on other planets, and the indigenous natives, reflects on his life, and what politics means, and why it is important, and it is also about that connection:

"I do not regret it, even though I was happier then – at least I slept better. But there is solemn satisfaction in doing the best you can for eight billion people. Perhaps their lives have no cosmic significance, but they have feelings. They can hurt."

Rod Bryans on Democracy: Politics is Personal

Just the other day I had a phone call late at night, and it was a constituent and I live in my constituency, like Deputy Mézec now does. I was round there as quickly as I could and we resolved the issue.

In this particular case, as it turns out, it was just a parishioner that really, when I got through to the bottom of it, was lonely. That is the thing that is killing our parishioners on this Island. Loneliness.

I sat and I listened for a while and again the conversation moved to politics but once again at no point did she never mention the composition of this Assembly. I did tell her the sort of things we were talking about.

So I think we have a right, and I was reminded of a situation when I first went for election and did not get in. I was down at Springfield, like we have all experienced, on a cold November day, and a car pulled on to the apron in front of the Springfield Sports Stadium, a taxi.

An old lady started to get out. I went over to help her and she grabbed my hand and she looked at me and she said: “Do you know why I am here?” And I said: “No, I have no idea.” She said: “I have come to vote for you. I am really sorry.” I said: “Why?” “Because my husband cannot make it too. He is ill.” This woman was from St. Ewold.

I was in a nanosecond humbled like you would not believe. I have never forgotten. I have never forgotten the testimony of that individual and the hope and the faith that she put in me as a politician to stand here in this Assembly today. I carry it with me every time I press the button. The faith that she put that I will make the right decisions.

Occasionally within this Assembly we start talking about democracy and it gets waved around this Assembly like a loaded gun, like some people have the sole right and ownership of democracy. They do not.

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