Common sense tells us that the word, politics, means coming together to sort out and to address our common concerns. If we look up the word, politic, in the dictionary to see how it is used, we will find contradictions. The first meaning given by Webster is "practical wisdom", and the second is "unscrupulous". Unfortunately, whenever we hear the adjective "political", we often associate it with self-serving and borderline criminal behaviors on the part of some elected officials. Even honest politicians don't want their intentions and actions tagged, "political".
Too many people in government that have been entrusted with the privilege and responsibility of caring for the common good have stolen the power of public office for their own self-aggrandizing purposes. As a result "politics" has become a dirty word signifying back-stabbing, power-grabbing, and chicanery rampant in all our institutions. We talk of church politics, school politics and corporate politics to imply shady dealings, like "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".
How did we get into this sorry situation? One hypothesis claims that the system is broken, as if the political system were an overused, broken down car. But, maybe we have a Rolls Royce system with lousy drivers and sleeping passengers. The other hypothesis claims that a political system means a government of, by and for the people. Then, comparing the well-being of the political body to the health of our biological body is a more fitting analogy. All the parts of the physical body have to be functioning well and participating with each other for their own well-being and for the well-being of the whole body. The health of our political system demands the same dynamic interaction among the citizens as well as caring for our own self-interests. This analogy tells that the system is okay, but people in it are not doing what they ought to do.
We will restore the word, politics, to its true meaning, namely, the art of using practical wisdom and prudence in the service of the common good, provided we dialogue within ourselves and with each other about personal and common interests.
Although common sense highlights the importance of communal dialogue, it also warns us about the difficulties attached to it. We come to reason with each other, because we assume people have different points of view about an issue and because everyone wants a share of the decision making power. Politics is a tough game, but we can keep it clean, if we stick to the common sense rules of reason and ethics. The best game is played when the players are at their best. Since we are all players in the game of politics, we better show up prepared to play.
The following example demonstrates how to use Vision Circles to guide a self-dialogue about our political concerns. The same program with some modifications can be used for a communal dialogue on political issues.
(Note: Obviously, a group Vision Circles workshop on any topic such as, politics, stress, career development, marriage, etc. will be enriched if conducted by an expert on those topics, especially, when we are challenged to connect our ideals to practical concepts in Step Three.)