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THE POLITICIAN

In an age of discord and monotony, no sound is more pathetic than that of the politician lamenting his portrayal by the media. Aiming a fat finger squarely in the direction of the sketch-writers and cartoonists, he intones gratingly: “They make us look ridiculous. They demean and debase politicians and drive the voters from the polling booths.” There is only one response: of course politicians are made to look ridiculous in the public prints. And there is only one reason: because politicians are the most ridiculous species ever to walk the earth. Even journalists acquire an air of gravitas and refinement in the company of politicians. Who among us has not had the experience of being at a party where an exceptionally precocious child is present? The drinks are flowing, the cheese straws are being devoured, the chandeliers are blazing, the music is light and uplifting. Amid all this shimmering superficiality, the prodigy comes to the fore. “So what are you planning to be when you grow up?” an insubstantial woman in a skimpy black dress demands of the young scion. “I want to be a politician,” he pronounces solemnly. There is a light tittering on the outer edges of the circle and a shuffling of feet. The woman has no choice but to press the point ever so delicately. “Really? Why is that?” she asks. “Because I want to change things,” comes the straight-bat answer. The titters step up a degree; someone slips away to replenish their drink while others are drawn to the scene like moths to a lightbulb. All bear the synthetic grin of the eager but dispassionate listener. “Well, I’m sure you’ll do well,” the woman observes with mock finality. But the fledgling statesman will not be stopped: he has his inaugural platform. “I hate all the poverty and injustice and crime and greed and evil in the world,” he says. “It doesn’t need to happen. We’re intelligent beings. Surely there must be a better way.” The plastic grins nod and bow in contemplation. The titters at the back turn to sniggers, but they do not reach the aspiring orator, who mistakes the bowed heads for nods of approval. Then the subject changes and the audience disperses. The philosopher-prince assumes an air of faint pride, imagining he has struck the first blow for freedom. But already the gadflies are conveying the news around the other circles at the party: “Have you heard? The boy wants to be a politician!” And there is a shriek of laughter, and a barbed riposte along the lines of: “society’s to blame,” or “There goes the neighbourhood”. Until eventually the entire company is suffused in guffaws and chuckles which drown out the bland music seeping from the speakers and bathe the room in the pallid light of ridicule. So it is that the first act of every politician is to make himself ridiculous in the eyes of his kith and kin, and the only ambition he can ever fulfil is to be ridiculed by an entire community, by a country, by a continent, by the world.

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