What price political romanticism?
- The art
of politics is often seen as a pragmatic, even cynical, exercise in
compromise. But not always; as former Polish dissident Adam Michnik
reveals (Quadrant, Jan/Feb 98]:
can announce with pleasure that for the first time in three hundred
years, and perhaps for ever, Poland has not one conflict with any of
its neighbours.... I am convinced that the balance of development in
Poland over the last eight years is unequivocally positive. For people
like me, who ten years ago were still being arrested by communist police,
this is a true miracle. And so, once again it has turned out that in
our region the people who understood the situation correctly were not
political realists but political romantics - those who understood that
in Poland whoever doesn't beleive in miracles should not be involved
in political activity."
What is the
common view of the political process? Is it one of bargains and deals
and machinations? Or can a genuine sense of political romanticism survive?
Natasha Stott Despoja (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats, and
the youngest woman ever elected to the Australian Parliament), and David
Bromige (Canadian poet now resident in California, and the author of
thirty books), offer some thoughts:
It is said
politics is the art of the possible, yet twenty years ago, it seemed
impossible for there to be a viable third party in politics, a party
that stood for environmental sanity, economic responsibility, equality,
industrial democracy, reconciliation, social justice, anti-uranium,
free education and a strong public sector. A party that stood for a
new type of politics where petty insults, backroom deals and powerful
vested interests do not dominate.
It is easy
to predict the future, the hard part is making it come true, but the
Australian Democrats are no fairy story.
political romanticism? It is a bargain. All it will cost us is our doubt,
distrust, fear, greed and cynicism. A bargain.
1. Dying for
truth and justice on the barricades. Been done. And now they have better
weaponry. Avoid if at all possible.
falling in love with the Chair (M or F) of your Department in the hope
of securing unfair advancement. Often been done. Recommended, although
"it would be wrong". Caveat: it may not be reciprocated. Suggest
all overtures be explicable as something else entirely should one's
suit fail to impress.
works of the Lake Poets in such wise as to foster revolutionary fervor
among the young. "A slumber did my spirit seal": Wake up!
Caveat: a new President will be brought in to your college with secret
instructions to get people like you (the public instructions: "Pursue
environmental, "green". Belief in the living interconnectedness
of all things and creatures, and that the planet must be defended against
giant corporations. Frequent references to "my acid trip,"
as in "It was on my fourth acid trip that I realized the interconnectedness
of all things and creatures, when I wept for my lost soccer boots".
And again, "If I hadn't dropped acid, I might not be here in this
small boat about to be run down by this Russian whaler". The editors
of this encyclopedia encourage type 4 Political Romanticism and therefore
have nothing cynical to say about it. Something must be left for the