COMMENT

A question of math

By Pantelis Boukalas

There are stratagems used in the process of political confrontation that must be as old as democracy itself, dating from when citizens first earned the right to choose between at least two candidates. Over the years, and because they have been overused, these stratagems have devolved into mere habits or knee-jerk reactions, a part of the political routine, a tradition that is passed down from one generation to the next, but each time a bit more eroded. Nevertheless, even though these machinations have proved to be of very limited effect in the majority of cases, those who espouse them remain plentiful – and of course include those who every so often propound the need for change in the way that political battles are conducted.

So, among the usual and expected tactics of sparring politicians is for party leaders (regardless of how small their grouping is) to start off by saying that the salvation of the country rests in his hands. For reasons of tact, the party or political movement has already been identified with the nation beforehand. Therefore, using simple math, if the party equals the nation and the leader equals the party, then the politician equals the nation. And the party leader making such bombastic claims can be great or small if we take recent history into account. Meanwhile, when this equation is put to use it is usually aimed primarily at the people inside the party itself, sort of like a tacit threat: Don’t doubt me, don’t judge me, because I may go down, and if I go down, so will the party and so will the nation, and so ultimately will you and any office you may happen to hold.

That said, there are only a few instances where the fate of a nation followed that of a leader and it was normally not good when it did happen. Those who claim themselves to be great, unique and irreplaceable are usually just another cog in the machinery of history. They are not driving the train, whatever they may imagine or their vanity whispers to them in their dreams.

The second strategy often applied in a political confrontation is bombarding the people with dilemmas and threats. This, of course, is the work of party propaganda machines who come up with dilemmas in the form of bait to be thrown out into the public and see who bites.

The political process, nevertheless, remains complex and dynamic, and the factors that influence which way an “undecided” voter will ultimately lean are also large in number and often contradictory. Because the human mind is a complex thing and is always exploring different paths, studying and checking each one. So, however simplistic or extortionate the rationale at party headquarters, the mathematics of society will always be superior because it is not limited to simple arithmetic.

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