Getting Tired of a Practical Approach in Politics

Joseph F.X Zahra's article on Newsbook

A headline on the Financial Times last week hit my eye. Paris ends “romantic” opposition to takeovers. It was referring to the French socialist government’s acceptance of a foreign takeover of one of its national entities for the sake of competitiveness. I remembered that I wrote a couple of years ago on this blog that we should not be surprised to see the return of protectionism and nationalisation in response to the 2011 debt crisis. The newspaper’s headline is stating the contrary. I am still not surprised. The key guiding values in politics and public policy today are to be pragmatic and opportunist. All this for the sake of immediate gratification by a public that is now used to virtual response and changing opinions under the influence of the social media. The word capitalist and worker are out of the political jargon, but so are political ideals and ideology.

Meanwhile on the eastern side of the Mediterranean we are experiencing a “romantic” feel for politics where Syriza, the radical left party in government in Greece is flaunting reforms imposed by the Troika to launch a series of old left policies of bloated public service, ballooning social welfare and stopping privatisation. My socio-political upbringing makes me reject this form of extreme anti-economic political stance, but I still admire this Party’s guts in pushing ahead with its ideology even if unknowingly heading towards a disaster. The truth is that this admiration for the extreme can be contagious whether it is on the right or the left of the political spectrum.

Centrist politics is short-lived. The death of political ideology will leave citizens to be inanimate and indifferent. People yearn for romanticism although technology today has subdued this natural instinct. Social liberalism, much loved by the centre, has dehumanised the person in the name of political correctness, inclusiveness and simulated tolerance. We need to rediscover ideology and start calling again a spade a spade. The big loss in public support to the Nationalist Party in Malta in 2013 reflected the disillusion of an electorate with a political party that had been successful in reconstructing the economy in a way that resisted two global crises that followed each other, but failed in promoting the fundamental values to resist the deterioration of social mores that were being channelled through the social media. Education has failed because it insisted on instruction and academic certificates but fell short of developing minds and hearts.

Political parties need to return to the drawing board. They should question the ideology of their founders. They should question policies and politics. They should redesign their symbols. Parties evolve, adjust or die. There will be a return to the romanticism of ideology. We need to start preparing for it now.

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