Forget Politics

If South Africa is to have any hope in the future, we are going to need a lot more political apathy.


“It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life.

“A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden—that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.”

So wrote CS Lewis in his classic, ‘Mere Christianity’.

For so many people, politics has become a kind of tribalism. A way of finding your identity.

Honestly, this is one of the chief problems of modern times. Since the French Revolution, we have become Citizens with a capital C. We think of the state and government as being at the forefront of national identity, the economy, education, health, even religion and family.

You would never have got fascism or communism or even apartheid without this initial error in thinking.

Politics is of course a noble pursuit. Aristotle was right. We are political animals. But the state and its machinery were always meant to be the background of our lives, not at the forefront. 

This is why I hate political parties having youth movements or special clothing or even branding. Why celebrate that stuff?

I was watching coverage of Malema today declaring he would form no coalitions with any other party (but would vote with DA and IFP in certain municipalities) and my overwhelming feeling was utter boredom. How has such stuff become so important.

If South Africa is to have any hope in the future, we are going to need a lot more political apathy, I believe.

We are going to need people who care about society, yes, but who nonetheless see politics as the background of society – the border inside of which we can sit around a fire, meet at a pub, develop hobbies, educate our children, be neighbourly, invent things, make things, listen to music and write books.

I think if we can get these priorities right, forging consensus on the political front would be so much easier, so much less divisive and so much less fanatical.

Sure, it is important to be political, especially when politicians are currently looting our country. But we should fight corruption not so we can have perfect politics, but rather so we can afford to be less political once we have stopped the damage.

I know I am grateful on many levels that I live in a country whose government is fairly incompetent. It gives one a great sense of freedom. You know we couldn’t possibly have a spy reading this blog, for example.

So, as we do head towards a new era in our politics, here’s hoping our politics can be better, so that we don’t have to think about it nearly as much.