Politics, the Art of the Impossible?

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Otto von Bismarck is said to have said, ‘politics is the art of the possible. Most of us will agree with this saying. We all like determinate and achievable goals. It seems to confine politics to the possible, feasible and achievable. Maybe we have to turn this Bismarck’s dictum on its head. Politics is not just the art of the possible but it is the art of the impossible. It opens politics not just to a closed anticipatory horizon but to an open absolute horizon. If it opens politics to the impossible then the politics of short term deals and compromises come into question. By shunning aside pragmatism from politics are we pushing politics into undecidedness? What will happen if timely pragmatic decisions do not inform our politics? This does not mean that politics is not structured by time. Politics is the politics of the future. The present becomes political to orient it towards the envisaged future. Therefore, politics is politics to come. All politics have promises to keep.

When we open politics to the open horizon of the impossible, we make room for all diversity to articulate itself politically. The politics of identity and sameness belong to the politics of the possible. We can know from the beginning how it will unfold. We know what is coming in the name of the flag of politics. The politics of the impossible open space and time for the non-identical to have its voice. Until the fullness of diversity/ non-identical is allowed to articulate fully, we still remain in the zone of the possible. There still remains democracy to come. Democracy, therefore, exists in democratising and in the opening of everyone to become political. This is why we have the responsibility to take upon ourselves the impossible task of making democracy happen to all. All in this instance includes the marginalized and the invisibilized. The politics of possibility erases otherness and difference. It cannot enjoy other voices. Dissent is a blasphemy to the politics of the possible. It likes to hear its own voice. It becomes a cosy echo chamber. It becomes closed and closes us. Otherness and difference have no place in the politics of the possible.

True democracy remains in the politics of the impossible. It remains in the embrace of all shades of otherness. There is no identity as such. What is there is only non-identity. Non-identity is not nothing. It is a no-thing. It resists once difference/sameness from coming into full presence. It keeps all identities and difference under erasure. It thus opens us to the people to come. It opens itself to a new horizon that is open and absolute. We cannot anticipate how it will come. It opens us. Our embrace is widened. There is therefore space for otherness. The dissent then becomes the order of the day. We, therefore, live in a real democracy that is democratic and one that is letting alterity and diversity speak and live fully. Democracy becomes excessive and is comfortable with excess. There is therefore always more democracy to come. Open horizons open democracy. The closed horizon of the politics of the possible closes democracy. There is no room for the promise of democracy to come. In fact, there is no real democracy in the closed horizon. What we have is an oligarchy. It is the rule of the elite. It can become the tyranny of the elite or the tyranny of the majority.

Often democracy is hollowed out of its content and meaning. It is made to fit the horizon of the possible. Diversity is feared in such a setup. Democracy becomes undemocratic in its functioning. It remains unfulfilled. What we have then is not democracy. Something operates in the name of Democracy. It is a forgery and is a counterfeit. Some power elite robs it of its promise. Often identity politics invades a democracy and all that we have then is metaphysical politics which is the politics of the same. In such a scenario, there is no democracy to come. It has arrived on the scene. It has become undemocratic as it has no place for otherness to flower. True democracy, therefore, has to nationalise diversity. If it nationalizes sameness and denationalizes/ marginalizes otherness, it annihilates the true heritage of the nation. This is why we have to think of a nation to come. This nation that comes cannot be a nation marked by sameness. To be democratic it has to be marked by otherness. It is a nation that nationalizes all otherness and diversity. A nation that denationalizes otherness and diversity is not a democracy. This is why we have to open the borders that define, confine and exclude otherness within the nation.

An open and inclusive democracy will never become fully present. This is why it remains in the politics of the impossible. It is always in the promise. It is always ever coming. It is for us the citizenry to work in this inclusive democracy. It is a challenge for us to open ourselves to the open and absolute horizon. This will enable us to expand the space of inclusion. It will bring peace too. It will allow democracy to happen to each and every individual within a nation. Letting it happen is what we have to incessantly work to achieve. It is a politics of this kind that we have the challenge to engage in our present. Maybe this is why Derrida sees his notion of democracy to come as a ‘militant political critique without end ’. Such a democracy that remains in its coming can transform our society into a more and more just society. Like Democracy, justice also remains in the coming. There is always justice to come. Hence, we have to enter the horizon of the impossible and embrace otherness and allow it to flower. All politics summons us to it. We have to discern and choose the politics of the impossible. Let’s cultivate politics as the art of the impossible. It is the politics of democracy and is a politics of justice.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao