Saturday, April 30, 2011

Politics and magic

Ordinarily, politics is roughly defined and understood as the determination of power for decision making and the distribution of values in society. Hence politics is also perceived as the process of choosing or selecting leaders. In this regard therefore, the political domain is very much part of the natural world, anchored in the pragmatic domain of living.

What is magic as commonly understood and believed in from primordial time till today? Magic refers to a belief system and a general world view. Magic has its own ways of perceiving nature, the world and life. It has its own structure of mind, certain characteristic ways of functioning or 'thinking'. Basically magic operates on principles 'off' the natural world, oblivious of scientific or objective facts, always referring to the 'supernatural', 'invisible', extra-logical world ( not in the religious sense but in forces such as ghosts, demons, witches, black magic etc.) Basically magic is incapable of objectifying the world, seeing things naturally or scientifically. Hence facts matter little to it, for the mind is bent upon brushing facts aside in preference for some other arbitrary and unverified explanation. For example, when a road accident happens, magical thinking is not interested in the facts of the case, such as the conditions of the road, the vehicle, the actual circumstances or material facts leading to the accidents, but instinctively turns to the notions that the location is haunted or jinxed, divine retribution befalling the victims, or that someone had effected black magic or witchcraft on the casualties.

Given the above, politics and magic would appear to be structurally different, the one very much anchored in the natural world, the domain of facts (though it can be disputatious), while magic is off the natural world and oblivious, or at least indifferent, to facts and empirical evidences. But are politics and magic all that different, at least in our Malaysian context? Observing the development of some of the major issues today and the various political responses of the public, I do not think the distinction between magic and politics is all that clear. It would seem that there are strong parallels, structurally speaking, between magic and politics.

Where political responses run along the structure of magic, we note the type of unshakeable conviction or illogical faith which runs counter to all manner of hard evidences or empirical facts. No measure of rational or logical discourse, scientific facts, technological arsenal like biometric, photographic and forensic scrutiny can make a dent on such outlook concerning matters which otherwise would be easily resolved by these approaches. Hence it is rather futile to appeal to such inclined members of the public on the basis of rational, empirical or scientific discourse. This phenomenon has led to the frustration of a great many who presume that politics simply runs on the basis of the rational, logic and the scientific, judging by the discourse on the internet. They soon discover that whatever evidences they advance, there will always be groups who have no use for such evidences, who instead will look for some anonymous, mysterious forces behind the facts, in an arbitrary fashion with no regards to the chain of cause and effects, or requirement of meaningful discourse pertaining to the matter.

What needs to be understood is this. It is not really a question of having enough or more evidences, but more the question of the nature and value of evidence itself. To those magically inclined in politics, they are not looking for evidences to establish the truth or the fact of a case, but merely to feed their emotion, faith and conviction. Hence anything that shakes or threatens their stand would be readily set aside, in favour of more satisfying elements which feed and reinforce their unshakeable belief. Instead of giving due consideration to the hard evidences, the magically structured would rather look for mysterious forces behind the evidences, very much like magical beliefs looking for wizards and witches whenever confronted by misfortune or life adversities. It is an integral aspect of magical culture to look for sinister forces lurking in the dark, working evil on individuals or groups in the society concerned. In short the idea of conspiracy in an all-embracing manner in disregard of natural or rational evidences is a basic element in the structure of magic.

Rational politics and magic run on different premises and appeal to different idea of ‘evidence’ and ‘truth’. Confusing the discourse of one for the other is to fail in distinguishing between differences of opinion and the difference between two diagonally opposed mental structure altogether. These two different minds or mental structures run parallel in politics, but will never ever have a meeting point anywhere. For this is the truth concerning magic. If indeed magical beliefs can be persuaded otherwise by rational discourse and hard evidences, both sharing the same premises in discourse, sharing the same idea of truth and measure of contradiction, magic would have disappeared long ago. Magic have survived for thousands of years, and will survive for thousands more, simply because it is a belief or faith which is impervious to the evidences of rationality and the objective world, and runs on its own premises or ‘logic’ (illogical or irrational to those outside of it)

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