General Aung San’s speech: What is politics?

What is politics?

Some of us have been going still, consciously or unconsciously, about the same old way of “dirty” politics.

But is politics really “dirty”?

  • Certainly not.
  • It is not politics which is dirty,
  • but rather the persons who choose to dirty it are dirty.

And what is politics?

  • Is it something too high above us to which we can just look up in respectful awe and from which we refrain, because we are just mortal clay in His hands and cannot do it?
  • Is it, as some charlatans, roaming occasionally about in distant nooks of our country, used to prey upon the credulous imagination of some of our people, the kind of thing capable of being set aright only by fanciful tales and legends?
  • Is it a dangerous ground which we must be wary to tread and might as well avoid, if we possibly could?
  • Is it just a question of “race, religion and language” forever, as we were once wont to say?

What is it, then, really?

  • The fact is that politics is neither high nor low, neither magic nor astrology nor alchemy.
  • Nor is it simply a dangerous ground to tread upon.
  • It is not also a question of bigoted or parochial nationalism either.
  • It must always approximate to the truth of marching events.
  • In short, after all is said and done, politics meaning your everyday life.

It is you in fact; for you are a political animal as Aristotle long ago declared.

  • It is how you eat, sleep, work and live, with which politics is concerned.
  • You may not think about politics. But politics thinks about you.
  • You may shun politics. But politics clings to you always in your home, in your office, in your factories.
  • There, everyday you are doing politics, grappling with it, struggling with it.
  • The worker works for his wages, the peasant tills for his living, the clerk and the official toil for salaries, the trader and the broker struggle for decent incomes.

It is, all, the question of livelihood.

  • The worker wants to have higher wages and live in better conditions.
  • The peasant desires to improve his land and his lot.
  • The clerk and the official want something more than the drudgery of office, something more secure, more complete, and more independent.
  • The trader and broker want fair opportunities for trading and business.
  • Thus you have to live and get certain things that are yours for your living, and this is your politics.
  • This is your everyday life; and as your everyday life changes, so changes your politics.

It is for you to have such opportunities for your livelihood and better life that we say there must be_

  • freedom,
  • freedom to live,
  • freedom to create
  • and develop nationally, and individually,
  • freedom which can raise your and our standards without affecting others.

And this is politics.

  • Politics then is quite human!
  • It is not dirty.
  • It is not dangerous.
  • It is not parochial.
  • It is neither magic nor superstition.
  • It is not above understanding.

Alas! This is not to be, for so some wiseacres have ordained.

  • They say politics is dirty.
  • They say politics is religion.
  • They say these all in contradiction with each other in one and the same breath.

Politics is religion!

  • Is it?
  • Of course not.

But this is the trump card of dirty politicians.

In this way,

  • they hope to confuse and befog the public mind,
  • and they hope to slur over and cloud real issues.

Theirs is the way of opportunism, not politics.

Religion is a matter of individual conscience while politics is a social science.

Of course, as a social science_

  • politics must see that the individual also has his rights,
  • including the right to freedom of religious worship.
  • But here we must stop and draw the line definitely between politics and religion,
  • because the two are not one and the same thing.
  • If we mix religion with politics, this is against the spirit of religion itself, for religion takes care of our hereafter and usually has not to do with mundane affairs which are the sphere of politics.
  • And politics is frankly a secular science. That is it.

Extracts from Problems for Burma’s Freedom

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