January 25, 2015

Politics is division by definition. Polarisation is what clarifies things.

Israel Shahak, Jewish critic of Israel and long friend of Christopher Hitchens
Sometimes you have to repeat it: politics is division by definition. You could forget it in the fog of media coverage pleading for unity and collaborative decision making. This is not what politics is about. George Eaton wrote in the News Statesman in 2010:
"In a culture where consensus and bipartisanship were viewed as unqualified goods, Hitchens stood out as a contrarian (a term that he perhaps unsurprisingly rejects) prepared to challenge the orthodoxies of both left and right."
Christopher Hitchens said during a 1993 panel discussion:
"You all hear it in the everyday practice of Washington. Why should it be that the word partisan is an automatic pejorative in Washington discussion? Have you noticed that the word partisan is always an insult and the word bipartisan is always a compliment? If these words, as used, meant what they normally mean, what the consensus would be saying would be the following: If it goes on like this, partisanship, will end up with a two-party system. Now I don’t believe that this is what they mean to say, but it is the journalism that they actually commit. Always look to the language. Alway look to what is staring you in the face. Always look at the obvious. In any other discourse the same people would say its the proudest boast of he US, that it is the most politically pluralist country in the world - but its discourse gives away the secret. The secret is bipartisanship is to be feared because it would mean two parties and the secret is, there is one party - that is a beltway party, a Washington party, a permanent party, the party of those in power and most of those in the leadership of the Washington equipe of the press are members of it and proud of it and lucky and afraid of the possibility of falling out of favour."
He said in 2006:
"Politics and philosophy are division by definition… The dialectic is the only way you learn anything… No you can’t build a bridge from the middle of the river, it’s silly to try."
He said in 2010 in conversation with Jeremy Paxman:
"I’m a divider. Only division can cause progress. People say ‘the politics of division’, politics is division by definition. If there was no disagreement, if there was no fight, there’d be no politics. The illusion of unity isn’t worth having and any way it’s unattainable."
He also said that as well as division, disillusionment is good. He wrote:
"Cynicism is good. It would be alarming if there was mass enthusiasm."
Glenn Greenwald said in the preface of his first book, ‘How Would A Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok':
"Whether Democrats or Republicans held the White House or the majorities in Congress made only the most marginal difference."
In my previous post here I also looked at Hitchens and his thoughts on polarisation and partisanship, including his retelling of Israel Shahak's observation of "encouraging signs of polarisation." I quoted Hitchens saying:
"Polarisation and the dialectic is what clarifies things."
"Confrontation. The only thing that brings life to politics and or to thought."
Christopher Hitchens on Gordon Brown's chief political aide, Damian McBride here. On Gordon Brown here. Christopher Hitchens on david Cameron here.

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