I have had it with politicians. They are a bunch of liars, cheats, and arseholes. Have you ever met an honest politician – have you really? One who actually does what he says, or sticks to his or her guns and beliefs? Don’t answer yes, because I don’t believe you. The ones who were like that are long out of it and woe to us. Now that that little rant is behind me, I would like to look at this objectively – or as objectively as one can.
What is it? There are so many definitions out there however I will add another one, mine, a fresh take on an old idea using another of my favourite words in the English language:
“Politics is the practice of convincing everyday people that the proposed proposal is in their best interests; by a person or group of people (politician or political party) who will benefit from said proposal themselves, willy nilly.”
One Writer and his Blog
Now you might say that sounds frighteningly similar to a business, or you might like the use of “willy nilly,” I leave that to you. However, you must agree that it has a certain ring to it – as does “willy nilly”. The Business of Politics always reminds me of the Bard’s take on Mark Antony’s speech at the funeral of Caesar – a master class in politics if ever there was one.
To set the scene, Caesar has been murdered in the Senate by Brutus, Cassius and their gang, immortalised by Shakespeare with his last words, “Et tu Brute?” and so on, you remember right? Dead and thoroughly despised by the masses, his murder has left his greatest general, Mark Antony, in a quandary. The only way Mark Antony can turn the situation in his favour and save being lynched by the mob is to use chicanery and rhetoric – Shakespeare’s rhetoric. People are a force to be reckoned with and as any savvy politician worth his salt will tell you, a speech rousing the “rabble” can work wonders – look at recent great political orators, Clinton, Obama, Blair to name a poor few. Before the actual business of government exposed their foibles and failings their rhetoric won them the day and we all cheered. Shakespeare knows this, his ability to express that which we flounder to comprehend, in fluent, succinct and flowing poetry is uncanny (not prose but poetry!).
Brutus did what was best for “the commonwealth,” SPQR and all it represented (modern democracy has its infancy in these times so we should take heed of how they did it then and how our politicians do it now). His murder of Caesar was for the good of Rome, for the people, however, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that tosh. Rhetoric washed it all away as if it were a rickety old bridge facing a torrent of gushing spring water after a long snow-filled winter. Rhetoric can be like that and if used accurately can alter perceptions in a heartbeat of words. It can start wars and quell raging emotions in a jiffy. Rhetoric is the genius bastard child of Ares and Aphrodite, forged into a force through Prometheus’s guile and guided by the wisdom of Athena and the lyricism of Apollo. Vainglorious, vile, vindictive, verbose yet vapid, vilipensive and yet venal, and rarely virtuous. A weapon greater than any invented by mankind, language, and its offspring rhetoric, is a force to be reckoned with. In the right hands Godly in the wrong hellish.
The way Shakespeare’s words, in the hands of Mark Antony, play with the emotions of the citizens makes for compelling reading – a manual on how to make a convincing argument no matter what the subject.
“If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
And with this, Brutus lays claim to the moral high ground – his moral high ground. The citizens are, by the end of this monologue, clamouring for satisfaction. So much so, that they are now willing to offer Brutus the crown of Rome – irony was not lost on Shakespeare.
Rhetoric, like alchemy with words, turned a murderer into a King. What is Mark Antony to do now? And that is when Shakespeare’s words shine like gold. Where Brutus’s words were wondrous silver, Mark Antony’s are of a lustrous honey hue:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.”
Imagery and sarcasm drip from this speech and rhetoric crowns Mark Antony’s verbal assault on Brutus without uttering a bad word about him. This is politics at the peak of its existence. An art form of words meant to confuse and arouse our feelings. Does the truth matter? No. For the words have masked the truth in a beauty of their own and we are under their spell, unable to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. For that is the power of politicians and their sweet tongues and sweeter still rhetoric.
Here is a link to the full text. Take time out to read it – look at how rhetoric is the weapon in a politician’s arsenal that can do the most harm and see how fickle we, the public, really are.