I write not about we, the people, that are part of a politically organized nation or state considered as an entirety. I am speaking instead about you individually and how we use our body in thinking about and participating in political process. We judge our politicians based on our own experiences which are body-based, and then project those experiences on to them. Politics are indeed that local!
When our bodies feel vulnerable and threatened, and our minds anxious, we look for strict leaders who promise to reinforce boundaries and security. When our bodies feel expansive and abundant, and our minds loving, we look for lofty leaders who are caring and nurturing. The former seems to have the upper hand in the world today, what with all economies having adjusted to a new normal of lower living standards.
Our bodies, having gender, may be attracted to candidates of the same sex as us. In the U.S. presidential election, we have a hyper-alpha male, who will put everyone down to establish that he is on top of the hierarchy, running against a female who wants to be one of the boys; and so she is comfortable lying, taking hawkish positions in defense, and selling access for special treatment. Sex may not guide us in this one; nor should it ever.
Our bodies know when somebody lies. We know the hyper-alpha male lies because he does it regularly and comfortably; he is honest with it. On the other hand, we know the female candidate lies, with or without Wikileaks, from the way she says she doesn’t. We all know when someone lies about not lying; perhaps because we have all done it..!
Body shapes can work to a candidate’s advantage. We associate some bodies with authoritative knowledge and grant them more deference and presumptions of reasonableness; while we dismiss other people based on their bodies as overly emotional or otherwise inappropriate to hold office. For example, taller candidates tend to receive more votes as they are perceived to be more dominant, healthy, and intelligent. In the 1988 Presidential elections, Michael Dukakis didn’t stand a chance at a mere 5 feet 8 inches!
Although it was shocking at first to see the female candidate staggering to her SUV limo during her bout with pneumonia, it didn’t stay in our minds because our bodies know that acute illnesses go away and we can feel strong again. The hyper-alpha male may have a stickier problem though; imagine him sniffling while negotiating and intervening in matters of national security. We just don’t feel strongest when we are constantly congested..!
Don’t accuse me of being sexist or ‘sick-sist’ (note: not a real word); I’m just describing how your mind tends to think based on bodily experiences; which is why it is really important to be self-aware and self-conscious so you can transcend these ‘automatic’ assumptions and vote wisely; sort of like applying yoga or meditation to politics, or what I like to call, “the politics of awareness”.
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior; especially if a person hasn’t done anything transformative in their life recently. If they have lied before, they will lie again. If they have sold out to special interests before, they will sell out again. If they have waged war before, they will wage it again. Especially if they say they will..!
When assessing candidates, consider well how they live their lives. Have they harmed people or the environment by their policies or actions? Are they truthful? Have they stolen from the public coffers? Are they greedy and sell out to special interests? Can they control their sensual and sexual gratification? Do they live cleanly, contentedly, simply and austerely? Do they study and keep learning? Are they devoted to public service?
We should elect people that will help make this country as described in the Hatha Yoga Pradidpika: “one where the people are not gluttons, bandits, or thugs. It must have a peaceful environment, one without terrorists, robbers, or thieves. A country ruled over by a virtuous king is one where the king is practicing dharma.” And if there are no appropriate candidates for a particular position, it is okay to not vote for that position rather than settle for someone who could end up causing more harm. The lesser of two evils is still an evil!
Remember to not outsource your political power to someone else. Democracy is not a state that comes upon us; it is something we do. The world, society, the environment, is not apart from us; we co-create these entities together; projected from the center of our existence and identity. If we together are good then our world will be good. Know yourselves better and you will recognize yourself in the world. If there is division in the world, it is because we are divisive in our minds. If your world is stingy, hostile, and harsh, look inside. Create peace in your life, and the world is automatically more peaceful.
We are the creators of our world, and our survival depends on observance of standards of right behavior towards ourselves, others, and the planet, which itself is a living organism. Don’t be the one who seeds, sprouts, and spreads negative thoughts; to change ourselves we have to start with our thoughts..!
Go back to your body and feel God in your bones; recognize Divinity in the intelligence and aesthetics of our bodies that allow us to see, hear, taste, touch, smell, move, perceive, heal, think, project, empathize, etc. Smell Spirit in every molecule, cell, organ, tissue; feel it in the flesh. And then project it outward into the world. Live well today in the present and the next step will take care of itself. It is about who you are in your thoughts, speech, and actions; and what you are able to give of yourself to others. Namaste.