This brief text, which I have called in defense of politics, arises as a response to the unfortunate statements issued by the current presidential candidate Sebastián Sichel, during the presidential debate on September 22. There, he mentioned to the whole country that “the problem of politics is when it is politicized,” which can be interpreted in multiple ways, all of them equally worrying. In this short column, we try to highlight the role that politics has for the development of the country, and also, today in the daily lives of people, totally contrasting the assertion – linguistically a little absurd – of the candidate and leaving in evidence some of his contradictions. Frankly, it is impossible to turn a deaf ear to such a particular statement, even more so when you talk about: i) a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, the position with the greatest political content in the country and ii) not of any candidate, but of Sebastián Sichel, who has made a vast career in different organizations and political parties, in addition to having developed different work activities at the eaves of this type of practice.
When carefully analyzing the situation, it seems that the candidate considers as synonyms the following: politics and the political and/or logical parties that they have developed specifically in Chile, which evidently manifests a problem in the construction of public opinion, because it positions concepts with different meanings as if they were an equal.
Trying to graph it with an example, if one is cooking and you ask to be approached by a tomato from the pantry, and instead they bring you a lemon telling you that it is the tomato you had requested, chances are that not only the difference between tomatoes and lemons enters into crisis, but also the tomato sauce you were openly preparing will not turn out. With this example, what I try to illustrate is that this type of linguistic assertions in public spaces of such a level can lead to the stabilization of stories and discourses that are openly problematic for societies that aspire to democratic models, because they distort language and build non-existent realities.
Even if we accept the synonym used (not synonymous) by Sebastián Sichel, it is still incoherent, because then we assume that he meant that the problem is when Chilean partisan logics colonize the decision-making space, imposing particular interests over general. In that case, it would have to be assumed that the candidate speaks from a different position, that is, “the one different from these logics”. But, to tell the truth and briefly reviewing the history of our candidate, we talk about: i) a militant of the Christian Democracy between 2003 and 2009, who even became a candidate for La Reina and Peñalolén; ii) who then transitioned to the political movement that would be Ciudadanos, where in 2013 he would be a candidate for Deputy for the district of Las Condes, Vitacura and Lo Barnechea; (iii) a government official who, through positions of political trust, has maintained a fairly stable and fruitful employment situation; he enters as executive vice president of Corfo in the Government of Sebastián Piñera, in 2019 he assumes as Minister of Social Development and Family and in 2020 he is appointed by the President of the Republic as president of Banco Estado. So, in short, we are talking about a candidate with enough experience in politics that rhetorically denies so much.
If we look for another alternative to understand the phrase, it can be assumed that the candidate was wrong to speak and that he does not really believe that. However, it is not the first time that it alludes to the same idea, therefore, it is likely that this alternative will not be able to explain the situation. In that case, if it was not a mistake, the analysis must be much more incisive, because what the candidate is mentioning is that politics as a space for decision-making, where the multiple, diverse and heterogeneous ways of seeing the world must be considered, is a problem, and that, therefore, this space should focus on solving the problems of citizenship. Assuming that only he can have a good diagnosis of people’s problems and that only his solution, based on his own vision of the world, is the right one, in other words, he absolutely closes the debate, limiting the relationship to citizenship and his individual character.
Thus, we speak directly of what can be understood as a right-wing populism, because finally with this phrase rthis importance is that there are different visions and that they must dialogue in order to improve the living conditions of citizens. Because it is not only about the result, but also about the process that is considered as valid and socially legitimized to reach those results, and that is precisely where politics is transformed into a plural decision-making space.
In other words, governing a country is not the same as a consultant who fixes problems on the basis of highly structured indications, governing a country assumes that there are different projections towards the coming years and that, at the bottom of this, obviously, there are value and normative frameworks districts, different ideas, different experiences and different biographies, therefore, it is essential that the policy manages to reconcile and generate models of governance of these differences.
In a radically different sense, and moving from the national relevance of politics to the different ways of doing politics in everyday life, the candidate in his phrase does not know that in today’s Chilean society there are infinite groups and, also, particular individuals who through their daily actions perform acts loaded with political content. That is, most of our actions are political to the extent that they manifest our way of thinking about this or that issue, for example, vegans and vegans with their diet, indigenous peoples who maintain their language, even anyone who participates in an initiative against inequality, could anyone say that they are not acts loaded with politics?
Indeed, what I have tried to do in this brief text is to incisively stress the phrase mentioned by the candidate, highlighting the importance of politics in the everyday world and, also, for the development of a country where there are different visions that must coexist.
Yes, Mr. Candidate, politics must be politicized and hopefully politicized even more, including all possible perspectives.
Politics is important to our country.
The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.