With Mishana Hosseinioun
You talking to me, Aristotle?
'Man is by nature a political animal' - Aristotle, The politics
By Mishana Hosseinioun
June 14, 2005
In questioning the relevance of such an utterance in San Francisco,
USA, today, we must first put certain things into perspective.
It is safe to assume that in the period of 335 to 323 BC, Greece,
in which Aristotle wrote The Politics, the expression, man, in
the general sense, did not concurrently implicate woman, or transsexual
for that matter, as it does in this day and age. In fact, Aristotle
made this pronouncement at a time when all women, homebound, were
neither considered citizens nor possessed any civic rights in
Athenian society. Still, it would take another twenty-some hundred
years after the famed philosopher's death for women to start gaining
such rights in the form of suffrage and birth control.
Call Aristotle a thinker ahead of his time, or a visionary in
the most prophetic sense of the word, but for a millennium or
two, man was presumed the de facto political animal, while woman
just sat out the political bandwagon altogether. Some may argue
she still does. I will argue that we all do-man and woman alike,
including every lesbian, gay, bi- or transsexual among us-even
in our self-proclaimed right-wing heart of hearts or ultra-lefty
core of cores. Otherwise said, the original definition of political
has been lost to us over time. So has genuine recognition of our
true, political anima or Jungian inner-selves.
Let's just say that, politically, we derailed a long time ago.
Revisiting Aristotle, then, may not be such a bad idea.
In Greek, the term politics or Politikoj is anything but what
it has come to mean today. Political is not about party lines
and campaigns and the scandals we have come to know all too well.
Instead, politics, plainly, and simply, has everything to do with
the natural, social beings-citizens-that we are, and very little
to do with the socially divisive turn we have taken in the twenty-first
century into our respective partisan cubbyholes. By Political
Animal or Politikon Zoon, which means `who lives, whose nature
is to live, in a polis (state),' Aristotle did not have red or
blue in mind; and most certainly, his idea of a political animal
was neither a donkey nor an elephant.
According to Aristotle, what sets us apart from all other intelligent
animals, such as bees and ferrets, is the gift of speech. This
ability in turn allows us to articulate our perception of right
and wrong, and by extension, justice and injustice. Thus, in keeping
with our discerning nature, let us not limit ourselves to the
artificial confines of a particular party or political organization,
when as individuals we are, in and of ourselves, our very own,
homegrown, organic and inimitable political body.
Mishana Hosseinioun is the Program Director of
International Convention on Human Rights (ICHR), a non-profit
dedicated to drafting a legally enforceable international human
rights document. She is a longstanding intern in Mayor Gavin Newsom's
office in San Francisco and a recent graduate of Rhetoric and
Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
Email Mishana at Mishana@ichr.org
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