The Selfishness of Politics

Over the past few months, I, along with almost every other American, have been following ISIS’s movements in the Middle East. Just last week, the terrorist organization occupied two more cities in Iraq and Syria. While I was reading a New York Times article about the occupation of Palmyra in Syria, I was struck by what the article focused on. The article was mostly about how “Palmyra has some of the world’s most magnificent remnants of antiquity” and, “the city of 50,000 people is significant because it sits among gas fields.” The article went on to talk more in depth about the historical relevance of the city and its geographical relevance with oil, and only at the very end did authors Barnard and Saad touch on the “50,000 people” in the city who are now under control of a terrorist group known for their violent and immoral behavior.

This is not the first article I have read about ISIS that surprises me; the focus has been about the oil fields they are occupying, the political turmoil they are causing, the artifacts being destroyed, and a few high profile ransoms. However, what is rarely mentioned in comparison to the list above are the hundreds of innocent citizens being killed by the group. Not only does the media tend to not focus on the citizens being killed, the politics of our nation does not focus on it. The reason the United States is getting involved with ISIS is because we are afraid of how ISIS might affect us, either through threats or through restricting our access to oil. Senator John McCain called out the US’s skewed focus on ISIS by asking, “Where is our morality?…Where is our decency? Where is our concern about the thousands of people being slaughtered and displaced and their lives destroyed? And we shouldn’t set our hair on fire? Outrageous” (New York Times). McCain, although maybe too eager to join the war, is hitting on an important notion.

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The Selfishness of Politics (The Wall Street Journal)

Where is our morality in politics? After spending a semester studying in politics, I would say that morality and politics do not go together; in fact I would say that politics is better paired with selfishness. From the beginning, humans have understood  that we all have a selfish desire within us: a desire to be safe, a desire to win, and a desire to be the center of attention. The Founding Fathers of our nation greatly understood humans’ selfishness, so while outlining the government they made sure to create a government that would protect people from their selfish desires. A few examples include our system of checks and balances, limited terms, and a democratic election. Although our government does the best that it can to reduce the effect of humans’ selfish desires, selfishness still defines politics.

Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton (Atlas Forum)

Besides ISIS, another example of selfishness present in politics is elections. For my example, I am going to focus on Hillary Clinton, although many other politicians would work. Clinton is a 2016 presidential candidate, and although the election is more than a year away, Clinton already has raised 2 billion dollars for her campaign, as reported in a Business Insider article. A large part of Clinton’s campaign is focusing on the middle-class, and she has recently been traveling around speaking on how she wants to help raise up the middle-class. Last month she even endorsed a scholarship program benefiting single-parent families in the middle-class. But how many students would 2 billion dollars send through school?

Clinton is so overcome with a selfish desire to win that she can’t see any other solution to the issues that are important to her. Of course 2 billion dollars will not solve the issue of a failing middle-class, but 2 billion dollars can seriously impact many people’s lives. What does it say about a nation that we are more willing to send candidates money than send money to help refugees fleeing from ISIS? And again that selfish side of politics begins to show.

Although I hate to admit it, selfishness does have an important role in politics; it is a necessary evil. In regards to elections, a selfish desire to win means that candidates will do whatever the public wants to be elected, and a candidate should represent what the people want. Selfish desires also mean that I live in a safe country, because the US tries to best protect itself from other countries.

So am I asking for politics to be selfless? No, because even if that was possible, politics thrives on being selfish. However, I do think there should be a change in perspective. I don’t think it is necessarily wrong to want to stop ISIS because they are controlling useful oil fields, but I also think that we should focus on, or at least talk about, how we have a moral obligation to the people being persecuted for their religion or for speaking out. Do I think that we should limit campaign funding? No, but I would really respect a candidate who focused less on raising billions of dollars, and more on actual issues.


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