The reason politics, and therefore society, has become so messed up is that we do politics the same way we play games. In games and sports we do our "all-or-nothing" best to manipulate the rules and playing field to outwit, outmaneuver, and overpower the opponents. That's fine for the goal of winning a game that has a limited timeframe and then shaking hands and going home to enjoy our separate lives...
But politics isn't played in the lines of a limited field or board, and it doesn't end at the buzzer of a timeclock. The results of political fights go home with all of us and effect everything we do throughout our daily lives. That's because, unlike a game, playing politics is playing with real life in a permanent, take-home sort of way, and the losers suffer lasting harm that they can't just "shake off".
From years of this kind of political cycle, it shouldn't be surprising that the opponents have become locked into position as bitter enemies, and a sportsmanlike handshake seems impossible to imagine.
Please understand that I'm not pointing at any particular group or party. I'm calling out everyone, because we all do this. And I'm actually not just talking about government politics. We do the same at all levels of society: at the office, with our families, even within our closest personal relationships.
And it's harmful.
It's harmful to the losers in obvious ways. But it's also harmful to the winners to create entrenched enemies who will do their best to eventually turn the tables. It fills any social situation or relationship with antagonism and distrust. And there's no way to "leave it on the field".
When people say:
I'm not into politics.
I hate office politics.
I don't like playing games in relationships.
This is exactly what they're talking about.
And the competitive gamification of politics is exactly why.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Gaming is based on competition, which seems to be a natural urge for us humans. And we should go ahead and enjoy that aspect of life with the wide variety of sports and games we invent to fill that need.
But politics isn't an artificially designed game with a clear winner and loser determined by points scored in a determined place within a limited time. It's an unavoidable negotiation about how we prioritize and use resources for all the various necessities of life.
Politics is ultimately based on cooperation. It's never perfect, but when it's going well more people tend to live better, and when it's going badly more people tend to live worse. So it's actually in most of our best interests to do be doing it well.
In a win/lose game there can be no compromise. And even in a cooperative negotiation, compromise is not as satisfying as getting everything you want. And clearly there are better compromises (everyone gets "enough" of their needs met) and worse compromises (no one really gets their needs sufficiently accommodated). But politics should be an ongoing process to keep working and adjusting those compromises to support as much of the group as well as possible.
An important flaw in all of this is the difficulty that small minorities face at the negotiation table. Some racial groups, people with disabilities, children, etc, simply don't have the numbers, recognition, or power to be well represented. This is an unfortunate reality. So it is really on the major players to carefully consider their needs and make sure that they are fairly accommodated in the cooperative solutions and policies of the whole group. This is not just the ethical thing to do, it also avoids making embittered enemies of forgotten or abused minorities who might someday rise to power with a score to settle...
So whether or not you enjoy a ruthless game of basketball or scrabble, leave those instincts on the field and try considering the benefit of all the participants when you sit down to negotiate in the town hall, in the office, or at the family table. Commit to the wellbeing of everyone to create a more stable, sustainable situation for yourself and the day-to-day world you are living in.