To quote GK Chesterton,
“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, have been playing games since the beginning…”
Politics is not a science. It’s an art. Leadership is not a science. It is an art. Psychology is not a science. It’s an art.
Why are these sciences arts, and not sciences? Because they are about dealing with people. Psychology is the study of the human mind. Politics is the creation of a human society. Leadership is the influencing of other people.
People are not scientific subjects. They are human. They are dynamic. Understanding them is an art.
We talk of political science, of voting patterns, polls, the sophomore surge, blue collars, white collars and demographics. And there are facts we can study scientifically about human society. But ultimately politics is an art. It is the art of convincing people. It is the art of leading people. It is the art of organising people. At the heart of each of these skills lies an ability to connect with people. It’s a people-skill, and that means it’s an art.
We talk of psychology as a science. And certainly, there is something scientific about the study of neurons and mental patterns. But ultimately, if you want to understand the human mind you have to understand the human heart. You can’t break down the emotions, feelings, impressions and workings of a human heart into rigid scientific categories. You can’t predict people, but you can understand them. And that’s an art.
We talk of leadership. Maybe we don’t use the word science here, but we tend to think of particular “techniques” or gimmicks when we speak of leadership. “Look ‘em in the eye” or “firm handshakes” or “give them a win/win situation” and so forth. All of these things are valid. Good leaders do “look ‘em in the eye.” But good leaders are good not because they’ve mastered the 9 tricks to influencing people, but because they relate in some way with their followers. They sympathise, emphasise and connect with where their people are at. You can’t turn that into a scientific formula. ABC into four won’t go.
Maybe we’ve spent too long in front of the computer. Maybe we’ve become accustomed to treating people like robots.
See, we seem to think, at least politicians, political and social commentators, and leaders and influencers in general seem to think, that people are mathematical programs. We imagine we can understand their actions and their reactions according to systematic categories, personality tests and the like. We think we sway them using special interpersonal gimmicks, like special phrases or mantras. It’s as if human nature was a machine where you just had to write the right pieces of computer coding to get the response you wanted.
But people aren’t automatons. We’re human.
You cannot turn relations with other people into systematic processes. Instead, you have to relate to them. You have to want to understand them on a personal level. Watch them, spend time with them, seek to understand what drives them- by that I mean what they love, what they hate, what they dream of, what inspires them. You can’t pick this up from “Instant Leadership 101” or a systematic grid of human nature. It takes time, it takes observation, it takes interest, it takes heart.
Now a methodical approach to politics or to understanding the people around us can give us a lot of information about the people we want to know about. But we have to use this scientific approach as simply a way to collect information to inform our art, not the other round.
See, science has become too important. We think we can box and grade human nature. We can’t. Relating with people successfully takes understanding the dynamic, personal, fundamentally human soul. That, truly, is an artform.
The human race, to which so many of our friends belong, has been playing games since the beginning, and will likely keep frolicking outside the boundaries of rigid methodologies until the end. The question is whether we will keep pace with them.