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The Intellectual and Politics

PRAGUE: Does an intellectual - by virtue of his efforts to get below the surface of things, to grasp relations, causes and effects, to recognize individual items as part of larger entities, and thus derive a deeper awareness and responsibility for the world - belong in politics?

Put that way, an impression is created that I consider it the duty of every intellectual to engage in politics. But that is nonsense. Politics also involves a number of special requirements relevant to it only. Some people meet these requirements; others don't, regardless of whether or not they are intellectuals.

It is my profound conviction that the world requires – today more than ever– enlightened, thoughtful politicians who are bold and broad-minded enough to consider things which lie beyond the scope of their immediate influence in both space and time. We need politicians willing and able to rise above their own power interests, or the particular interests of their parties or states, and act in accord with the fundamental interests of today's humanity -- that is, to behave the way everyone should behave, even though most may fail to do so.

Never before has politics been so dependent on the moment, on the fleeting moods of public or media. Never before have politicians been so impelled to pursue the short-lived and short-sighted. It often seems to me that the life of many politicians proceeds from the evening news on television one night, to the public in the morning opinion poll the next morning, to their image on television the following evening. I am not sure whether the present era of mass media encourages the emergence and the growth of politicians of the stature, say, of a Winston Churchill; I rather doubt it, though there can always be exceptions.