Sunday, 20 August 2017 23:38

Siyaasad: Politics or Policy? By Jama Osman Geele

xirIn Somali, to talk about politics or policy we use the word "Siyaasad". It is an Arabic term and I do not know the etymological origin. I leave it to the Arabic speakers to enlighten us. For the Somalis "Siyaasad" is a vague term which means politics in general without distinguishing politics from policy. The politician is also called "Siyaasi" but this term can have a positive meaning (like stateman) or a negative one like the French term "politician". In French "politicien" and "politique" (common names) do not have the same meaning except in Quebec where politician does not have a negative connotation. In French, la Politique (Science or art of governing) means politics or policy and le politique (the person who does politics) is the politician for the English speakers.

But in English, politics and policy are two terms with different means. For Somalis, when they refer or translate these terms they use only the word “Siyaasad”. People do not understand the true meaning of these two terms. Indeed, what are the meanings of politics and policy?

“Politics” is a word that has been derived from the Greek word “politikos,” meaning “an official” which has been modeled on “Affairs of the City” according to Aristotle. “Policy” is a term that has been derived from the Old French word “policie,” from Late Latin “politia,” and ancient Greek “politeia.”

Politics is part of the government system, and a policy can be called a plan. Politics can be defined as a science or art of governing or government, especially governing a political entity like a nation. A policy can be defined as an overall plan that embraces the general goals. A policy can also be said to be a course or action that is proposed by a government, an individual, compagny, or any party.

Politics refers to authority and refers to public life. Politics generally revolves round government and its activities. “Politics” is a term that refers to the organizational process. It also refers to the theory and practice of governance. Political parties run the government which all adhere to certain policies.

“Policy” can be termed as a “principle.” It is not that political parties adhere to certain policies, but almost all individuals have certain policies. Most companies follow certain policies. A policy can also be termed as a commitment or statement of intent. It is because of the policy that people, an organization, or a party is held accountable. A policy is a set of rules or principles that guide decisions.

Also, two imminent personalities, Weber and Mao Tse Tung, gave their points of view to differentiate the two terms. In his book “Spririt of capitalism”, Weber wrote: "By policy we mean all the efforts made to participate in power or to influence the distribution of power, either between states or between different groups within a state". On the other hand, the great Chinese leader who created modern china, Mao Tse Tung wrote: "Politics is a war without bloodshed, and war a bloody policy". 

In conclusion, the two terms and their nuances can be summarized in a few lines:

1/ Politics can be defined as a science or art of governing or government, especially governing a political entity like a nation. A policy can be defined as an overall plan that embraces the general goals.

2/Politics refers to authority and refers to public life. Politics generally revolves round

government and its activities. Politics is a term that refers to the organizational process.

3/Policy can be termed as a “principle.”

4/A policy can also be termed as a commitment or statement of intent. It is because of the policy that people, an organization, or a party is held accountable. Policy is a set of rules or principles that guide decisions.

5/Political parties run the government which all adhere to certain policies.

6/A policy can also be said to be a course or action that is proposed by a government, an individual, business firm, or any party.

7/Politics refers to the theory and practice of governance.

Despite all these definitions given in the language of Shakespeare, politics and policy are “Siyaasad” for Somali speakers unless I am wrong…

Jama Osman Geele

Ottowa (Canada)

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