Man is a political animal

By: Alex P. Vidal

“The human being is in the most literal sense a political animal, not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society.” – Karl Marx

ALMOST all provincial governments in Western Visayas have belatedly taken Dengue seriously and were starting to declare a state of calamity one after the other.

They started to pull the plug, so to speak, after Dengue fever has rapidly spread and killed some people.

Well, it’s better late than never.

Meanwhile, if we live anywhere in the Philippines and we are experiencing a severe joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fever, exhaustion, and rash, we need to immediately go to the hospital.

They are symptoms of Dengue, a mosquito-borne viral disease that has rapidly spread in all regions of the World Health Organization (WHO) in recent years.

Dengue virus is transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Ae. albopictus.


This mosquito also transmits chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika infection. Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics, with local variations in risk influenced by rainfall, temperature and unplanned rapid urbanization.

According to the WHO, severe dengue was first recognized in the 1950s during dengue epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand.

Today, severe dengue affects most Asian and Latin American countries and has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children and adults in these regions.
WHO added that Dengue is caused by a virus of the Flaviviridae family and there are 4 distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4).

Recovery from infection by one provides lifelong immunity against that particular serotype.

However, cross-immunity to the other serotypes after recovery is only partial and temporary. Subsequent infections (secondary infection) by other serotypes increase the risk of developing severe dengue.


With the power of speech and moral reasoning, man is a social creature, according to Aristotle.

Aristotle’s Politics, a work of anthropology as much as of science based on the famous idea that “man is by nature a political animal,” can be taken in a number of ways.

One reading is to say that man is naturally sociable (the Pufendorf-Grotius line) and that they are naturally drawn to various political associations in order to satisfy their social needs.
Another reading, which sees the word “political” in a less charitable light, might state that, since politics is based upon violence and threats of violence, the phrase emphasizes the

“animal” side of human nature rather than its rational and cooperative side.

Those who turn their back on the violence inherent in politics, in Aristotle’s view, according to the Library of Liberty, also turn their back on society-they declare themselves to be outlaws, without a “tribe”, and without a heart.

His likening them to a “bird which flies alone” reminds of the Rudyard Kipling story in The Just So Stories (1902) about “The Cat who walked by Himself”, because he of all the wild animals refused to be domesticated by human beings.


Meanwhile, he doesn’t mean that we naturally crave to attend party conventions, but rather that we naturally tend to organize and ultimately to associate politically under the auspices of a state, according to Michael Macrone in It’s Greek To Me.

He explains that the building block of the state is the patriarchal household, which serves the family’s basic needs and provides protection.

Households naturally band together into villages, which are capable of satisfying a broader range of needs and of achieving a great good.

Finally, villages naturally tend to unite themselves “in a single complete community” which is relatively self-sufficient.

As the ultimate expression of human nature, the state is Aristotle’s idea of the greatest good, and man is thus by definition a political animal.

Needless to say, Macrone emphasizes, not everyone has shared the philosopher’s admiration. In its advanced form, as expressed in the modern political party and the negative campaign ad, state politics impresses few.

Man seems to have fallen from a political animal to a political beast.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)