Thursday, October 12, 2006

Are we collectively stupid?

What will you say of a society which persists with a political system which has failed to deliver the goods?
Humanity, let us say, is like people packed in an automobile which is traveling downhill without lights at a terrific speed and driven by a four-year-old child. The sign-posts along the way are all marked 'progress'.
- Lord Dunsany

Consider the following fact. Most of the state governments allow or themselves run liquor shops for the 'benefit' of the public. It is statutorily and admittedly displayed on the name boards of these shops that "consuming alcohol is harmful to the Nation, the home and the individual's life". The public and the Nation at large have come to accept this state policy of allowing a positively harmful matter to coexist with beneficial aspects of state policy like promoting education, health and development of the people. Such a contradictory state of affairs is similar to the individual declaring that though he knows that alcohol is harmful to him and his family, he cannot stop drinking. Such an alcoholic needs counselling and de-addiction therapy. But what can be done with the society at large which pursues a similar line of thinking? The intellectuals who can still discriminate good from the bad should introspect on why such a deep-rooted malady has set into our collective thinking. Why is the society as a whole unable or is not willing to initiate action against such a suicidal public policy, even though we have a democratic system of governance in place? The answer lies in the rather outdated method of electing our political representatives.

Everybody knows that the elected representatives and the government resulting therefrom are important not only for the society but have a bearing on every individual citizen's life. Every person has a stake in an efficient, fair and corruption-free administration, which would work for the welfare of the society as a whole. But look at the way we elect our representatives; is there any scope for expression of what we really expect from our representatives? Ideally, the most competent person of proven integrity, capable of understanding the problems of different sections of the people in the constituency and who can effectively represent them at the legislative body and the government would be the candidate of choice for the voter. That this should be the criterion to cast the vote will be accepted by most people with common sense. But is this happening? The voter hardly has any opportunity to develop an insight about the candidate. Instead, everything that is irrelevant to the crucial question of choosing the best candidate is projected upon the voter. Attachment to a symbol, the party-affiliation of the candidate, caste and communal considerations, money and muscle power, personality worship, following the herd and voting without knowing the candidate - all come into play. People are resigned to the fact that even if a fraction of the promises made during the election campaign is fulfilled, it will be good enough. For the society as a whole, elections have become a periodical extravagance, an exercise in self-deception, which is best got over and forgotten, until another election crops up. While we seek improvisation in everything, including the method of casting the vote (through electronic voting machines), the system of electing our political representatives who decide our common fate, remains as a crude mismatch, about which there is blissful indifference. This results in injurious public policies such as the liquor policy, which stands out as a telling example.

If we, at least the thoughtful among us, continue to ignore the basic flaw in the present party-based political system then we may have to face increasingly a society with falling moral values dominated by corruption and criminalization, where all our intellectual attainments in various fields cannot be put to constructive use. A Partyless Governance where all our political representatives are elected as independents (which is feasible provided we apply ourselves to it), will put an end to the reign of chaotic public policies we are facing today.


Blogger Bruce said...

We may not be able to eliminate partys or factions but we could limit their power.

I do not know if India partys finance their members election, but in the US this is a big item and enforces party's power.

I suggest public funding of election cost. That would also allow less well monied people to run for election.


4:56 AM  

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