Sunday March 03, 2024

Our statesmen

March 21, 2017

I am clearly no expert at public policy or governance. However, the recent scuffle between two parliamentarians (and similar instances in the recent past) has made me think. Also, I am no epitome of virtue myself, but as someone who has his and his future generations’ future glued to this country, the lack of virtue exhibited during the episode was troublesome.

The use of force shows how our leaders deal with dissent pointed towards them. It is baffling to see that those who cannot govern their tempers on the highest public political forum, knowing well that these events are captured permanently on mass media, can govern cities, ministries, provinces or even a country (which is already at crossroads).

Ask yourself, would you want people, who use their arms and tongues freely in arbitrary discussions, to be guardians of your children and be responsible for their upbringing? I don’t think any parent would want people with such behaviour to guide their children given the kind of negative influence they may have on them.

Let’s assume you own a business or manage a certain department. Would you give such people the responsibility to run your business or your department? Running the affairs of a business involves situations in which your temper is tested almost on a daily basis. Would such behaviour make a business profitable? Would it not affect the performance and morale of employees? How would such behaviour impact a business when it’s already in trouble?

Moreover, would you like to learn an art or a sensitive craft from someone with a similar temper? Would you like to get yourself treated by a doctor who is trained by someone with such a temper? Similarly, would you like to be treated by a doctor with such a temper? I think the answer is ‘no’.

Ask yourself, would you really want someone with such a temper to be a mediator in a grand and important dispute? Do you think he will be able to judiciously solve matters related to life, death and general social welfare? Would you confidently think that such a mediator would be able to impart justice to society at large?

Furthermore, can such a person truly offer his services to provide resistance against tyranny? Isn’t it doubtful that people would actually oblige to his calls for an honest and just cause? The need for leaders who can act and unite us against tyranny has never been greater.

I believe, therefore, that if a person of such a temper cannot be very confidently assigned such jobs, we cannot confidently assign him the arduous task of running a state that involves dealing with all such affairs?

It is also very puzzling that people with such tempers are given responsibilities such as crafting policies and making regulations needed to turn around a troubled country. Dissent and discourse are inevitable in matters of a monumental scale and when these are done with civility, incisive insights can be gained. When tongues, arms and legs move freely and forcefully to take each other down, one wonders if the policies made during the course are well thought out at all.

This also strongly reflects the inherent patronage in our political machine. Political entrepreneurs take advantage of misplaced incentives: they exploit the political machine by doling out favours and economic resources in exchange for votes. The fact that political parties’ leadership doesn’t strongly condemn such behaviour of their corresponding colleagues reinforces the importance of such political entrepreneurs.

This political machine is also an indication of how our politicians have been successful in making policies that have kept the majority of the people in the country poor and uneducated. According to an American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, these two factors promote patronage and clientelism.

The most acute problem with both patronage and clientelism is that both politicians and citizens sacrifice their long term gains in favour of short term gains. That is the reason why the majority of our population still does not have access to clean drinking water, fair justice, quality health and education.



Twitter: @wyounas