Creative Head, Consultant Social Networking, Software
For the present, let us turn attention to political priorities. Politicians are torn between two conflicting objectives, sustaining the empire and following the three tenets of democracy; freedom, equality and rule of law. And now a new challenge has fallen in their lap, that of sustenance of the environment and ecology. Different goals pull the decision makers in oblique directions. For example, population growth hampers the environment but it cannot be tackled because of vote bank politics. Educating a sea of illiterates deteriorates further the unemployment woes and we do not know how many should be professionally educated. If health services result in enhancing the life span, and in pleasing the population figures, then is it a good thing to enlarge the scope of health services.
Since political parties inherently subscribe to different ideologies, more so in coalition governments, synchronising political priorities is no mean a task. Yet it is interesting that in practice priorities are disputed not because of ideology but as a convenient instrument to press for additional positions in the ministerial portfolios, or for receiving monetary packages for a chosen segment of vote bank. Perpetual turbulence of priority conflicts results in what is called policy paralysis. Decisions are kept pending and governance slides into a shell.
The question then arises, what should be the justifiable priorities of governance. No one can deny that a reasonable living standard should be the first aim of the government, but unless this coverage exists inclusively, dignified living, will not be possible for the population under poverty line. And now greenhouse gases, water shortage, climate change and erosion of natural resources are putting pressures on priorities. Focus may have to shift to population control, conservation of natural resources and a prudent slowing down of development. All countries will have to do it proportionate to the volume of glasshouse gases that they generate, without any hide and seek in this initiative. To manage the puppet play of priorities, we require politicians of high calibre, and/or support from well-reputed and respected think tanks.
Bamboozlement is what they do, the empire builders, when they slyly smile, maintain a benevolent facade and convey to the angry citizens, what they are not going to do for them. How cleverly they disguise the reality, is a lesson in social sciences. If the failing economy threatens to push citizens to buying real estate or gold, the leaders would introduce additional taxes or erect other barriers for this not to happen. They enjoy when the control over the public is full.
We can now understand what the Roman Empires were trying to achieve by their gladiator shows; the same that the media is helping the present governments to accomplish, diversion. Reality shows, sports extravaganza, talk shows from carefully chosen celebrities are all crafted to entice people to follow the broadcasts and stay away from the vigil on the politicians. How the youth is heading towards reality shows is unbelievable. For the elite segment, the media arranges award ceremonies, discussion forums, seminars and workshops, so that even their woes are covered up.
While governments may aim to achieve all that they enthusiastically promise during election campaigns, a very important aspect is inclusiveness. Benefits must reach all citizens at all locations. It does not imply that these should be equal. In fact, equality cannot even be determined.
Governments must therefore aim to deliver in context, meaning different segments should receive what is specifically suitable for them. For example, planners may consider food, shelter, clothing, health services and education as the most important needs of lower classes, yet the beneficiaries may place entertainment above education, because it is a direct and instant source of happiness. Historically, the weaker societies have suffered social isolation and discrimination, so they may prefer safety and protection against the feudal warlords; for them this might be a priority. Likewise, inclusiveness does not mean that cities and villages must be provided with similar living conditions.
Just as an individual’s needs are governed in accordance with Maslow’s hierarchy, the needs of individuals taken as a group follow similar patterns. If India needs to tackle poverty, USA might have to deal with racism and Europe may consider managing the illegal immigrants at the top of their list. Mindset of the American middleclass looks for freedom and equality, whereas the Indian middleclass is under the blues of religions and languages. The poor everywhere are preoccupied with the challenges of food and shelter. Priorities, if fixed based on context, greater level of citizen satisfaction can be achieved.
It may be due to lopsided priorities of the government or for its poor performance that citizens slither into disillusionment. This is the perfect time for clever leaders to offer a plausible change. Citizens fall into this trap willingly, because they hope for a return of governance. The transition depends on the severity of the public sentiment, traditions and culture; whether the changeover is violent or non-violent.
But we forget that the changeover brings with it, a large amount of uncertainty. The new leaders have to revaluate the external obligations and internal expectations. The change of scene itself slows down the pace. And they must safeguard their own position and empire, first.
The recent uprisings in the Middle East are good case studies for examining this influence of priorities. The Arab revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, succeeded and with bloodshed. They replaced the authoritarian regimes with freely elected parliaments and governments. Celebrations and ceremonies were held along with cleansing of the mess that the revolutions had created, and the honeymoon period started. The question we need to ask is, are these countries on course now; probably not, because they are still digging their heels in. They are trying to evaluate the socio-political and economical challenges.
And look at their mandate; not simple at all. Their challenges are reunification of the ethnic and religious fabrics of their nations. Only when they will be rid of their socio-economic challenges, which might not happen for a while, they would turn attention to human rights, civil liberties, women’s rights and other issues. This is a tall order. Certainly, it needs time. Public expectations, particularly after the bloodshed and sufferings, will not give them restful time. Patience will grow thin if economic and social reforms are not established quickly, and who knows these hastily enshrined Arab governments will be challenged and unhorsed, much before long.
The one lesson we have to learn from such public uprisings is that these are never to dislodge the current incumbent but to re-establish systems and ensure that these will function to uphold citizen’s interests higher than the dynasty’s. Citizens expect that their tears of disparity and poverty would be wiped. The reality though is a repeat of disappointment and disillusionment.
How unfortunate the citizens are. They need resurrection of the planet, and they strive to make the environment suitable for such resurrection, but powers that be, fail them.