August 9, 2012

Let’s not be fooled

In these chaotic times of our early democratic process in Maldives, not getting fooled all the time is something we need to be very vigilant about. We all know that a gift item is always considered less worthy than if we acquired it with our hard earned money. Yet, time and time again, such acceptance of presents is the folly we fall into whenever our politicians promise us gifts and freebies in the garb of promoting social and economic development.

Yes, this nature of ours is not without a history. We have grown up over the years, especially with rising economic affluence, receiving a lot of gifts. This was sparingly so in the more distant past of Maldives, when we did not receive that many gifts. Something I remember vividly is the rarity of presents I received in my childhood. We were even given our new clothes in conjunction with some festival -- like the Eids - to don when we went for the day’s prayers or mingle in a family or community function of the day. These were true moments of elation and its value cherished, because we knew we would not get another new kit till Eid the following year. But of course, today children and youth get new clothes and various other presents whenever they ask for it, and as if that was not enough, is supplemented by what many parents now offer them without even an asking, as surprises, often a silent apology for the increasing neglect of their children with whom little quality time is now spent. Yet, without a hope that their children will value what's given. Expectedly, boredom soon sets in and they ask for more – with the television and the billboards in the streets not missing a moment to coax the young minds to want evermore -- and the cycle goes on. Growing into adulthood, we don't fare any better.  We still want to receive without working for it. In such a social habituation, politicians make hay by extending that giving to whole communities. A harbor here, a mosque there, subsidies every where, are some of the gimmicks we fall for. Of course behind this culture of political giving and our acceptance, lurks the vestige of our authoritarian rule of the past - of kings, queens and strong individuals who have used this approach to keep people chronically indolent by their calculated benevolence.

But now in a democracy should this be so? How does this culture of largesse measure up to the democratic principles of independent behavior we need to be nurturing if we do not want democracy to die on our doorstep? By our very acceptance of gifts and largesse we are forfeiting the power given to us by our democratic principles. Our action is particularly foolish, given that what we are offered is often what belongs to us anyway. He who offers us gifts in this crafty way is taking us for a ride. Kings and queens in their benevolence may have given us what belonged to them, but democratic leaders only give us what they take from us as taxes. In the garb of the democratic process, our political parties practice this approach galore to keep members tightly aligned. But by such mindless acceptance of gifts, we acquiesce to the whims of another because we tend to feel indebted and compelled to vote in that direction. How ironical is this situation? We want to eat the cake and still keep it also. We want the gifts, but we would like to keep our independent stance also? That is impractical in reality and in morality too. We need to be true to ourselves and learn to live to earn our gifts rather than have these offered, and sometimes forced on our gullible and hapless minds, for the taking. Accepting this state of affairs must indicate to us our immaturity to practice true democracy, and that we are just dabbling in self deception. And no doubt, the politicians are happy, for they know they can fool us every time.


Anonymous said...

“You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln

thank you and your interesting article, it took me to this quote ...

Abdul Sattar Yoosuf said...

Thanks Pencils for pulling out that timeless saying. We just want that third part of Mr Lincoln's famous utterance to hold true for our Maldivian polity.