December 17, 2012

Consultation is difficult but necessary

Accommodating other points of view is the essence of democracy. After all, consultation which is the tool of democracy can best generate its fruits when we accommodate myriad points of view. Just as there are many types of people in this world – even beyond color and creed – there are infinite view points on any give subject. And as if that is not enough, these views and opinions are dynamic too. Someone’s opinions today may not be the same tomorrow. That is the nature of us human beings. Therefore, democracy, as an idea for governance provides that space for listening to other points of view, even though the final decision may have to be categorical. And the art of decision making is about how deftly we accommodate a confluence of these myriad views – the best of such results is called consensus. The general process by which we arrive at this kind of decision is persuasion, and it comes about through the use of tools such as negotiation and accommodation. In the world of politics this coming to consensus is often termed as “deals” which give such decisions a derogatory ring. And many a time this maybe so because the so called win-win situations arrived at seem biased towards the benefits of  the parties that are negotiating rather than for the public for whom this decision was needed in the first place. Hapless public in our so called democratic systems languish from one voting day to the next lamenting the wrong decisions they have sided – and are so deceived over and over again. It is not difficult to understand why; because we are ignorant of the purpose of democracy!

A way out of this conundrum for us the public is for us to be aware of the consequences of political decisions (what the government calls policies). All too often we are easily swayed by the glitter of the moment, or at best only the very immediate future, of what is offered to us and seen as an immediate personal benefit, and want to grab it while it is available for we feel that soon it might be gone or that someone else might have it if we don’t act fast enough. Our minds are not used to reflecting on consequences of such decisions to the larger society because our primeval instinct is about getting what we can quickly – the survival instinct – and this hasn’t still left us, or put another way, we have not been able to get out of its clutches. The role of civilization is for us to move from that level of self-serving survival mode to another that moves us closer to our real selves – that of our essence as spiritual beings as we go through our just this temporary human experience. When we can begin to think that way, we can begin to see ourselves in every other person and thus view humanity as one whole unbounded entity, rather than fragmented beings each with our own selfish ends. Unfortunately, these types of ephemeral pleasures that the world of form offers us are what we continue to grope at, and this behavior never subsides because the material society, in its market logic, continues to expose us to such enticement, and we keep lapping this up being blissfully ignorant -- even deciding to be willfully ignorant because the moment of experiencing pleasure is so engaging and thrilling.

Our Maldivian public deserves to be given the awareness for us to become the reflective polity that will drive a mature democracy. So far in these past five years or so little has been done to make the Maldivian public become better stewards of democracy. Rather we have been made more ignorant of becoming it. The overt rifts, fights, and deals all the way – have exemplified this inaction by the party machinery and the independent commissions that are supposed to do this for us. Perhaps this ignorance is just what serves best the divisive politics that is rampant in our midst now – all in the name of democracy! 

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