Male streets are awash with the smiling faces of aspiring politicians who are running for our Majlis elections – those ranging from sheepish smiles to confident and overconfident ones; and those few with facial lines that tell of years of experience and many of those who are no more than children just out of school. But in the flashing of color photos or the lost faces on banners that seem to be the hallmark of their campaign setups, in a small square mile such as ours there seems to be such a crowding of these in numbers and colors that attempt chiefly to highlight image more than content; not to negate however the presence of catchy or pithy phrases that can keep the onlooker guessing. Being and academically qualified youth; asking us to elect so and so this time; the promise of patience or that of orchestrating the separation of powers, or to keep harmony in the midst of diverse view are all beckoning us from banners between the trees on our streets.
It appears that those who are running are merely attempting to pander to the shallow emotions of our polity and not to any deeper aspirations for nation-building. Looking cool or presidential in photos seems to show a superciliousness that really should not be the draw of the public. It should be humility that brings those running from their high perch to the ground level where the ordinary people inhabit. We want leaders who walk the streets just like us or who are seen to be those who inspire confidence from what they have given to society in the past rather than taken from it. Those that meet and smile and talk to us on the pavements rather than from convention daises or TV platforms. That is indeed the hallmark of the good candidate.
To be fair to us citizens, age and experience also is a factor that separates the caring from the avaricious. Most faces on the walls and the banners seem too cool to seem responsible. The photo-shop touched faces may have cleaned up some of the lines of experience from the faces perhaps, but that just seems to make them more like children than serious adults, and don’t seem cut-out to be the experienced faces of the bodies that we elect to make the laws that would govern the functioning of our nation of the future. In this present context and time of our budding democracy more clarity is needed from those aspirants. Do these running really want to serve the nation, or themselves? Would they flock in such a throng to the available seats in the Majlis if the pay and package was only ceremonial and thus befitting the service mandate we give to those who we select to manage our house for five years. I tend to believe that this task should actually be a labour of love from a national sense and not an act to merely sequester a secure financial future for oneself and family. And for a young person with a service-to-society mandate and mercifully a long life to live InshaaAllah, this is a lot of money from the nation’s coffer – money from the public’s pocket to look after him or her for the rest of life.
Then there is the issue of dismantling these pin-ups when the election is done. It then becomes junk that litter the streets or mar the city landscape. This is evident from the remnants of the presidential elections that still remain as such persisting tatters or wall-effacing graffiti. Likewise, the wall colours of party affiliation splashed on adherents' walls still seem to linger on even though many who define parties have crossed the party floors in search of lucrative opportunities that increasingly signal to us the folly of our parties which doesn't seem to breed anything useful in our society; but sadly, only resentment among families and friends.
Beyond this pasting of images on the walls, I wonder if a statue would not be more permanent and perhaps more decorative than these tattered remnants on walls that must be a nightmare to the municipal authorities too. But then this is where we notice the crossing of the line that defines secularism and our religion and we can't by law contradict the edicts of Islam as our written law being subordinate to it. But soon our fetish with our image on paper and the speed with which such conduct is being accepted as a way of political life may in time cross that barrier of even acceding to erecting statues as nothing to be that much concerned about.
Perhaps we need to reflect on these a bit deeper to fathom their consequences in our future. Getting carried away by our ego's calling may lead us to a place too difficult to get out of in the first place - and even worse, those who lead us there may also not like what they would see in that future they so desired if they did arrive there. Our wishful desires of today may be ones we may want to truly shun when a few years in our lives have passed and sanity has dawned on us in the process we call growing-up.