A State of Char­ity

Business Bhutan - - Opinion - JURMI CHHOWING

I watched the pres­i­den­tial de­bate. This is my ric­o­chet. The PDP promised The Blaz­ing Sun. The DNT a Full New Moon. The BKP a Shoot­ing Star. And the DPT a Fa­mil­iar Twi­light. But I’m not con­vinced about the Ce­les­tial Dis­play or the Light­ning Fire­works. Which­ever party comes to power, I ex­pect a cou­ple of Eclipses be­fore the con­clu­sion of their trail­blaz­ing terms. I hope my brethren weren’t blinded by the spec­ta­cle, or worse yet, star struck.

Since 2013, I’ve been apo­lit­i­cal. The pol­i­tics of that year drained my vigor. But funny how things work­out be­cause I’ve now be­come more ob­jec­tive. And thanks again to 2013; we now know the power of am­bi­tion.We also know democ­racy can be­come another to­ken process for the al­lu­sion of rep­re­sen­ta­tion that con­ceals the real busi­ness of per­sonal en­rich­ment.

To­day, I’m not even an un­de­cided voter. To­day, I’m a de­tached ob­server. I state that with­out re­sent­ment. I’ve lived my life out­side the sys­tem. I still do. My views on mat­ters of pol­i­tics have been one of hope; fol­lowed by shock, be­wil­der­ment, and the oc­ca­sional ap­pre­ci­a­tion but rarely one of in­spi­ra­tion. But I do ad­mire the naked am­bi­tion with which politi­cians garb them­selves. Or the plain van­ity with which they pur­sue it. There is an hon­esty about it that is both re­fresh­ing and re­pul­sive. Ei­ther way, I’m glad I have nei­ther the stom­ach nor the pocket for it.

My cre­den­tials are petty. I’m al­most ir­rel­e­vant – save for one caveat – I’m a cit­i­zen of this king­dom. And I’ve heard the voices of the politi­cians de­bat­ing mat­ters re­lat­ing to me on my be­half. I’m thank­ful for the gusto with which the de­bates were ex­e­cuted. This bodes well for democ­racy – no mat­ter how fraught. And the wel­come re­minder to speak up and be done with pleas­antries.For his der­ring-do, the DNT pres­i­dent de­serves ku­dos. For her in­abil­ity to put on a façade, the BKP pres­i­dent de­serves ap­plause. For per­sis­tence, the DPT pres­i­dent must be lauded. And fi­nally, for strum­ming the chords of har­mony, praise for the PDP pres­i­dent.

I’m also glad there were four pres­i­dents vy­ing for the good­will of the folk rather than two. I hope there will be many more. But make no mis­take – for this was the fi­nal echo–that they all want the power to rule.Whether with the wis­dom to em­power and the com­pas­sion to share is the un­re­cip­ro­cated ques­tion.The arrows may ap­pear straight but the bows are crooked and the tar­gets are com­pro­mised. It isn’t their fault. This is the na­ture of the demo­cratic sys­tem. Or any man­made sys­tem. And you trust the sys­tem at your peril. Nor can one ig­nore it. One has to live with it. The rich will stay rich be­cause wealth is mostly hered­i­tary, and ex­pan­sion­ist. The poor can move up the projects and be­come rich pro­vided they learn how to rig the game. And then build walls against tres­passers. The scales of the sta­tus quo weigh and set­tle them­selves. And the gap in be­tween the two is au­to­mat­i­cally main­tained. In­cor­rupt­ibil­ity too has a price; as does eq­uity and jus­tice. And ditto for sta­bil­ity, pros­per­ity and unity. These are taglines in another man­made tug of war, mas­querad­ing as self­less in­ter­est. There is only one in­ter­est and that is self-in­ter­est. The road to self­less­ness is pot­holed with self­ish­ness. Any other claim is merely aruse. The ploy is the plot is the ploy.

So what can we do? We can be­come aware of this di­chotomy and quell our nar­row ex­pec­ta­tions in fa­vor of broader hori­zons that are far more re­al­is­tic and far more en­dur­ing. The sky­line maybe in­tan­gi­ble but this im­ma­te­ri­al­ity is the key to the preser­va­tion of all that we hold dear. In Bhutan, the first light in that panorama is the monar­chy. This isn’t blind faith. Kings do not sell out their king­doms. They safe­guard it. It is a re­la­tion­ship forged over a cen­tury. The time­lines of our kings and the life­lines of their sub­jects have al­ways met and min­gled in the mid­dle. The dual sys­tem of yore was a prag­matic com­pro­mise ne­go­ti­ated to avert the yoke of re­li­gious tyranny and po­lit­i­cal strife. And far­ther down, the Agree­ment of 1907 was the foun­da­tion and dec­la­ra­tion of a bind­ing monar­chy over a land of right­ful sovereignty in or­der to negate the ag­gres­sive face of a ris­ing im­pe­ri­al­ist from the west. Queue that up with the im­plo­sion of Ti­bet; fol­low that up with the for­ma­tion of Bangladesh and the meek ces­sion of Sikkim and you get a pic­ture of the chaotic geopo­lit­i­cal hotspot in which we linger.

The sec­ond light in that panorama is sovereignty it­self. Right of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion was the fore­sight that birthed and nour­ished a king­dom in a neigh­bor­hood of chang­ing an­thems and van­ish­ing flags. There is sound rea­son be­hind the cau­tion of our fore­fa­thers and the over­ar­ch­ing one was that of na­tion­hood. Sim­ply put - no king, no coun­try; no coun­try, no peo­ple.

The fi­nal light was the peo­ple. Our for­bear­ers were Spar­tan in their needs, stoic in their at­ti­tudes and fiercely in­de­pen­dent in their spir­its. And then, some­how, some­where, we be­came to­day’s soft species. This thin-skinned in­ep­ti­tude that is fast be­com­ing the na­tional psy­che raises hard ques­tions.

So when did we de­volve into such a needy pop­u­lace that ex­pects po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the gov­ern­ment ap­pa­ra­tus, and a horde of mul­ti­fac­eted or­ga­ni­za­tions to do our bid­ding on our be­halves? And ful­fill our in­creas­ingly vac­u­ous needs? What is it that pre­vents our peo­ple from solv­ing the prob­lems in our own back­yards? When did we be­come such a hap­less lot that we will­ingly bear this bur­den of want like a pros­tra­tion of pride? How did the prog­eny of sturdy mothers and fathers be­come so frail that they can­not with­stand the slight­est hard­ship? When did this land of plenty thus har­den that we can­not farm it? Where did the guts and guile of an in­ge­nious na­tive dis­si­pate that they now shiver in fear of for­eign­ers? When did the rough hides of a tough coun­try get so ten­der that they no longer stand up for them­selves? When did priv­i­lege and en­ti­tle­ment creep in? When will this at­ti­tude of beget­ting char­ity fi­nally end? When will this sub­servience dis­ap­pear? And how will this soft­en­ing underbelly mus­cle up?

Be­cause un­til that hap­pens, the moun­tains will keep echo­ing this mock­ing need to keep beg­ging for all the things we al­ready have within our fold. And un­til the old spirit of in­dus­try, for­ti­tude, honor, sac­ri­fice, and con­tent­ment makes a con­sci­en­tious come­back, hol­low prom­ises of plenty will keep pil­ing and dis­ap­point­ing, to the detri­ment of every­thing that is al­ready solid. And when that keeps hap­pen­ing, you know you have been lis­ten­ing to an echo. But if you do noth­ing about it,the echo will ring true and loud –proudly declar­ing a state of char­ity;mired in debt and doubt.

My sup­port will be for the party that demon­strates such re­solve. Like­wise, I hope your cast will be firm. The writer is an edi­tor, writer and founder of yal­lam­ma_ the_writ­ing_­com­pany.

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