We turn our heads this week to the comings and goings of ‘Macarena’, ‘Popol’, ‘Lysol’, ‘Miss Micro’, ‘Lampoule’, ‘Bhawji’, ‘Bechwa’ and the likes of ‘Ti Cretin’, ‘Rambo’ and of course the many other characters that make up the political sphere in Mauritius.
My apologies, these are not Mauritian politicians’ actual names of course but the ones they have all somehow picked up along the way, either by members of the public, their colleagues or even their political foes. In fact, these are very often the names that people continue to call the nation’s leaders instead of their respected family names.
When did the political arena in Mauritius turn into such a sordid name-calling game? After all, aren’t these the people who are meant to be improving the lives of the rest of the nation? Surely calling them names does nothing for their patriotism to serve the country?
I think we need to humanize the context in which I am speaking. So let’s bring it down to a simple concept at that. We, as humans, are emotional and these emotions can either control our actions or play into them depending on how we choose to conduct ourselves. Politicians are indeed humans too. Humans with emotions, feelings and of course thoughts. Politicians, to some extent sometimes, are also controlled by emotions. Much to the surprise of some people of course who think that politicians are not controlled by such things or are even allowed to be controlled by such things, this can go a little way to explaining why the situation seems to have got way out of control.
Think about it. In an ideal situation, a politician comes into office. He starts out with good intentions because he is passionate, willing and genuinely interested in serving the nation. Something happens along the way and a member of the public hurls an insult at said politician that they happen to hear. The insult is vicious criticism, probably unfounded and just simply mean in nature. This insult gains momentum and soon crowds of people are continuing the momentum of nastiness, newspapers are reporting on it and more people are likely adding spice to the story blowing it well out of proportion. And soon, you have a politician who – on the outside – is appearing unmoved but on the inside is slowly but surely losing the passion and will to fight for the nation’s interests as he once did before. At this point, the politician has the choice to walk away from politics, or stay and continue on his career path. This is where the danger comes in though and where most politicians will likely turn on the public and simply use them as a medium to achieve their own political pursuits. This vicious cycle continues because the behaviour of the politician indeed turns dubious and questionable and the public continues to criticize, even more harshly each time around. In the end, you have a nation that is almost full of politicians in the game for their own gain and citizens who think and believe their leaders are untrustworthy and hopeless. Term after term of new governments, the cycle continues until you have a political arena so tainted by corruption that it feels like there is simply no hope.
Let’s not forget the tactics inside the political arena too, because this kind of behaviour is not limited to the public. Politics has been transformed into a degraded, mud-slinging force instead of great minds working together, for the greater good of the nation. The average parliamentary session has turned into a name-calling session that sees accusations being tossed back and forth without fail instead of constructive criticism that is given in order to change for the better.
Criticism has become the tool (read: weapon) in politics and sadly this state of thinking is causing the pillars upon which politics stands for to erode and disappear. Criticism, much like anything in life is good when it is used constructively and not motivated by anger or emotion. This is the key factor that is seemingly missing from this entire situation; it is not that people are not entitled to criticise, it is the way in which they exercise the criticism because badly run politics in any country is not only the fault of the politicians, but also the public. And I think it is time people begin to understand this.
You, who comments and criticises politicians – whether you are involved in the sector or not – may not realise the long-term effect your debilitating words are having on our nation’s well being. Because you may forget it, but a far more dangerous tool like social media only serves to extend the longevity that the labelling causes. And a tool like social media, though primarily used by the youth, is an example of how our youth are learning the vicious behaviour from their elders instead of being the generation that has the courage to stop the cycle from repeating itself over and over.
I agree that when politicians do not perform, they need to be aware of their behaviour and take responsibility for it and indeed there are many cases where politicians should not hold the positions of power they do but in saying this also, we need to remember that adequate checks and balances need to be instilled in situations where non-performance is identified instead of resorting to persecution and witch hunts that are just plain barbaric.
Human nature will prevail at the end of the day and this cannot be stopped. Instead, why not rather humanise the people who we have entrusted to running the country, the people who – lest we not forget – we voted into those very positions. At some point, politicians took that show of faith from the public as motivation to do good work. Instead of letting that motivation turn dark, why not try and remember everyone is a human being at the end of the day. Politics does not de-humanise politicians, but in fact makes them more vulnerable to criticism and scrutiny and when humans are subjected to a fair amount of both in the negative sense, they react exactly how all humans do, they look out for no one else but themselves!
Let’s try treating everyone – politician or not – how we wish to be treated, after all, one of the biggest strengths we have as a human being is the ability to relate and a far stronger one than that even is the choice to do so.