Is compassionate politics a possibility? | Sunday Observer

Is compassionate politics a possibility?

23 January, 2022

“May I stress the need for courageous, intelligent, dedicated, and compassionate leadership. Leaders of sound integrity. Leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with justice. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

People around the world have no hesitation in describing politics as a dirty game though the evolution of the word suggests the meaning as ‘matters relevant to the city’.

A politician, therefore, would be a person who is responsible for taking care of matters relevant to the city. Most of the people believe if the politicians played a clean game, then their respective cities and countries will do better.

What they don’t realise is that the perception of politics as a game is the very reason why it has become dirty. It has become a zero-sum game where one wins, and the others lose.

The players would do anything to win irrespective of the damage they might inflict on others in the process.

Basic skills

Most of the men and women who are into partisan politics have questionable character and tainted records. Lying and stealing have become necessary basic skills to play while some players are even ready to kill the opponents in order to win the game.

During elections candidates would roll out the red carpet to the voters and cater to their appetite with mouth-watery hors d’oeuvres such as: good governance, job creation, independent judiciary, one-country-one-law, and protection from terrorists.

However, the story changes immediately after they win. Some of the excuses such as: we didn’t know the amount of the damage the previous Government had done, the Opposition is not letting us do it, the President wants to do it but the officials around him are advising him not to or some members of the party are sabotaging the program.

Because of that only the people whose conscience allows them to agree with such procedures would enter the game. There may be a lot of honest, intelligent, and capable people in the country, but they would never think of being a part of this game.

Down the slope

Those people keep quiet basically with the intention of taking one of the two options they have. Be ready to leave the country when the conditions become unbearable or be ready to go down the slope together with those corrupting the society and draining the life out of the country.

Little that they know, it will be only them and the poor who have no way of leaving the country who would be enjoying the ride down the slopes. The corrupt politicians and their henchmen have no intentions of joining that adventure. They already have their destinations and travel plans finalised. All they have to do is to inform the officers in charge of their travel arrangements the date and the time of departure.

Anyone who is willing to spend a little time looking at the history of the world will be able to see how many times this scenario has repeated itself, especially in poor, underdeveloped and developing countries around the world.

Politics and the politicians in most of the developed countries are no different. Since those countries have accumulated wealth to last at least for a couple of more decades, people there will not experience this phenomenon until such time.

The irony is, when that happens, the people who sought refuge in those countries thinking that they avoided drowning with their own country will again have to look for places to escape the group karma. Whether it is ten, fifty or hundred more years it is just a short period of time until these corrupt systems destroy the whole planet.

Human colony

Then of course, people with enough wealth may have the chance to use it and escape to a space colony or to a human colony in Mars or any other habitable planet and repeat the process all over again.

There always is the hope that things will get better, since the conventional wisdom says, “things will get worse before they get better”. However, the rate at which the ignorance is spreading around the world indicates that humans will have no difficulty in contradicting such statements and eliminate any possibility for things to get better.

Therefore, it will not be too early or totally irrelevant for someone to ask the question: Is there anything we can do to avoid getting crushed by this juggernaut of unethical, immoral, selfish, and inhumane dirty politics? Are politicians the only responsible group? If a politician is asking for a bribe who is the other party who is ready to give that bribe? Isn’t that party, be it an individual or a business organisation, equally responsible?

John McCain

In the 2008 US presidential campaign, Republican Party candidate Senator John McCain said: “My friends, we spent US$3 million of your money to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Now I don’t know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue, but the point is, it was US$3 million of your money.”

When a Government decides to waste public money should the public hold only the politicians responsible for that? What about the officials who come up with useless programs of the sort or the scientists who are willing to use that money knowing very well that there are hundreds of other more meaningful ways that money could have been spent? What about so-called ‘experts’ providing advice to politicians whose only criteria is to be in good books of the politician for their own personal gains?

Religious leaders

What about religious leaders who encourage politicians to discriminate against other religions? Since it takes at least two to make a deal, there always is another party on the other side of the politicians in all the deals he/she makes.

Therefore, if one thinks that a politician is involved in a corrupt deal then one should not forget that there should have been another party, an individual or a public or private organisation on the other side of the table and that party is also equally responsible for the same corruption.

If a majority of the citizenry of the country is capable of empathising and practising compassion, then there is a very high chance that the politicians and other deal makers are also compassionate enough to put the country before self.

Politicians will campaign with respect, honesty, and decency. Parliamentary debates would be educational for the general public and especially for schoolchildren to listen to and would be conducted in the spirit of respect, inclusion, and cooperation for the benefit of the whole country.

Proposals for the policies will have a compassion threshold to pass which is agreed upon by both ruling and the Opposition parties. Should this only be a dream especially if the country consists of a majority claiming to be following a religion based on compassion?

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fourteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]