“MEN still have to be governed by deception,” Georg Lichtenberg, a German physicist and satirist, once remarked. Honesty doesn’t get you power, and power doesn’t make you honest. How wild.
When the prudence of our leaders increases their own estate and prestige at the same rate as the common man’s decreases then it seems as if they rule not by reason, but passion — for more power, for more prestige. When a country’s leaders don’t give preference to reason, then only miracles can help it prosper.
Nothing surprises you more, and nothing scares you more than when your rulers, after having ruled, admit they have no plans on how to free us from the chains of trouble. Recently, in a video circulating on social media, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin recognised that the PTI had no economic plan when they came to power. Scary.
It’s not about one party; to get power, most political parties will claim they have the key to all our ills, but once they are in power they seem to lose that key. And then I can’t help but wonder: ‘shalt thou not pity thy nation?’
The future of this country rests precariously on the clarity of thinking of its leaders.
Other political parties play by similar rules. Parties now in power (ie PDM) rallied for a vote of no-confidence with all their might. It was their democratic right. One must ponder: did the PDM ever show in all earnestness a better grasp on the problems that our country faces now? Not one, allow me to repeat, not one, widely acclaimed policy report or paper on the problems did it publish when it was in the opposition, nor am I aware of any that was published after it came to power.
This makes one wonder. Are we ruled by reason? Or are we ruled by passion? Passion you find in abundance when it’s all about power. To their bitter rivals, once subject to their vilest criticism, politicians run hither and thither full of energy and passion. But why do we not see the same passion and energy to bring the most superb education and the most excellent healthcare to the rich and poor? Why do we not see this passion and energy to drag the poor out of poverty? Why do we not see this passion and energy to serve cheap bread to the hungry or provide shelter to the unsheltered?
No current prominent political leader has published cogent thoughts on the big problems we face today. Do they comprehend these problems? Do they deliberate deeply about our problems? A superficial understanding of problems, delivered verbally and sloppily and wrapped in jest will strengthen neither democracy nor the economy. It will help never solve our nasty issues.
This superficial understanding has crippled our economy. This superficial understanding has strangled the poor and choked the common man. Superficial understanding is one reason why the same problems surface time and again.
When millions of poor people struggle for bread and jobs, one expects their leaders to sit and solve problems that the common men and women face first and solve their power problems later. You usually witness the latter, and not the former.
How is it advantageous for ordinary people that those in powerful positions only talk to each other when their interests align? How is it advantageous when they refuse to sit with their rivals and allies to brainstorm ideas to improve the life of ordinary men and women? The collective act doesn’t seem to project sympathy with them.
Sympathy and care for the common folk demands that the time and energy of the political elite be spent on things that matter most to ordinary men and women. If the custodians of our votes spend their time and energy on climbing up to the seat of power, defending the indefensible, and praising the unworthy, then how is this caring about the people? For when you care, you benefit people, not burden them with trouble. When you care, you apply reason to problems that carry irreversible consequences for your people.
Take any recent decision with irreversible consequences: do you find it the outcome of serious thinking done by those in power —and not by their associates or staff — and jotted down clearly on paper that you and the public can consult? This troubles me because I don’t think we’re thinking about our problems. If we are thinking without writing then we only think we’re thinking, to paraphrase a quote by scientist Leslie Lamport. The future of this country rests precariously on the clarity of thinking of its leaders and such clarity can’t be brought forth by infinite jests but only by sound deliberation and written thought.
I sincerely believe that our politicians can drag us out of our troubles — if they apply reason. I agree, when failure surrounds you, having no passion doesn’t help you march forward ferociously. But if irrational impulses ignite your soul, and not reason, then you land yourself in trouble, just as we have.
As daily struggles intensify for the citizens, the latter desire their politicians to be able enough to solve complex problems that affect them and their families. Who is an able politician? A politician may have read all the poetry that is needed to sway the people, he may have read all the history books that one ought to know, he may have acquired all the tricks in the book needed to manipulate opponents, but to be seen as truly capable, he must show that no one comprehends the problems better. One should rule by reason and not just by a passion for power or money.
The writer is an author and entrepreneur.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2022