Slogans without manifestoes are some of the ingredients of corporate democracy today. So while the deficiencies are still there, the appearances are getting glitzier with each passing day
No matter who gets elected, the government always gets in (Murphy’s political law)
The other day my Sabziwala (vegetable seller) was in a Platonic state of mind. While I complained about the hyper-inflation, he retorted by saying that Zardaris and Sharifs were responsible for not only the hyper-inflation but all the mess we were in today. When I asked him for the solution, he immediately expressed his hope in Mr. Tsunami Khan who would rid us of all of the problems facing us. On my further query as to why was he having high hopes for Mr. Tsunami Khan, he replied that since PPP and PMLs had been tested time and again and proved themselves corrupt and greedy, therefore, he would, this time vote for the Mr. Clean. This reminded me of a short story by Sadaat Hasan Manto’s titled "Nia Qanoon".
Set in the 1930s’ Lahore, “Nia Qanoon” narrates the story of a tongawala expressing his gladness that after the passage of a certain act by the British Parliament, fate of the poor like himself would change for the better. But he was ultimately told that the certain act of parliament in question had nothing to do with his or fate of other poor people and he would continue plying tonga as usual.
Democracy in the post-colonial era was just about having a free choice to elect a leader of one’s ideological leanings and believing in the institutions (non-indigenous, though, they may be) to deliver until the end of Cold War. Most of the political parties had manifestoes and programmes. These parties also had a close contact with the people and shared, in some way, their aspirations too. Bhutto , Indira Gandhi , Soikarno, and other charismatic Third World leaders had their roots in the people. The people also had a faith in their leaders as well as the system.
But that started to change after the demise of the USSR. Now a new wave of globalization had started to dominate most parts of the world along with revolution in technological innovations. This money factor rapidly started replacing the ideological factor after opening up of the economies. Mehrangate and ISI’s propped up political alliance called IJI in the pre-election days of 1990 is a good example of this changing trend. Mr. (glamorous ) Tsunami Khan (who is more suitable to pose as a model in Coke/Pepsi advertisements and collecting Zakat and animal hides than leading a society as complicates as ours) is also a product of this changing global trend.
In the words of columnist Dr. Farrukh Saleem, “Money is the new value system. Arsalan and Mubashir are the gifts of this new value system” (The News, June 06, 2012). In a system where economic power equates with political power, economic exclusion leaves the broader population outside of existing political process.
Although democracy has always been an imperfect and problem ridden system (not only in Asia but also in the West from where it originates and also because it is established on the false premise of Nation States in the first place), still if political parties were mostly working like fiefdoms until the end of Cold War, now they are working like corporations. In the USA, for instance, Romney and Obama are puppets being controlled by same corporate elite, turning the election into a meaningless exercise. Hence, designer suits, Image Consultants, buying and selling of party ticket as well as favours, glamourous advertisements in print as well as electronic media, bill boards displaying names and photos of candidates and their client loyalists, photo ops with underdogs for press consumption, foreign currency accounts, hired speech and article writing specialists, bullet proof screens in front of rostrums, and most important of all slogans without manifestoes are some of the ingredients of corporate democracy today. So while the deficiencies are still there, the appearances are getting glitzier with each passing day.
That is why there is chaos, disorientation, and uncertainty almost all over. Michael J. Sandal in his recently published book, “What Money Can’t Buy”, says: (In America) people can come and hear Senate and House Committee hearings/deliberations but they have to queue up to be able to get a spot to get in. Since the demand for seats is usually more than the supply of places, getting to queue up in time is important. However, there are lobbyists who have a particular interest in attending some hearings. But as they are busy people, they hire people who stand in line there in exchange for money and when they get close to entering the doors, they give up these places to people who buy those places from them.
Does this practice make sense? According to Sandal, by bringing in the market and pricing, the purpose of allowing the people in for free so that they could have an opportunity to participate in governance and develop a sense of engagement has failed.
|The writer is a freelance journalist and professional translator|