Friday, December 5, 2008

What really can be done, and who does it?

Like a friend put it, it is now ‘time to put down the pointing finger, cork the backseat driving, and deliver constructive suggestions only..’

We have expressed solidarity with the victims of the terror attack, we have sent the message out that at least for the moment we are concerned about the need for things to get done. What next?

The fear psychosis that had gripped us over the weekend is now receding, life is slowly getting back to normal. Do we put the events of the past week behind us and get on with life as we have always done in the past, or do we do something more. And if so, what?

In the short term, there is very little that we can do. We are stuck with the politicians that we have through action or inaction elected to high office. We have a political system which never seems to have heard the words accountability or apology. We seem more interested in playing the blame game than in ensuring that there is no further need for casting blame. And to deflect attention elsewhere, we play school-bully with our nearest neighbour when we could achieve much more by just appealing to the good sense that we choose to believe they do not possess. All we can do is to keep asking questions, in the hope that politicians eventually feel compelled to provide a few answers.

But there is much we can do in the medium and long term. Each of us can do our best to ensure that better candidates contest elections and get elected.

For starters, we can register to vote in the constituencies of which we are residents and encourage others to do so too. Once the educated professionals make it clear that they are going to cast their vote in the elections, parties may be forced to field candidates who appeal to the intellect rather than to petty divisions of creed, caste, region or religion

We can scrutinize documents and mandates of candidates, we can use RTI to find out how many electoral promises our politicians have kept, and we can dissipate such information to ensure that voters do not vote in a vacuum. The events of the past few days have convinced a number of people to enter politics so they can work towards a better society – we can and need to support such candidates. After all, if we want change, we need to provide an alternative, and that alternative is present among ourselves.

But the one thing each of us can do, and should do is to change ourselves. Everytime we talk into a mobile phone while driving, or jump a traffic light, or pay a bribe, we are breaking the law, and if we break the law, we do not have the right to question others. To quote the Father of the Nation, ‘we need to be the change we want to see’.


Incidentally, I logged onto and registered to vote in the constituency of which I am a resident. You can do so too.

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