There is a prevailing, and mounting, sentiment of disgust in the country as the campaigning for the general election is rolling out. It has to do with the level to which it has sunk, a bassesse of unprecedented proportions which feeds on gossip, information/disinformation liberally spread on social media, and the phenomenon of Deep Fakes which has crept into the local landscape, copied from other shores. People are indeed fed up, and are impatiently waiting for that day when they will be able to breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all over and at last there is some serenity in the country so that they can get on with their normal lives.
To compound matters, there are strong rumours that there is more muck to come – as if we have not yet sunk low enough! Several articles in this paper had already rung the alarm bell about the vile nature of the campaign that was expected, and similar attention was drawn too by seasoned political analysts and observers who had been interviewed. Their fear of the worse seems to be materialising.
In fact, in an editorial we had had also pointed out that ‘rumours circulating widely predict that this is going to be one of the ugliest, dirtiest and most divisive campaigns ever’. This is the tone that is underlying the campaign with character and morals being targeted, and below-the-belt attacks that we had expressed concern about. But as the main protagonists tear at each other’s throats in full view, making a spectacle of themselves, they need to be reminded that there is a limit beyond which the electorate will start to feel that enough is enough! In fact, this point may already have been reached from what we are gathering on the ground. The time has therefore come for those who are doing mutual mudslinging to have some shame and realise that there is a fine dividing line that they must not cross, for the scales may well tip and a boomerang effect result.
In fact it is time to ask what does the electorate stand to gain in all this mudslinging? The electorate and the country are up against formidable challenges across all sectors which need to be faced and sustainable solutions found. The package of measures that have been announced by the incumbent may appeal to the constituencies they are aimed at, but what we have to ask ourselves is whether they are sustainable in the long term when we know that we have a level of debt that has already exceeded the norm. People are not that naive, and while there is a feeling that there is an attempt to ‘acheter notre conscience’, there are also questions being asked about where the money is going to come from to fuel the ‘largesses’ announced?
Will there be a rise in VAT? Or, as some people are postulating, will the age limit of 65 for retirement be imposed so that pension payments (retirement pension and Old Age Pension) will be put off? Or again, will there be foreign flows, and from where, for how long, and at what social and economic costs? These are the queries which need answers, and there is nothing forthcoming along these lines. So people will be kept in the dark – and after the elections and the initial goodies, they will be faced with the reality of a bitter pill to swallow.
As the people begin to see through the impracticality of what is being dangled to capture their votes, and are starting to ask the searching and relevant questions, here is an opportunity for the adversarial party or parties to show that they are more responsible and are neither going to go down the same dirty path nor make wild promises which they know the country cannot afford.
It will be in their interest and that of the electorate to address these queries being raised. Having been in the seat of power before and with track records of their own backed by years of experience, they must surely have enough information about the state of the country’s finances and its economy to present before the people a more realistic picture of the country’s affairs, and expose the carrots being dangled for what they truly are. Along with that, they should also outline some solid concrete measures that they plan to take in both the short and medium terms to put the economy back on its rails, to boost employment, to stop the bleeding in the textile sector, and so on and so forth. They must expose the demagogy of the other side and avoid to wallow in the kind of dirt and shamelessness that this country does not deserve.
In fact, very relevant to what we are going through painfully at the moment is the issue of shame in public life, with an article in the Australian publication The Conversation squarely posing the question in its title: ‘Shame plays an important role in political life – or at least it used to’.
The author, Aneta Stepien of Trinity College Dublin, goes on to write ‘…we expect people to follow their sense of shame as a moral compass. And when it comes to public figures, such as political leaders, we have even greater expectations for their moral standards. Should we worry, then, if political leaders become shameless?’
It is time that we demand some moral standards from our political leaders. And nowhere is this more required than during a campaign, when they prefer to give in to the temptation to vilify and to attack at personal level rather than debate the urgent issues and challenges.
This campaign needs to take a turn in the direction of a strong moral compass. The people will surely be mature enough to make the distinction when the time comes to cast their vote.