Why do we use our emotions ultimately when we vote every 5 years?
Ponder well before calling Mauritius a banana republic – because we would be in very good company. Many an American may be feeling small in their shoes these days, wondering how could their sophisticated, complex democratic apparatus of filtering out the very best candidate for their White House could have turned out someone like Donald Trump. Do people worldwide vote with their emotions, but use their rationale instead to analyze and criticize their leaders’ performance?
We Mauritians have come to look upon our general election as a favourite scapegoat pastime. How to explain the fact that every 4 to 5 years we commit the same mistake? First we are elated, by a surge of dopamine, at the coming of new elections, as the gamblers would every weekend at Champ de Mars. We enjoy both the seriousness and fun of these pre-electoral activities, and find food for thought as we witness the fickleness of some of our leaders.
In the previous years they had insisted that their party would go to the next election alone, to finally play the cuckoo bird in securing a berth by the side of much hated and maligned opponents. Experience has taught us that our politicians would promise us heaven while decrying the rampant corruption eroding our republic – and yet we go on believing them for the umpteenth time. Because once in power they gladly lead us down the garden path, and we are always here to cry on rooftops about their betrayal and partiality in favour of their relatives. Are we naïve, stupid, or just morons?
Is it possible that we Mauritians (or the majority of us) suffer from an Oliver Twist syndrome – always asking for more? Is it possible that we are politically immature? Somehow or other we manage to usher the same actors back to power. Perhaps in so doing we can sit back and enjoy an eternal backbiting, mudslinging contest, while blabbering about the eternal bad faith and unreliability of our leaders, thereby upholding the thesis that human nature is unpredictable, and that history keeps repeating itself.
Can we go on blaming the politicians? Or is it that we, the majority, are undereducated, biased, unable to appreciate the meaning of democracy – where we are supposed to exert a maximum of vigilance every five years by our judicious choice, so as to banish corrupt individuals? Yet the contrary is happening: the few who had underperformed are being ushered back into the limelight. How they would be giggling at our expense behind our back, telling themselves that even after abusing the people’s trust they have been forgiven and put back afresh on a high pedestal. And how about indulging in some more under the counter manipulations? Maybe they would be forgiven yet again by the people – in the next electoral bout.
Common sense dictates that the majority of us should finally vote the corrupt out of power for good; nothing doing: we, the guardians of the democracy, gladly downplay our own rights and duty.
Can these politicians be blamed? But where were the people?
Suppose that leader X, when in power, had cheated in 30% of cases; let’s throw him and his party out. When his opponent Y comes to power, he may react and cheat less say in only 25% of cases. Next time we evict him also out of power, with the hope that the newcomer M (or X again) will now cheat only 20%. Don’t ever give anyone more than one mandate unless he has reduced corruption to a minimum possible. Have we noticed that most of the wrongdoing takes place during the second mandate? Because Mr X, Y or M — knowing that there would not be a third one – makes hay while the sun shines.
And why should we go on voting for parties, as if the existing ones contain the real capable people of our democracy? Do we really have no choice in the polling booth? Looking at the new elected members in our parliament, mostly yes-men, we definitely realize that most of them were unknown to us, never seen before on the political front. Yet we fail to alternate, to give such people as Dr Seegobin, Mr Bizlall, Mrs Bunwaree, Mr Subron or Mr Yan a chance. We go willingly for party lists whose leaders had previously underperformed miserably in many instances. Who to blame? With such an electorate, anyone of us on becoming a leader would get into the same rigmarole – promise a lot, come to power, indulge in corruption, go out of power and try to come back 5 years later while making new promises. The wonderful people are there to forgive and forget.
Our failure to gauge the corrupting nature of men (and women) and to take steps to contain such psychological and social weaknesses points to our very incomprehensible inability to protect our own interest and that of future generations. Is it political masochism?
Our mind generates our memories, ideas, thoughts and actions in a continuum, whence it makes its exit to influence the external world. The latter is just a reflection of that thinking mind. And if our voting behaviour is one of its markers then we must confess that we Mauritians have a very confused, partial, uneducated and conflicting psyche. Unless we are enjoying the present political set-up, so as to revel in gossiping and criticizing in the inter-election period.
In Tamil Nadu there is a similar scenario. For decades the leaders have been coming back to power in a musical chair fashion. The present chief minister, accused of heavy fraud by the law, was gifted with about 20 trucks of flowers for the wedding of her son – the people love their leader! A dozen of them committed suicide when she was jailed; this is pure personality cult. Do we suffer from a similar but milder psychological complex in Mauritius? Other states in India are no better. The new political party in New Delhi, AAP, promised to curtail corruption; it seems that it is no better.
Many of us dislike the monarchy, because we thought we should be more democratic where, in theory, any individual can become a leader. Yet we do just the contrary: we love voting for dynasties and the same people, of whom many have become overwhelmingly rich overnight under our very nose. Does our childhood fairy tale mind of princes and princesses still linger within us?
As we go by the ‘Coin Ideal’ and the church vicinity in Rose Hill at night we cannot fail to notice the ‘night workers’ or ‘filles de joie’. Legally they are walking, standing and talking to their pimps; there is no ground for lawful action. But morally we know the truth. Similarly with some of our politicians. Legally they are in the clear, there are no corruption charges against them. But morally we know their doings and the truth. Is not that enough to convince us to banish them from our political arena forever? If we do not then we, the people, have ourselves to blame for our apathy and stupidity.
For God’s sake let’s stop blaming politicians and keep whimpering; let’s stop babbling and play the martyr. They also are human beings and political animals belonging to our species. Everyday most of us in all fields of life cut corners in some way – hundreds of Mauritians failed to turn up to claim their SCBG deposits in the ex-BAI scandal. The reason is too obvious; some politicians are doing it on a grander scale. But whereas most of us would our best to retain our self-respect, they would not care a hoot. And if we don’t approve of this attitude and mentality, then we just have to sanction them when we vote. That’s our sacred duty.
Every psychological work has pointed to the fact that anyone of us gaining supreme power would be as corrupted as any other one. Only the voters and their law can buckle that trend and break the vicious circle.
Our tragedy is that we go on believing that God created us perfect. The opposite is true. Nature and evolution created us as a corrupted political animal, and only perpetual vigilance and counteraction on our part can keep that corruptible tendency at bay. That’s the role of the people in a democracy. Let’s stop blaming the politicians only.
Dr Rajagopala Soondron