“Fair votes fundamentally are about the rights and the interests of the people”— Charles Kennedy
In the world of economics, where the main thrust is on earning it is not surprising to see people from all walks of life, selling themselves. Although this jargon is usually taken in a negative sense but if given a slightly deeper thought, it really makes a lot of sense. This is obvious from the way entrepreneurs sell their products, qualified employees seek employers who are willing to pay them higher salaries, sought-after entertainers manage much higher remuneration for lending their services and the greater the repute of professionals, the higher their charges. So one way or the other, we are essentially engaged in selling our potential or worth at a price, either we fix ourselves or the buyer is ready to pay.
Mark A Lutz, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Maine, in his book, Economic for the Common Good: Two Centuries of Social Economic Thought in the Humanistic Tradition, while elucidating the difference between slavery and employment, writes:
“There is no real difference in kind between selling oneself and renting oneself. Even more disturbing is the fact that the much heralded mathematical proof that the competitive capitalist economy is Pareto efficient (that is, meets the necessary conditions for maximum social welfare) needs to assume that individuals are permitted to sell or mortgage their persons for proper compensation.”
Practically speaking we are placed in a market where we bargain our virtues, talents and abilities with whosoever needs them. Many types of human commodities are available from quacks to specialists, from counselors to academicians, from chemists to pharmacists…there is a never ending list. However, there is one special group that cannot be categorized in the true sense of the word and these are politicians. They can constitute businessmen/professionals turned politicians or as in our country, military turned politicians, politicians by virtue of birth right, or as in the case of our incumbent prime minister (who had never dreamt of becoming one) through necessitating circumstances. Who is in fact a professional politician? According to Google search: “A person whose sole employment is political in nature, usually elected to office and paid a salary, but may collect donations from individuals and corporations.”
If such is the case then it would be interesting to see young graduates heading to become professional politicians but what should be their credentials or better still, what qualifications are required to become certified politicians? Many have tried to answer this question and have come up with both positive as well as negative conclusions in sketching the profiles of known politicians. However, applying common sense and historical evidence one can say that the most prominent attribute of a politician should be leadership. The ability to attract potential voters with rhetoric (which means that oratory is an art that must be mastered), the quality of appealing to the masses with attractive slogans, promises of a bright future, display of confidence sufficient enough to win over the electorate and compete with other politicians in a way that elevates his/her position to becoming the most favourite candidate.
Democracy as a popular form of government has taken roots in most of the countries of the world which means that the parliaments are filled with elected politicians or leaders. In the context of the First World, many decades of systematic process of elections has helped to filter out undesirable elements from politics leaving the space for genuine aspirants. Politics there is not a game that can be played only by the ones with wealth and power but ordinary, middle class folks can also harbor political ambitions. The most appropriate examples are that of Barrack Obama of USA and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand who hail from humble and non-political backgrounds. In the Third World, José Mujica, Hugo Rafael Chávez and Narendra Modi are some noteworthy examples.
From its birth, Pakistan has not been very fortunate in its democratic evolvement that has been marked with coups and years of military dictatorship. Consequently, politics got confined to landlords and those who were blessed with money power. Vested interest took precedence over public interest that pushed a rapidly progressing country into a reverse gear. For perpetuation of rule, some unqualified and unscrupulous people were brought into power who, by virtue of extended phases of governance began rating themselves as politicians par excellence, selling themselves in lieu of votes. Once in power, it became imperative for them to create mafias that could penetrate in the electorate and ensure inflow of votes in elections. The term ‘mafia’ connotes usage of threats and violence to keep the public sufficiently terrorized that it fails to use its conscious mind while choosing candidates. No effort is made to educate and enlighten the people lest they became worthy enough to compete in the race for power. A suppressed public with no vision is a sure shot ticket to victory. At least that is what democracy in our country seems to be.
The urge to remain at the top compels politicians to take actions which they themselves may disapprove were they not in power. The vicious circle continues. Exploiting people’s weaknesses and emotions, satisfying personal interests in the name of national security, creating situations to divert attention from their own short-comings without realizing that the mafias they give birth to actually play havoc with their electorates. In carrying out their godfathers’ commands they resort to criminal activities making miserable, the lives of their victims. Of course, in return they are rewarded with money, high-yielding contracts, arms licenses, permits, employments, lands and the assurance of strong legal backing in case they are nabbed.
Such is the morbid story of success of some of our politicians the likes of whom are ably depicted by Honoré de Balzac, French novelist and playwright, and adapted by Mario Puzo in his famous novel “The Godfather,” who wrote: “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed.” Undoubtedly, success is sweet but there is also no doubt that retribution through change is imminent and that it is just a matter of time when the public refuses to purchase incompetent politicians with its vote.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)