The last refuge of...

Politicians are needed but their profession remains anathema

By Asha Iyer Kumar (Thinking out loud)

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Published: Fri 28 Mar 2014, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:39 PM

We live in an age of specialisations, especially in terms of profession and career options. Children want to be anything from engine drivers to astronauts, and sportsmen to business tycoons when they grow up. There are umpteen areas to pursue and find success in, given the scale on which our world is burgeoning and branching out. Yet the last thing most parents want their children to be is a politician. While the thought of becoming a president or a prime minister can be hugely appealing owing to the stature involved, there is complete aversion to even a mere contemplation of taking up politics as a full-time job.

Politics can be listed as one of the most essential professions required to run a liberated world, and the men who hold political positions as indispensible. Yet, we hold them in utter contempt and mistrust, assigning them a place that can be at best described as a necessary evil. It makes me wonder, do politicians in their entirety truly deserve such loathing? Or are we creating monsters out of them by placing unrealistic hopes and encumbrances on them?

There are questions galore, the answers to which are complex, for they are rooted partly in what we perceive of them and partly in what they display. To say that all politicians are dishonest might be too sweeping, but it is something that we have all come to believe, thanks to the legacy that generations of coarse politicians have left behind. We are not scandalised anymore when they lie through their teeth or veer from their roles as administrators assigned with the task of running the country and improving the lot of its people. We are blasé when people with dubious (read criminal) records strive to become our leaders, for in our collective estimation, deceit is endemic in the field and it is impossible to be a politician,and be honest. I am still left to wonder if it is really so. Much as we would want to disbelieve this theory of people climbing political podiums for personal gains than to serve the community and nation, the examples we have leave us with no choice but to tar them all with the same brush of deep scepticism.

Definitely, there are exceptions. There are people of excellent calibre and credentials who can steer democracies. Not all politicians are muggers who are there by dint of gun and goon power. But their inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies, added with our skewed vision of them, make us dismiss them as mere flashes in the pan that are there for their own good, at the end of the day.

We know that they are lying and playing realpolitik when they make gargantuan promises, for nation-building isn’t a simple task that an individual can singlehandedly complete. It requires consensus and shared vision, both of which are conspicuous by their absence in today’s political idiom. We are polarised by ideologies that seek to do no good except create more mayhem in our communities, and politicians, with their rhetorical flourishes continue to hoodwink an already confused populace. We believe that the larger national cause that they bombastically espouse is only a means to attain personal glory for who can escape the temptations of wealth and power?

We admit that the mission of gratifying one’s countrymen is unimaginably tough and we are prepared to be patient, but when the waiting extends beyond our lifetimes, hope gives way to despair, and despair to distrust. We queue up at the polling stations not so much out of hope as out of helplessness. It is an inglorious irony out of which our politicians make a thriving career; a career that commands minimal respect and admiration from us. Granting them cult status is a distant proposition, despite the rare gems that we occasionally find.

Asha Iyer Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Dubai

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