A State of Charity – Jurmi Chhowing

I watched the presidential debate. This is my ricochet. The PDP promised The Blazing Sun. The DNT a Full New Moon. The BKP a Shooting Star. And the DPT a Familiar Twilight. But I’m not convinced about the Celestial Display or the Lightning Fireworks. Whichever party comes to power, I expect a couple of Eclipses before the conclusion of their trailblazing terms. I hope my brethren weren’t blinded by the spectacle, or worse yet, star struck.

Since 2013, I’ve been apolitical. The politics of that year drained my vigor. But funny how things workout because I’ve now become more objective. And thanks again to 2013; we now know the power of ambition.We also know democracy can become another token process for the allusion of representation that conceals the real business of personal enrichment.

Today, I’m not even an undecided voter. Today, I’m a detached observer. I state that without resentment. I’ve lived my life outside the system. I still do. My views on matters of politics have been one of hope; followed by shock, bewilderment, and the occasional appreciation but rarely one of inspiration. But I do admire the naked ambition with which politicians garb themselves. Or the plain vanity with which they pursue it. There is an honesty about it that is both refreshing and repulsive. Either way, I’m glad I have neither the stomach nor the pocket for it.

My credentials are petty. I’m almost irrelevant – save for one caveat – I’m a citizen of this kingdom. And I’ve heard the voices of the politicians debating matters relating to me on my behalf. I’m thankful for the gusto with which the debates were executed. This bodes well for democracy – no matter how fraught. And the welcome reminder to speak up and be done with pleasantries.For his derring-do, the DNT president deserves kudos. For her inability to put on a façade, the BKP president deserves applause. For persistence, the DPT president must be lauded. And finally, for strumming the chords of harmony, praise for the PDP president.

I’m also glad there were four presidents vying for the goodwill of the folk rather than two. I hope there will be many more. But make no mistake – for this was the final echo–that they all want the power to rule.Whether with the wisdom to empower and the compassion to share is the unreciprocated question.The arrows may appear straight but the bows are crooked and the targets are compromised. It isn’t their fault. This is the nature of the democratic system. Or any manmade system. And you trust the system at your peril. Nor can one ignore it. One has to live with it. The rich will stay rich because wealth is mostly hereditary, and expansionist. The poor can move up the projects and become rich provided they learn how to rig the game. And then build walls against trespassers. The scales of the status quo weigh and settle themselves. And the gap in between the two is automatically maintained. Incorruptibility too has a price; as does equity and justice. And ditto for stability, prosperity and unity. These are taglines in another manmade tug of war, masquerading as selfless interest. There is only one interest and that is self-interest. The road to selflessness is potholed with selfishness. Any other claim is merely aruse. The ploy is the plot is the ploy.

So what can we do? We can become aware of this dichotomy and quell our narrow expectations in favor of broader horizons that are far more realistic and far more enduring. The skyline maybe intangible but this immateriality is the key to the preservation of all that we hold dear.

In Bhutan, the first light in that panorama is the monarchy. This isn’t blind faith. Kings do not sell out their kingdoms. They safeguard it. It is a relationship forged over a century. The timelines of our kings and the lifelines of their subjects have always met and mingled in the middle. The dual system of yore was a pragmatic compromise negotiated to avert the yoke of religious tyranny and political strife. And farther down, the Agreement of 1907 was the foundation and declaration of a binding monarchy over a land of rightful sovereignty in order to negate the aggressive face of a rising imperialist from the west. Queue that up with the implosion of Tibet; follow that up with the formation of Bangladesh and the meek cession of Sikkim and you get a picture of the chaotic geopolitical hotspot in which we linger.

The second light in that panorama is sovereignty itself. Right of self-determination was the foresight that birthed and nourished a kingdom in a neighborhood of changing anthems and vanishing flags. There is sound reason behind the caution of our forefathers and the overarching one was that of nationhood. Simply put – no king, no country; no country, no people.

The final light was the people. Our forbearers were Spartan in their needs, stoic in their attitudes and fiercely independent in their spirits. And then, somehow, somewhere, we became today’s soft species. This thin-skinned ineptitude that is fast becoming the national psyche raises hard questions.

So when did we devolve into such a needy populace that expects political parties, the government apparatus, and a horde of multifaceted organizations to do our bidding on our behalves? And fulfill our increasingly vacuous needs? What is it that prevents our people from solving the problems in our own backyards? When did we become such a hapless lot that we willingly bear this burden of want like a prostration of pride? How did the progeny of sturdy mothers and fathers become so frail that they cannot withstand the slightest hardship? When did this land of plenty thus harden that we cannot farm it? Where did the guts and guile of an ingenious native dissipate that they now shiver in fear of foreigners? When did the rough hides of a tough country get so tender that they no longer stand up for themselves? When did privilege and entitlement creep in? When will this attitude of begetting charity finally end? When will this subservience disappear? And how will this softening underbelly muscle up?

Because until that happens, the mountains will keep echoing this mocking need to keep begging for all the things we already have within our fold. And until the old spirit of industry, fortitude, honor, sacrifice, and contentment makes a conscientious comeback, hollow promises of plenty will keep piling and disappointing, to the detriment of everything that is already solid. And when that keeps happening, you know you have been listening to an echo. But if you do nothing about it,the echo will ring true and loud –proudly declaring a state of charity;mired in debt and doubt.

My support will be for the party that demonstrates such resolve. Likewise, I hope your cast will be firm.

The writer is an editor, writer and founder of  yallamma_the_writing_company.