A Vote for Yaks and Meadows – Jurmi Chhowing

I’m tired of partisan politics.  It took over 100 years of patience, precaution and planning to build the country today we are so proud of being proud of.

Let us not tear it down in 10.

It has taken the Greeks more than 2000 years to refine their democracy and they are still trying to polish it. The other Europeans too are at it; tumbling to and fro and standing divided between This, That and the Other. And the Americans – well, the Americans have a Tweeting Trumpet besides the Divisive Right, the Privileged Left, and the majority that live in a Neglected Limbo with inconsequence their only lot. That goes for Asia too (think the recent Malaysian elections), let alone the sorry messy parts of Latin America. There is some welcome respite in Africa and hopefully they will find redemption from centuries of colonial bondage, later infighting and the deep scars of the psychological yoke shouldered today by a whole new generation. Politics can get so bad people can’t even appreciate and preserve natural paradises made up of Sea, Sun and Sand; like the Maldives.

That is democracy in a nutshell – a worldwide system of manmade flaws.So why can’t politicians acknowledge that hole and work upwards from that point of view? Instead of alluding to some perfect solution in the near future or blaming it on a past-clause? And why can’t the public read in between the lines?

Now if I were Greek -that beautiful and ancient land of plenty, now mired in debt from years of myopic governance -I’d probably vote by rioting. If I wereTurkish, it would depend. If I were an American, I’d decidedly vote to oust the Tweeter-in-Chief. But I’m Bhutanese and I need to vote attentively, because there aren’t too many of us, and who knows how many of the 438,663 or so eligible will show up. So I’m showing up to vote for the party that I believe best represents the rainbow that is King, Country, and People. But first I must touch upon a rising peculiar state of mind known as apathy before it becomes fashionable.

Enlightened indifference is transcendental but uninformed apathy is a dangerous mindset.

An apathetic politician will play to your apathy. And make lofty promises in return for your vote of instant expectation. Beware of the obvious bait for that is how wily fishermen lure the new fish. Do not be swayed by such temptations because it will fortify your apathy ever more by the time this term concludes in 2023. Democracy, in the Bhutanese context, is not a given takeaway. It is a system that encourages you to contribute for the greater good of preserving the proven institution of Kingship, the idea of Nationhood, and the People who give it that common identity. So that everyone can partake of its fruits equally.

Strip away that union and you have a house of straws facing a storm.

Because right now the focus is a narrow ‘who is giving what and what is in it for me?’ This is a short-lived view with blowbacks. This kind of politicizing and polling attitude only breeds dissatisfaction. There is no contentment in expectation. And none at all when that premise is made up by parties bent on winning at all costs and by all means.As a Bhutanese, barring a brief threat to national accordin the 80s and a persistent one to its sovereignty in the early 2000s, I’ve experienced nothing but peace in the last 46 years of my life. And those threats, from recent memory, and the ones long before our time, were all quelled by the preemptive guidance of our kings. It was accomplished for future generations and today we enjoy its harvest of peace, progress and tranquility. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘prosperity’ as it conjures up images of envious material riches but indeed that sense of personal, communal and national comfort is ‘prosperity’. For the sake of future generations, that is precisely what we cannot squander.

Why, then, are we talking of party ideology?

I’ve heard the banter about ideologies. It bothers me that we think parties should conceptualize, create and endorse an ideology of their own. If you must, here is an ideology: King, Country, People – because that is the core. And why are we in a hurry to demand, welcome and embrace change of the impatient, materialistic kind? Change is the essence of life; whether in the life of a person or a nation. There is no need to superimpose the change because a capitalistic change (read that as opportunism) that fails to see beyond the tip of its derisive and desirous nose carries a voracious appetite that cannot be satiated.

The more it devours the hungrier it gets.

Life has a natural pace that resists the external enforcement of fast-tracked superficial changes and its fundamental nature is necessarily organic. Democracy is a healthy branch but its fruits are often forced to ripen prematurely, leaving a bitter taste. Impatience kills democracy. No one wants to wait. Everyone wants to cut the line, double-park, and serve themselves first-up and then talk about the symptoms of the sickness. This is when democracy morphs into the monster that is capitalism – worshipped as the deity of opportunism.

It happened in ancient Athens. It is happening across Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Wherever it has failed to satisfy the indulgent wants of an edgy people it has degenerated into tyranny, civil war, apathy or a pawn in the corporate takeover by a worldwide gang of greedy consortiums. By the way – basic needs such as food, water, clothing, shelter, education and health – are not political points. They are indispensible human rights that must be served regardless of politics or political systems.

I hope Bhutan never changes, but it has and it will. So I pray that it changes slowly and organically on its own terms. And I mean change in all facets of life but more so in the corridors of power. I distrust these five-yearly revolutions promised from the pulpits of politicians who would have you believe they possess some magical wand. There is no miracle at work. There is the improbable promise of plenty (the politician’s curse) versus the preservation of harmony (the kings’ gift). This gift is a century-old steady progress of peaceful sovereignty. Bhutan’s development values have come about with values. We should not hunger for and chase after manufactured rainbows. Rainbows best come and go with the sun, the thunder and the rain. Otherwise, the disappointment of the forecast will ruin the day.

And for the farmer, yak and the meadow, that will be the beginning of the end.

Jurmi Chhowing is a writer. He’s the founder of Yallamma! The Writing Company. He can be emailed at iamdrukpa@gmail.com