Groundviews

Rationalizing the political choices available to us

Photo courtesy News First

Generally, I do not use social media to present my opinions about social, political or economic matters relating to Sri Lanka. However, having seen the avid debates on both camps of the Presidential campaign during the past weeks, I think the time has come to detach myself from this attitude of apathy and pen down some of my thoughts about the current state of affairs.

In the run-up to the Presidential election, as citizens, we need to reflect carefully on a number of things when deciding who we should vote for. Instead of being an emotionally driven decision, it should be one which should be made through appropriate rationalization. To this end, I thought of detaching myself from my usual apathetic attitude towards Sri Lanka politics and penning down some of my thoughts about the current state of affairs.

First of all, if anyone believes that a change in leadership or the structure of government will be a panacea, a means of eradicating all the vices that have been ingrained within our society, may I cautiously advice you to immediately lower your expectations. A new face will not result in the express establishing of good governance, erasure of corruption or the minimisation of the gross inequalities in terms of income, wealth, access to health and education and employment prospects prevalent in our country. These are evils the citizens of any developing country must learn to live with. Hence, as citizens, the best we can do is to opt for a “satisficing” alternative, whereby our goal should be the fulfillment of certain minimum requirements; rather than deceive ourselves into thinking that it is the optimal course of action, because the reality is that we have never been presented with that optimal choice, and probably never will be.

One may accuse me of being overly sceptical. Yet, if we reflect for a moment, all our lives, we have been constricted within a straitjacket, with precious little choice with respect to so many things. Let me provide a few, hopefully illuminating, examples to illustrate my point. In our country, as a result of the absence of a disability insurance scheme, the disabled are forced into a life of destitution. Except for those who hail from wealthy families, most disabled individuals are never really presented with viable alternatives, apart from the rare occasions certain philanthropic organizations help them to obtain employment. Farmers are forced into a life of uncertainty, as there is no effective income/price support scheme to support them through a bad harvest. In most instances, if you need to get some work done at a government office, you have no choice other than to offer a bribe.

The gross politicization of the legal system, the education system, the military, the police department, the healthcare sector, and almost every institution established to protect the rights and satisfy the essential needs of the citizens of a modern society has reached an almost irreversible extent. Misappropriation of taxpayers’ money has reached unimaginable heights. The misuse of state resources is rampant. In the spirit of Orwellian satire, the following quote from Animal Farm best sums up the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

So, the time has come for us to join hands and make a careful choice. As at now, we are standing at the edge of a precipice. Should we take one more step and fall into the treacherous abyss awaiting to devour us or choose an alternative path which might enable the achievement of improvements in small steps? My emphasis on the word might emerges from that inherent scepticism which often afflicts me in such situations. Nevertheless, let us hope the people of Sri Lanka will make a wise choice this time.