Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Public policy

One of the things that tears at me is the guilt that the girls may be growing up more alienated and cynical about the government of the land they were born in, than I ever was.

It was enough once upon a time to have the government take care of economics and national security. On the infrequent occasions we ever spotted the leaders on the international stage, they appeared dignified and in control. The public intellectual spaces were filled with the literate renditions of editors and academicians. The country’s citizenry was not nearly as energetic and critical as it is today.

Democracy was spoken of as a gold dusted legacy, bequeathed us by lofty visionaries. We uttered words such as republic, people and common good with a hushed reverence. I was certain there was no feasible form of government other than the God given government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Along came the concept of self-fulfilment; the flighty but compelling notion of realizing personal potential and to the fullest at that. Like the dormant Sierra Blanca prodded to life, an array of brand new "quality of life" issues spewed forth in full public view. Environment protection, a participatory democracy, the pacifist agenda, gender sensitivity, welfare state, human rights, arms reduction, energy renewal, terrorism management, nuclear policy; a whole lot came to be expected of the government and of each other. The powers had to keep the fuel prices down, prevent earthquakes, assure us jobs and food security, make us proud citizens of a world power and keep the enemy out.

The media quickly strapped up and came out in full regalia to report this transition. From that broadcast beaming on, I was never sure ever again if Aqseer and Asawari were indeed growing up in a world as twisted as the media made it out to be. It bothers me today that they have to see a lack of civic community spirit, a paucity of social trust. I do not want their public consciousness to be imbued with distrust, contempt and cynicism. I would rather they not be forced to either resign themselves to the mess, settle for the least of the evils or set out on the warpath with the sound of bugle.

I would have them believe instead, in the power of change. The power of public opinion is like the sleeping python, I want to tell them, the deadly menace a promise only until the coil unfolds and begins to hiss. As enlightened citizens of the country, they would do well to be prepared to tell their government to spend their money with responsibility, represent their interest and behave in a trustworthy manner. It is only a myth that the present form of government cannot be restructured. Other democracies have been talking for years in terms of limiting serving terms and balancing budgets, shifting power to the states and setting up electronic citizen meetings, for starters.

May the young therefore be, utterly sophisticated citizens of the world today? May they have so strong a sense of ties to their country and community that between a prayer for the nation and a reshaped public policy, they settle only and only for the latter! 

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