How do you make out that a politician has no future?
If he makes policies favoring people and repays his real benefactors only with promises and rhetoric, he will be an epic failure.
This joke, highlights the contradiction inherent in all politics, everywhere.
What is cheese for a politician in power, is malnutrition for common citizen of the country. Let me explain this inverted dynamic a little better:
Politicians world over have one point agenda : Continuity of their rule. Loss of power is the single greatest fear any politician has and they seek perpetual insurance against it.
Now a politician comes to power and stays there, contingent on their pleasing a core constituency. For his continuity, a politician is benefited by keeping this core constituency small since then it is easier to manage and reward.
This narrow filtering for rewards distribution or leaving out of general public is obviously harmful for a common person as then s/he gets almost no return for choosing his rulers. It then is the fundamental conflict of interest, between a general citizens benefit and the ruling politicians well being. He wants to keep the rewards distribution small ( maybe even one, himself) and people are only benefited by maximization of this distribution.
Now to keep this basic conflict, at heart of all politics, hidden, a deft politician like a clever magician, will either create distractions in form of side shows, unnecessary debates and bring uncanny bats out of surreal hats or s/he will put curbs on right of free speech and action; to disempower citizenry so as not to get questioned.
In light of this conflict of interest what should an average citizen do? What are his or her options to have best outcomes for self vis a vis a politician in position of power. Here then are my top five entries for a citizens charter:
1) Use Protection (pun intended)
Politics like banking is a conservative sport. Much as a banker will not lend to anybody who walks in applying for a loan and offering to repay with future cash streams; a citizen, come election time, should not put his faith in promises of a politician of a better country, better times or even a better day. The rationale of any conservative play is not focusing on growth but on minimizing your losses. Likewise in politics, judge, who if elected is capable of least harm and not who can deliver maximum growth. Protect yourself first. That’s rule one for an aware citizen.
2) Watch what he does
To segregate the walk and talk of a politician look past his words and at his actions. First thing to look at is his accomplices and surround team. Does it have competent people or is it mostly oddballs and goofies who have tangential take on things. Secondly look at his past scandals. Was he embroiled/implicated/ insinuated in any scams/killings or criminal conspiracies. Thirdly look at his previous policy stands and voting patterns. Are those consistent with his public stands and vocal declarations. So if you start with a mindset of “Guilty unless proven innocent” you are looking at his actions from the correct filters.
3) Acquire media literacy
Media for most part is a ventriloquist dummy. They just move the lips and voice that you hear comes from someone else. Education is not only in knowing reading or writing but also in identifying the written or spoken spin. Label media outlets for their editorial biases and only believe the ones which have proven journalistic credentials. If you want to segregate truth from propaganda, do your own research by being a citizen journalist.
4) Participate with activism on specific policies
Some issues like, constitutional equality, rights of minorities, state overreach , social distribution of public goods, income and wealth inequalities are worth organizing and actively striving for. Injustice will spread in a society if calls for justice are not frequent and loud for everyone to hear.
5) Guard Civil Liberties with your life.
Right to free speech and assembly, right to due process of law and protection from unnecessary prosecution, right to life, to protect yourself and others liberties are all victories which have been secured over last 800 years since signing of Magna Carta, by relentless struggle against the state. It is incumbent upon current generation of citizens to pass them uncompromised to the next.
So never, NEVER let a state or a politician tell you that anything tops continuity of your civil liberties; not nationalism, not larger good of community, not your religion, not your country. Nothing. Your civil liberties are simply non negotiable. This is because an inch given today, down the road, turns into a mile taken.
In summary, an aware citizen by definition, has to be in opposition of the ruling dispensation, even if s/he has voted them into power in the first place. Their main task then is to not get enthralled by the state or any politician; but to maintain a constant vigil against transgressions, hold them accountable for policies, extend only qualified support on issues and relentlessly question them on their motives.
So if you are cheerleading any politician or supporting any one uncritically, you are siding with them in this conflict of interest and thus failing democracy. Know that this failing is a dictatorship invite and your family, as your community will soon suffer for it.
Remember, to never fall asleep on your watch. An awake citizen (following citizens charter) is the only watchman a democracy ever has.