Friday, February 11, 2022

Stop Grumbling!

 John Adams said: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Recently someone asked me to write an article for his paper on how democracy is doing in Bhutan. I accepted – then few days later I apologized and declined to do so. I offered him the reason that democracy cannot work in Bhutan – the Bhutanese people do not have the temperament for it. The Bhutanese people understand democracy as something where they have all the rights but have relinquished all their responsibilities.

For democracy to function, we need citizens who understand responsibility and citizens’ duty. Unfortunately, time and again we have proven that these are outside our sphere of thinking. To demonstrate how unthinking Bhutanese are as a society, let me give you three examples:

1.  There is already a huge signboard in place that reads – NO FILTERING RIGHT. And yet, the Traffic Division of the RBP has to station a traffic police to ensure that traffic is not filtering to the right. Normally, it should be simple enough for a licensed driver to understand and follow the direction.

2.  Being mindful of the difficulties His subjects are bound to face during the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic, His Majesty the King ordered the waiver of bank interest on housing loans. It is my belief that this gesture was intended to benefit the poor people – by bringing some relief in the payment of their house rents. But last I heard, most house owners did not pass on this benefit to the poor tenants, but pocketed the benefits resulting from the kidu.

If the house owners are collecting the house rents full throttle, then where is the need for relief on interest on housing loans?

3.  Today there is an uproar in the social media – surrounding the supposed failure of the government in competently handling the COVID-19 crisis. Frankly people should remember that talk is easy – and very, very cheap. We have to remember that we are constrained by many compulsions – we are short of manpower, we are short of funds, we are short of skills, we are short of required number of skilled health workers, we are short of hospital beds, we are short of quarantine facilities, we are short of PPE for our frontline workers. And, worst of all, we are short of responsible and dutiful citizens who refuse to contribute to the cause of the pandemic.

We have to remember that we are dealing with an invisible enemy. This unseen scrooge has ravaged even the very best of economies around the world. And yet, by comparison, Bhutan’s record is among the very best and most competent – in fact we have not done badly at all - our performance so far has been sterling. Even our King has turned himself into a foot soldier and is leading the battle from the frontlines. What more can you ask for?

There are bound to be some slip-ups. Since when have we become such a competent society that we are able to build an airtight defense against everything and anything? Please remember that we are constraint by many things. Under the circumstance, lets be thankful that there are people who are working tirelessly – while others know nothing beyond grumbling.

Just because there was an Omicron outbreak in the community in Wangdue recently, people are going crazy. Did you really believe that Bhutan could have prevented community outbreak forever, when the whole world is experiencing it? We have to be really stupid to have believed it. Please remember that failure is not because of the sum total - but because of the failure of one or two.

If nothing, atleast let us not complain so much. Ofcourse there are bound to be difficulties – we are not on a holiday – we are not in a Last Tango situation. We are in a crisis - we have a serious problem in our hands. Complaining does not help. What helps is DOING what we are supposed to do, and NOT doing what we are not supposed to do.

We believe that we understand the problems people are facing – that is a falsehood. We simply have no idea what some people are suffering – the extent of their suffering is beyond imagination. Think of the government and the King – I can’t even begin to think how they are coping – but they are.

Let alone everything else, simply thinking of the cost of vaccinations, cost of hundreds of thousands of RT-PCR tests and cost of quarantines – it leaves me breathless. SO PLEASE STOP GRUMBLING! If lockdown is deemed necessary, if it is the only way forward, let us have lockdown.

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