What if politicians were to take a public services exam? (Part 2)

Alright, I’ll be honest. This post got a lot more views that I’d anticipated. Including a personal response from a friend (name withheld) that I share below.

I’ve certainly thought about the idea of having a minimum qualification or exam for entering politics, I feel that might not work very well in rural areas. To create influence we need words. Words that people want to hear. That they can associate with.

Each and every part of our country, including rural areas, have access to standardised education. All we need is one bright chap to trust and follow the system and come out of it as a champion for the society at large. And many have done this in the past, just that most chose some other professions. That’s primarily due to lack of education — nobody in our schools tell us to become teachers and/or politicians. There’s a shortage of both.

Knowledge is ofcourse valuable, but we might want to ask why then do the administration officers who can be assumed to be the best minds of the country only secretary’s to the CM, secretary’s to the PM and not the ministers themselves? Why did they choose to work for the government and not be a part of the government. I think it might have something to do with the fact that many of us, the educated citizens, boast of being apolitical. I think we need to redefine what being political means. I think any responsible citizen should be political. That doesn’t mean aligning yourself strongly to one party or ideology. It also doesn’t limit to one going out to vote once or twice every 5 years. It’s everything that happens in between. As soon as we walk out of the polling booth, we should become citizens and not supporters of a political party. Being political in my opinion means being aware of how the system runs in our environment. Understanding how it SHOULD run, what are the gaps, who is responsible. AND to talk about it. Not being selective about which party is operating in which part of the system.

The administrative officers, they can choose to step up their game, but that will require them to relinquish their services. And most enjoy the security of their cushiony jobs with incredible perks over politics, which if done right comes with a set of risks and uncertainties. But that’s primarily due to social conditioning, isn’t it? What are we told by our parents, relatives, and peers when it comes to choosing a career?

Delhi’s CM was an IRS officer. He choose a higher purpose. Critics might say he was incompetent or something graver but I believe the entire administration is incompetent (at least to some extent) when it comes to better governance.

Besides, there’s a reason why people boast of being apolitical. They would like to clarify and affirm their independent thought about a particular point of view or ideology. I don’t think anything wrong with that. What’s wrong, however, is people boasting of being apolitical when they clearly are not. You really can’t comment on what ideology is better or worse if you’re apolitical. Being one is a conscious decision to be ignorant about the political affairs.

I believe we need to reaffirm what it means to be a ‘citizen’ more than what it means to be ‘political.’ Because the latter cannot dissociate themselves from politics. An informed citizen, however, should have a neutral stance while knowing how governments are run, is in the know of the current political climate, and is aware of the gaps in the administration. Without getting too emotional about it.

Competence is not the issue which is driving the youth away from politics. It is simple – UNCERTAINTY. being a politician doesn’t give a career and REQUIRES you to get your hands dirty. Weather it be to clean the shit or play around in it like most politicians. Plus it is a requirement to not have an office of profit as long as you have you are holding a position in the government (some conflict of interest policy).

So, the youth is uncomfortable with the uncertainty of politics but is okay with recreational drugs, promiscuous sex, and creating TikTok videos? (Might be missing some more points but I’m not in the “youth” category anymore.) I know, I know, that’s a broad generalisation but I wanted to get that out in the open.

Politics is a career option just like any other we are aware of, it’s just under-marketed. Some of the world’s most prestigious universities offer Political Science as an option for study for a solid reason — humanity needs more people who know what it takes to practice fair politics while governing a district, state or a country. And of course, it is hard work, just like most careers.

Of course, one cannot hold an office of profit while working for the government. I think it’s a fair proposition given that you’re helping run the country in some way or the other. (If you’re the PM, you are!) That requires a lot of focus. And you really don’t want a minister who runs a start-up focusing on AI or the next big thing in automation or worse, holds an Aggarwal Sweets franchise or (still) runs a tea stall!

Also, the above is only applicable when you’re actually holding an office because you are paid a salary for your services. Just like any other job. And if you’re not holding a position, like you’re a member of a political party but aren’t holding a position you can run your own business or service another organisation for a living.

We keep our friends and family away from political debates and avoid people who speak against the system let alone encouraging each other to be political in the real sense. Why? Because it’s a lot of work and it’s much easier to stay ignorant

That I agree. But how’s exactly is that helping us? And the country? If each of us feels this way then the only ones doing the “speaking” will be politicians. And look at what has that led to? Utter chaos!

I believe staying ignorant is akin to that fable about the boiling frog:

If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.

— Version of the story from Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B

Essentially, it is a choice. We can either choose to get our hands dirty or have it cut off.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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