Cross posted from The Pakistani Spectator:
Hello to Pakistan
Shortly after that interesting interview, TPS asked me to write something about their upcoming elections.
What in the world could I possibly have to say about elections in a country about which I knew almost nothing? What words of wisdom could this particular American blogger, who has no understanding of the different parties or candidates involved, offer to readers in Pakistan on the eve of one of their most important elections?
At first the idea seemed ridiculous.
But then, the more I thought about it, it occurred to me that we must, after all, have something to say about this crazy democratic system that we both share...
Hello again to my new friends at The Pakistani Spectator –
I have been asked to write a few words about your very crucial election there on the 18th of February. This is of course a very difficult assignment for me, in that I know next to nothing about Pakistan’s internal affairs or of your complicated political scene. I also feel that about the last thing you need right now is anyone from America chiming in with their opinions about your complex country or your present elections. So I just won’t talk about any of that.
But perhaps I can talk about what we say to each other about our own election process, and about this volatile and contentious system we share called Democracy. Here’s what we tell each other:
First of all, get out there and vote. If you don’t vote then you don’t have any right to complain about how things are being run. You’ve chosen to opt out of the system, so your complaints no longer have validity. Also, if your candidate or your party loses an election — and someone always does — then learn to live with it. That’s democracy in action. Learn from your defeat. Learn what it is about your message that just isn’t resonating with enough people, or is perhaps being totally rejected. But as much as you might disagree with the elections results, they do after all hopefully represent the voice of the people and you must honor that voice. And we must then put aside our partisan differences and all work together as a UNITED States of America.
Well, it sounds good, doesn’t it?
But, as any of you who have been following American politics lately well know, these ideals are seldom attained. Bitter political feuds still go on, political rivalries still continue and losers seldom just give up their battles and accept defeat graciously and quietly exit the stage.
But, nonetheless, these are our cherished ideals. And despite the fact that we seldom adhere to them, seldom get it completely right, and that nasty partisan wrangling goes on and on and becomes more and more vocal –
OUR DEMOCRACY THRIVES. It works. Cumbersome as it is, as contentious as it can be, it works. There are no coups, no bloody uprisings, no revolutions — not yet, anyway. But there are a lot af angry debates and passionate arguments. And that, it seems, is what it’s all about.
To a lot of us here, our democratic process is similar in a lot of ways to our jury system. It’s not perfect. There are loopholes and flaws. Sometime guilty people get away with murder, and sometimes the innocent suffer. Sometimes corruption and greed are busy at work behind the scenes, and sometimes we can get quite cynical and discouraged about these flagrant abuses of this system of ours.
But, despite it obvious shortcomings, it is still simply the best system out there. It is the best system yet devised to attempt to build a just society. And, somehow, it seems to work.
And this, my new friends, is how I feel about democracy.
Don’t lose hope. Don’t allow those inevitable abuses of the system to destroy the system. In short, participate and vote.
And this particular American wishes you great success in your democratic elections; may the results bring you closer to national — and international peace and harmony.
You have my very best wishes,
Comments transposted from TPS:
Wasim Jamal on February 17th, 2008 :
Now that is, Sir, a great post. Worth of weighing in Gold.
Rubab on February 17th, 2008 :
No Roger, you are not chiming in and you are not imposing. We need voices, millions of voices, billions of voices to remind us passionately as what exactly we should be doing in cluster of nations. We need to be told about the working examples of democracy in the world.
Khalid Tareen on February 17th, 2008 :
But Gardner the ground realities are different in US and Pakistan. Same differences one expects to be deduce in a developed and a developing country. Do you have “Biradari system” in US? I guess not. Though you would find some article on Biradari system on TPS, let me tell you what it is.
Pakistan’s major vote bank is in rural areas (80% almost), these rural areas are divided on fraternity lines, and no matter what, a villager would always vote for the candidate from his fraternity. These voters dont see the parties, they dont care about national and international issues because they dont know about it, they rabidly follow their fraternity.
When that is the case, how would anyone expects a real democracy here.
Farzana Mir on February 17th, 2008 :
But Khalid, things are changing pretty fast. Those times are passing by pretty fast when fraternity or Biradari was everything. Now people are more aware and more informed, though still a long way has to be traversed, and yes education is the key.
Roger Gardner on February 17th, 2008 :
I cannot thank you all enough for your warm and welcoming comments. It would be so easy to make a fool out of myself here in your world. That thought almost kept me from responding to that gracious offer to write something about your elections. Who in the world am I to write something about your elections? I know next to nothing about your country. But now I am glad I overcame my hesitancy and finally worked up the courage to write something to you about these critical times of yours.
You see, my friend Khalid, I have already learned something from you. I had never even heard of the Biradari system. But now, thanks to you taking the time to respond to my little essay, I have heard of the Biradari system. I have learned something new. You see, Khalid, this is why I’m willing to make a fool out of myself. I truly want to talk with you and to listen. And I am willing to learn.
I hope this day marks the beginning of a new and lasting friendship.
Saleem on February 17th, 2008 :
Your post is nice. Problem with us is this that majority of Pakistanis are illiterate and they can’t select the right party to vote. Educated people hardly go to cast their votes. They only sits in front of TV and see election results. How we can bring good and sincere people in our assemblies? A middle man can’t even think to contest in elections because average expenditure for contesting in election is more than $165,000 i.e approximately 10Million Rupees. Can you believe that people even not attends election speeches if that person is not offering lunch or dinner after speech. We are basically real culprits but every body blames others. We are greedy, short cutters, unreliable, unfaithful etc etc. No values have been left in our Pakistani people. I’m not calling ourself a Nation because we are like heard of sheep and shepherd is Army. Army has stick and we obeys them fully. We stands up even in offices when person introduce himself as ‘I’m Major this and this” or “I’m Brigadier this and this”. We are the culprits who have taught Army Officers that how to rule on us.
Why we always blames Government. Are we so much brave that can change system. Answer is NO and NOT AT ALL. I’m pretty sure that one day this whole structure will collapse like day of judgment. May that day come early.
Dear, I heart cries a lot when I see a hungry boy begging for single ROTI (Bread Piece) but we kicks on his Ass by saying get lost. on other hand we spends thousands of Rupees on single meal. Are we not responsible for all this? We are. We earns thousands ans thousands each month but we cant give few Rupees to poor people. Is this what our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told us. Is this our religion tell us.
Sorry, You will not laughing on me because its also very common in Pakistan literate society that when anybody talks like this that we say “Dont get serious dear” “Why you gets so sensitive” etc etc. means we not even considers these issues in our life.
We all comes on line to express but how many dares to support poor or tried to change people minds livings around them.
Any way may Allah put us on right track and give us courage to help others and change system for better future.
Snooper on February 17th, 2008 :
Well said, as usual, Roger.
To our new found friends in Pakistan, Democracy, or a Republic is difficult to achieve and then even harder to maintain when politicians “forget” what they were elected to do.
Always keep the prize of Freedom in the fore and keep a stiff upper lip, as it were.
Roger Gardner on February 17th, 2008 :
Dear Saleem, thank you for your moving and sincerely passionate response. You obviously care deeply about your people or you wouldn’t be so upset. Please don’t believe that your people are all that unique. If you read just a little about the history of American politics, it’s a wonder our democracy ever survived at all. From the earliest days we have had our political tyrants, our Boss Tweeds and our rabble-rousing, charismatic political charlatans. We’ve been plagued by scandals and dozens of Teapot Dome excesses. We have even survived our own occasional bouts of voter apathy.
You don’t honestly believe that your people hold the record for selfishness in this world, do you? Isn’t this actually an all-too-human trait that pervades every society in this world, whether, “developed’ or “developing”. Isn’t this a human trait that you and I have to fight within ourselves for all of our lives.
To me, my friend Saleem, it is as big a mistake to think of yourself — or your people — as uniquely selfish or ignorant as it is to believe that they are somehow uniquely superior.
I think our American democracy survived all of these grueling tests because, no matter how tarnished it may have become by human weaknesses, we never abandoned the dream. We stuck with it. We stuck with it because we believed in it.
And we still do.
Please don’t abandon your dream. We haven’t yet.
Thank you for your passion, Saleem.
It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Churchill's Parrot on February 17th, 2008 :
This is a most inspiring exchange. Roger, you are a ray of sunlight for liberty lovers across the globe!
People of Pakistan - our hopes and prayers are with you. May you find your path to Liberty and know well her many fruits!
Talal Hussain Malik on February 17th, 2008 :
Great write up there Roger and for your wishes for the down trodden nation yearning to get a truly democratic government. Definitely, we as a nation cannot change overnight. Our common lot is uneducated, the Biradri system will still take some time before it is finally abolished. Elections in Pakistan have, perhaps, never been free of rigging and this time the rigging might be even greater. But hope prevails, there’s a day after every night, lets hope we make it through this night after these Elections.
Susan Duclos on February 17th, 2008 :
Well said Rogerguy and happy to see people recognizing your wonderful writing.
Susan Duclos on February 17th, 2008 :
Saleem said: Your post is nice. Problem with us is this that majority of Pakistanis are illiterate and they can’t select the right party to vote.
Saleem, take it from an American here, we have had that same problem…just look at Jimmy Carter!!!
It takes time Saleem and even then there is constant criticism from one faction because in politics, a good idea will not be recognized unless it comes from “your party”.
Pakistan is no different and I hope you understand that each country progresses at a rate appropriate for them, even if many wish it would come sooner.
As Rogerguy said, don’t give up hope…fight from within to make your country what you want it to be.