Public Office - Living in Glass Houses!


23.6.2009. To those in public office the glass house factor is more valid now than ever before. Values such as accountability, morals, community discipline and personality are under the microscope!

Every leader worth his salt can claim media popularity at its best and worst. The members of the media as acommunity commited to provide quality feeds fume about morality and would themselves like to be compared with the judiciary. The judiciary itself being the highest moral, legal authority second only to the assembly of national lawmakers nowadays find themselves having to fight in attempts to regain its waning glory. When elected leaders in a democracy come under peoples' scrutitny, who is to be held accountable for truth? The lawmaker or the law? How much of truth is forthcoming unqualified with embellishments and parentheses? Are the sources trustworthy anymore and are the reporters committed to verifiable validity or simply comply what the media boss dictates?

It is time to realize the power of the mew emerging media such as the Internet. Publishing has now become within common man's reach. In spite of the Internet's common complaint being lack of overall regulation, the policing is done best if left to the users themselves. Completely in the hands of the people worldwide and completely unfettered, the new media has a lot to play the role of independent observers, commentators, opinion aggregators as well as influencers in quality and quantity! Technology seems to work in concert with the masses towards a stage where everyone has the right to know and can, with the help of the best of tools everyone can easily access, comment, criticize and mobilise waves of public opinion reflecting truth in its near real state.

A weak monsoon makes landfall in Kerala

Citizen journalism and citizen journalists have major roles to play. Every man or woman has the opportunity to become a journalist. They need not be news stringers as such as they can be opinion aggregators and commentators on many an issue begging attention. Issues the local authorities try to prolong or hide at worst will find nagging attention drawn into limelight by ordinary citizens like you and me but now empowered with new tools mightier than the pen and paper. The powers that be cannot hide behind excuses any more. Those who were voted to office by ballot have to really prove their worth in action and speech vouched by hard facts.

Events leading to the current democratic tragedy unfolding in Kerala testifies the sad state the lawmakers have landed the citizenry into. Simple candid expalanations have vanished giving way to legal jugglery and mere “poli-tricking” where each defendent becomes belligerently offensive with th result of confusing the people. There is now scant regard for Churchill's 'little man' at the ballot. The little man is again and again belittled in broad daylight. The little man is served with tall tales of fire and fury of the lawmakers careers defending his voters, but the credibility of such yarn is fast disappearing among the community of little men, themselves becoming a vocal minority whose voices never heard above the mean and meaningless din!

We have ethics, morals, political organisational values and good character in the dock. The people are beginning to lose patience and faith in the very system and values they stood for in their erstwhile 'democratic' ways. Senior office bearers in the CPI(M) try to play Ceasar trying to balance mutiny and discipline by wielding their powers of discretion. It is a pity that the reputations of founding fathers of a great social movement that helped bring about a few significant social reforms that even motivated the late prime minister Mrs.Gandhi to adopt some of her own policies to better improve commonman's plight along socialist lines, have been maligned. There is a general lack of interest to bring up cadres of young leadership to the upper levels of responsibility, probably for fear of loss of discretion?

Apart from the seasaw swings of political governance the people of Kerala are accustomed to every five years, the current governing cabinet in the state is conducing themselves in utter disregard to public sentiments on every shard of values of democratic decency. In short, people who live in glass houses should undress in the dark! Unfortunately this too does not seem to be working as we live in a democracy of sorts! A reminder on freedom of expression and the current media. The media is often accused of being or fomenting and acting as a 'syndicate'.

It is common for human beings to form friendships as relationships develop between the journalist and the men in public office. Public figures are entirely accountable for the statements they make in public, but a lot more statements exchange between the public men and the fourth estate in not so public environs! The difficulity in accreditation and memberships to elite social 'tribal hangouts' ensure that only journalists with the right sponsorships and connections are admitted. The bottom line to Churchill's 'little man'? To quote Thomas Jefferson: “Our citizens may be deceived for a while, and have been deceived; but for as long as the presses can be protected we may trust to them for light.” But the very trust that should be magisterially transparent and dharmic has deteriorated into a nexus between Public Office and corporate Media, save a few. So the allegation of 'media syndicate' formation cannot be entirely erased without reason.

While the author is only reflecting the local Kerala socio-political weather, it is high time for the world Keralite community to be informed with the provision to comment and write back. The very title banner of this website created a hesitant start. People did not realize that today it was someone else's leg in the pothole on the public pavement, tomorrow it could be yours, quite literally!

“The most effectual engines for pacifying a nation are the public papers…A despotic government always keeps a kind of standing army of news writers who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, invent and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.” – Thomas Jefferson (1816). His words prove too prophetically fearsome today. Is it not more appropriate the Internet is more the relevant space than the 'public papers' the then best existing alternative?People of Kerala, do wake up to realities and participate in active forums of discussions on how we can set right public office and bring the sheen back to the values that have been tarnished by the weak and the cowardly.

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