Uncle Ben’s iconic words to Peter Parker aka Spiderman “with great power comes great responsibility” have transitioned into an oft-heard axiom about those in power and the burden of responsibility said power comes bundled with. The words especially ring truer in a democratic setting where it is absolutely vital for bestowed authority to be congruent with its own accountability in the same vein as those affected by it.
Being the cornerstone of democracy, power-holders are fundamentally responsible for protecting the public interest, upholding the law, providing affordable healthcare and education, and regulating business to ensure economic vigour. By wielding authority to make policy and implement will, power brokers don’t just shoot for the welfare of the populace, they also set forth a vision for the future – a make or break paradigm for the nation they rule over.
Although the responsibilities of the leadership to the political machinery are undeniably vital, it is still only one-half of the proverbial political landscape.
If the government forms the brain of the national entity, then surely it is us denizens who form the spine that supports the country’s body enabling it to make informed decisions about its wellbeing. We form the very medium through which the true interest of the country can be discerned and a vision for the future charted. Subtract the supporting structure and the body crumbles. This begs the question: If the citizen’s role is central to a country’s evolution, then why is it that every time turmoil strikes, we choose to let the leadership take center stage under the critical spotlight, while our own introspection takes a convenient backseat?
The political dynamic of our country, for instance, gives further context to the above statement. Even though politics serves as the steering wheel of our nation’s future, we choose to turn a blind eye to its significance by simply dismissing it as the ‘dirty game’. That’s until election season dawns upon us. With no meaningful insights developed to comprehend the economic and foreign policy precedents of the previous government, and what they mean for us collectively as a nation, we vote for rhetoric that most appeals to our hearts than our minds during campaign season. As a result, we elect the most lethargic, unqualified individuals to govern our masses, and therefore we get what we ask for. We hope for winning outcomes by relying on off-springs of well-known political dynasties next in line to inherit the throne, or smooth-talking populists without accounting for the skills, experience, and transparency of the frontrunner for making complex decisions pertaining to matters of public policy and national interest.
Yes, there is a revolving door between the most powerful and the most influential government positions; yes, absolute power corrupts absolutely… but any attempts to conceal our own ugly face under the garb of government corruption or bureaucratic malpractice will only register as hypocrisy.
The same callousness trickles down to other significant aspects of our lives where we don’t fare any well either. Take the horrific crime of honour killing.
Despite there being comprehensive laws now in place to protect women against harm, honour killing continues to be a morally indispensable notion in several regions of our country, primarily because it is us people who think of women as our own personal property that can be readily disposed of if it means satisfying some misplaced sense of honour.
Countless paradoxes as those make it imperative for us citizens to differentiate between the responsibilities of the government and our civic duty as citizens of the state.
Bad governance of all past regimes of Pakistan – civil or military – notwithstanding, but have we as citizens been truly diligent in reforming our community?
Have we the people progressed to a point where we can shun taboos and understand the importance of a pluralistic society where everyone is free to practice their faith (or lack thereof) without the fear of getting labelled?
Have we the people evolved to a point where we don’t lynch dissenting students for their views to ensure a more inclusive culture?
Have we the people finally come to the realisation that our children belong in school, not in workforce?
Have we the people learned to maintain road decorum and not endanger the lives of other commuters just to gain two seconds on the clock?
Have we the people stopped littering our streets or wasting copious amounts of fresh water to ensure a more promising future?
Although it is pertinent to point fingers at an inept government or a corrupt leader, it is common for us to lose sight of our own actions during our unyielding critiques. Yes, there is a revolving door between the most powerful and the most influential government positions; yes, absolute power corrupts absolutely; yes, it is worrisome that our leaders are more concerned about their vested interests than reforming law and policy, but any attempts to conceal our own ugly face under the garb of government corruption or bureaucratic malpractice will only register as hypocrisy.