AJK vote and rhetoric

“When the head is rotten, it affects the entire body,” was something the head of one ‘brotherly’ nation once said about our own head of state at the time. While it may have been said in a certain context at the time – and considering the source, might even be considered racist – it is a statement that for one reason or another our leaders and politicians seem hell bent on proving true.

Take the case of the rhetoric being flung around by all political parties involved in electioneering in Azad Jammu and Kashmir where polling is being held on July 25 (tomorrow) to elect a 53-member assembly for a five-year term. The level to which our political discourse (if it can even be called that) descends to puts even rowdy schoolyard and street arguments to shame. But sadly, in our country this no longer feels a surprise. Our leaders perhaps understand that it takes more effort to engage in a debate of ideas. It is much much easier to hurl abuses and accusations at the opponents while dodging what is hurled back.

For the public, as the aforementioned quote implies, this sets a strong if regrettable example. On the one hand, if our leaders and representatives cannot even retain the most basic of etiquette for each other, then it’s only natural that they hold no respect for those they jostle to govern. Time and time again these same leaders, regardless of party affiliation, have been found lacking in situations that call for empathy and respect. On the other hand, this behaviour also sets the tone for what is acceptable in social interaction. If politicians can get where they want by bullying, rudeness and being inconsiderate, then surely the average person can too.

And so, we end up engineering a society that loses any respect for basic human dignity. The ‘monsters’ above beget ‘monsters’ below. Those who do retain some decency are seen as ‘weak’ or ‘foolish’. Leaving the negatives, let us imagine the opposite. Across class lines, this is one of the reasons why most of us wish to leave our own nation behind and settle elsewhere. We may or may not get much else, but a culture of mutual respect sure sounds refreshing.

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