Raouf Rasool

Finding meaning in meaningless political speeches

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It is ‘promise time’. With elections round the corner, people are being treated to a whole lot of promises and pledges – that ‘if you vote us to power we will bring you moon and stars!’ And every single group is doing it these days. Some are seeking support on the basis of what they claim they have done for the people in their previous stints while others are asking for support at the back of promises they are making now. There are yet others who have not tasted power so far, but they too are trying to woo people by promising them ‘change’ and what not.

Remember that old story of a man who converts to Catholicism and decides to emulate as far as possible the life of a saint -- St. Francis of Assisi. Filled with the zeal of a convert, he withdrew his life’s savings from the bank and took this money out in $5 notes (bills). Armed with his bundle of $5 notes, he went down to the poorest section of New York City, and every time a needy looking man or woman passed by him he would step up and say, “Please take this”. According to a ‘New York Times’, report, this gentleman attempting to “live a Christian life” and emulate St. Francis Assisi could do so for only forty minutes before being arrested by a Christian police officer, driven to Christian hospital by a Christian ambulance doctor, and pronounced ‘non compos mentis’ by a Christian psychiatrist.  A person who was only trying to be a good and kind human-being, being described as “not of sound mind” and thrust inside a psychiatric hospital, serves a very important lesson in communication -- that even kindness is beyond the experience of a kindness-professing-but-not-practicing population.

This is exactly what happens here when common people are bombarded with huge claims and boastful assertions by the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party and Congress and others. Since the claims that regularly dot the political speeches of political leaders as well as their promises of public good and welfare and beyond the experience of common masses, these speeches are no better than verbal garbage for most of the people here. Like the New York’s Catholic convert, whenever these political leaders try and approach common masses in a moralistic way, it is outside their experience. People may no doubt attend public meetings and listen to or read their political speeches, at least to see what their morality-professing-but-not-practicing political leaders have said, but in reality they simply brush them aside, virtually telling themselves: “Ah, the man is nuts, he thinks he can fool us like this all the time…!”

Not a single day passes without the mainstream politicians virtually begging for support, although they do so with such a visible arrogance that one gets a feeling that they have taken people way too for granted. While some have made so-called ‘Kashmiriyat’ subservient to their own political survival, others claim that people’s welfare and dignity and honour are closely linked to a particular group’s political survival. So looking at the political speeches which are growing shriller by the day, one gets a feeling of brazen public display of political gimmickry and debauchery.

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