Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly 3 February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

The price of ignorance

“ Every nation has the government it deserves.” This quotation, as you know, does not come from me. Nor was it uttered yesterday. The famous aphorism was written by Joseph de Maistre as far back as 1811 and was later enriched by Alexandre Lacassagne’s statement that “ every society has the criminals it deserves and Robert Kennedy’s response “ every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” Having followed the debate on electoral reform, more specifi cally the Best Loser System, the suggestions made and the knee- jerk reactions; having woken up to the harsh reality which, in fact, most of us were not asleep to and discovered the ugly turn the debate has taken, we cannot help but think that every society has the electoral system it deserves and that reform can move no faster than our education.

We have for years been terribly busy trying to build a perfect image to portray to the outside world: a postcard of a rainbow nation made up of different communities who get on so well with each other in spite of our differences. We pray to the same god in our different ways, we boast. We have been hugging to ourselves the idea that we respect each other when other nations only tolerate each other. And we peddled the tale long enough to start believing in it.

Every now and then, we come face to face with the reality we try to systematically brush under the carpet. And we are not talking here about the collective confl icts in our history like the Kaya episode, the Azaan saga, the methadone distribution heavy- handedness… We are talking about the individual incidents in our lives when we are faced with the choices our siblings make for their lives, the few and repeated ‘ slips of the tongue’ we are guilty of, the tribal reactions we have, the attitude of superiority we adopt vis- à- vis other communities and other parts of our society. These make us see into ourselves and we realize that we are a society which has not evolved historically; a society where people still think they are superior or more deserving by their mere birth.

When looked at rationally, the Best Loser System, as everybody knows by now, favours no community and safeguards the interests of none. Those who are campaigning for maintaining it are intelligent enough to look at the statistics and the historical facts surrounding it. The reason that we are having such heated debate about such a trivial issue is proof enough that, once you scratch the veneer, the so- called rainbow nation is made up of people who are not united under the same fl ag but rather under the same “ noubanism” . And we are ALL guilty! The fears and apprehensions on the one hand and the outrage and incomprehension on the other are all proof of that.

What does it take to make us a nation? A bit more education in the real sense of the term. The kind which racism and communalism cannot obliterate. And hope. Hope that our children grow up with minds which are more open than ours. Right now, we are hammering on a cold iron. We should perhaps come to terms with the fact that we are probably not ready for electoral reform yet.

“ If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” Derek Bok, said.

That’s what we are paying for today. Our birth complexes are due to our ignorance.

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