Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Curse of the Politician.

A politician has to be religious. He must serve with zealous faith and have a heart of worship. His political shrine consists of three deities. His triune gods are equality, democracy and meritocracy. They are the gods he pays tribute to in the hope that they will bless him with a successful term or two. He must serve them faithfully. He is their bond servant. He was bought with a price. And once lost (in anonymity), he's now found.

The bad news is that his gods are typically capricious with wild mood swings. And they can't get along with each other either. They generally don't operate on the same rules. Equality and meritocracy hate each other's guts. They can't last a minute sharing the same space together without breaking out into an infernal tempest.

You see, meritocracy is about, well, merits. And equality is about, well, equals. So, in a world of diverse skills, talents, and genes, even looks, nothing based on merits is ever equal. For every leader, there are hundreds of followers. For every corporate innovator, there are thousands of employees. And for every government, there are millions to govern.  Show me a world that is equal in every way and I will show you a world that is monoculturally bland, lame even.

In other words, in the university of diversity, the bell curve distribution is, well, curved. It is not flat or undifferentiated. It is not uniformed. It's diverse for god's sake.

So the deities just don't play well together. Whether equality likes it or not, meritocracy will always be the pain in its derrière. In the end, whatever good intentions, meritocracy's Calvary road is not only tough but limited with this Calvinist tag: Many are called but few are chosen or elected. Quite unavoidably, the majority - for whatever genetic, socioeconomic or personal reasons - will be left behind while the gifted/privileged few will race forward.

And as the gap widens, equality will be eating the dust left behind by meritocracy. Yet, which deity has the last laugh is anyone's guess because what equality lacks in merit, he makes up for it in numbers. In any society, those left behind are always simmering in the majority. Equality therefore has its divine numerical strength. It is the other 99%.

Not to be outshined, meritocracy is not without its divine assistances like the high walls of elitism and the delusion of promised hope. Alas, the petty squabbles between the deities are simply endless. As such, the devout politician walks a tightrope overlooking a precarious chasm of insatiable demands and wants. The poor man is torn between worshipping equality to the ire of meritocracy and kowtowing to meritocracy to the wrath of equality. The politician is therefore seldom at peace with himself even though instilling peace would normally be the job of the triune gods in return for his regular worship.

But then, I have deliberately left out the other God in the triune complex. He is democracy. Regardless, the hapless politician would be a fool to count on him to settle the eternal disputes between equality and meritocracy. Among the three gods, democracy is the weakest of them all. He is a crowd-pleaser and he blows hot and cold. His divine repertoire is limited and his reach is short.

The earnest politician who prays to him can only keep the rage of the other two deities at bay. It is just a matter of time before the levee breaks and the floodgates open to create havoc in the politician's world. You see, democracy acts as an umpire of the other two deities but he is easily swayed by them. His divine power is supposedly fairness at the ballot box but what is fair is mostly about who has the deepest pockets. And when it comes to having the deepest pockets, meritocracy has deity friends rallying in support.

His buddy is none other than capitalism. This is one deity-friend who is debonair and flashy. He hires democracy to do his bidding. He tempts him with heavenly currencies. Democracy is often a sucker for anything that glitters. His knees buckle at the sight of material fortune.

But equality is not without deity friends of his own. He is not without the pull of charisma like meritocracy. Equality used to ride high on the back of communism and socialism to sway votes. But now, after the end of history, they are too tainted and loaded to be of any assistance. So, to force the hand of democracy, equality appeals to his heart - a heart that is laden by idealism. And at the heart of this idealism is egalitarianism, liberalism and human decency.

In terms of touted rightness, however pretentious that may be, equality always charms his way with democracy. It is like a child tugging at the heartstring of his mother with a helpless pout. Meritocracy just doesn't have that charm; that warm human touch. He may shower pecuniary gifts but only equality moves heart.

Yet, notwithstanding of the divine arsenals at the disposal of equality and meritocracy, the winner of the two is never clear-cut or permanent. Their clashes are rather indissoluble and endless.

As such, the religious politician is at the mercy of the triune gods, in particular, equality and meritocracy. He is always being played out by either one or the other. And his invocation for democracy's intervention is as effective as trying to drown a fish in water. It is for this reason that the devout politician is both disillusioned and jaded with all three of his divine idols.

Meritocracy sabotages him with social isolation by kicking the ladder off once it reaches the top. Equality screws him up by expecting so much more than he can offer. And the soul of democracy invariably goes to the highest bidder. This is the curse of the politician and it is a curse that often drives him to be a closet political atheist.

Ironically, he will soon find out that paying lip-service to the triune gods and playing religion between them, while secretly serving his own interests by doing what it takes for self preservation, is the best Pascal's bet he has to secure a place in that promised land of eternal bliss. Cheerz.

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