Politicos, sports heroes and “the people’s will”

In the good old days, elections – like cricket matches – were won or lost… Today, however, we find that an amorphous phenomenon by the misnomer of “the people’s will” has replaced mere victory.

So, when politicos win at the polls, “the people’s will” has been done – irrespective of whether the margin was hollow or convincing. In addition, when pop stars get into parliament or sporting heroes are picked for the national squad, “the people’s will” is said to have been done – leave aside for the nonce that the pop stars are not so popular anyway, and that the athletes are hardly sporting.

And not to be outdone, on the rare occasion when present-day politicos who were also once sporting heroes look like they will keep their place in the Sri Lankan team until kingdom come (or 2011, whichever comes first), “the people’s will” is not only done, but seen to be undone. Especially when one unsporting anti-hero’s antics threaten to leave a generation of talented young hopefuls out in the cold…

But there’s a sucker born every minute. The people will (pun intended) swallow anything these days, it seems. Provided that the bitter pill is couched in the jargon of pseudo-patriotism that puts development ahead of devolution, demagoguery before democracy, and defiance of the world in front of decency by what those at home feel to be just and fair and good and true.

Also, the people will nod wisely, shake their heads sadly, and grit their thirty-two – if it is only too evident that in the greater scheme of things, in the wider arena of politics and sports, in the circle of life that spans the gap from the emerging leadership of the Global South to the emergent sportsmanship of the Deep South, that flattery is the food of fools and that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or, not to put too fine a point on it, that small fry swim surely in the wake of the big fish…

It is precisely this spirit that enables the great white sharks who win elections by virtue of half the punters staying at home to say that the people’s will is that they not only stay in power but also go on forever. It is the same zeitgeist that prompts aspiring young (um, youthful) politicos to play the game to similar rules and pontificate that it is the people’s will that they, er, play the game until the close of play. It is also exactly a worldview such as this which permits – nay, encourages – police top brass, for example, to share their fond hopes of becoming the people’s representatives by dint of mobile carnivals (ah, caravans) whereby the coppers will come to the people. Because it is the people’s will that the police be more accessible to the masses.

But no mention of cleansing the Augean stable of corruption; better training and more motivation for PC Goon and Constable Plod; or extricating the senior rozzers, tozzers, and sloshers from the arms of drug barons, petty Caesars, and common criminals with friends in high places – all of which keep the constabulary at arm’s length from the people they were meant to serve. Common sense sleeps with the fishes…

Now don’t get us wrong, dear. We are all in favour of the people’s will – we welcome electors who form an orderly queue of one or two at the polling booth, as well as those who vote with their feet. The problem arises when it is only the mediocre – be they ministering angels or cricketing devils – who invoke popular volition to safeguard and sanctify their positions and continuance in power.

That the power hungry also pull the demographic rabbit out of their hidden-agenda hats to consolidate their respective places in the sun is no new thing. But it is a sad day for the people, from whose very bosom their clay-footed demigods sprang, when their sporting heroes demonstrate the axiom that the gods, too, have feet of clay, hearts that hunger and thirst not for righteousness but fame and glory, and minds like Croesus. That’s rich, eh?

So here’s hoping, then, that when it comes to the people’s will… that if our gods fail; our elected rulers don’t deliver, and yet expect our silent support for self-serving constitutional change; and the creepy, crawly, sycophants who prop up the false deities of peace without justice and progress without equitable prosperity demand our vote – why, then, the people won’t…

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