If we want to make our democracy meaningful and relevant, our political conversation will have to be meaningful and relevant.

Democracy should be about the competition of ideas – ideas to make our country better. But our political conversation is a far cry from that.

The pervading tenor of conversation behind closed doors in social media rooms are quite concerning. It is not serious, not worthwhile, and lacks a sense of purpose. The voices appear born out of mere contrarian disposition than strong moral conviction. Often, the conversation appears to be driven by a cynical political attitude and narrow calculations. This is unhealthy and the earlier we nip it in the bud, the better.

At times the conversation is even toxic. Such a conversational culture will only serve as a fertile ground for cynicism to grow, which in turn will fuel the growing electoral apathy. At this rate, we will turn our democracy on its head.

Our political conversation seems to be obscured by our penchant for bloviation, bluster and belligerence, reducing our political contest to a mere shouting match where “sharchops” are pitted against “ngalops” and “zhungyops” against “minaps.” And a map of Bhutan that shows division along party lines is not at all helpful. Such a map should never have been produced.

Many say party workers peddling propaganda, raising unfounded fear and misleading people about electoral processes has been a factor in rise of such unhealthy conversational culture. If this bears any truth, then the role of party workers and how they can contribute to or hurt the progress of our democracy needs to be questioned. Perhaps future voter education on electoral processes could focus on such democratic nuisance.

The conversation we should have is not difficult. Our political ideologies are four shades of grey, lacking a veritable variation of ideological taste. Perhaps, that is a blessing in disguise for it gives us an opportunity to focus on basic issues that matter the most to our people than getting ourselves entangled in a whirling vortex of Left-Right debate without any positive outcomes.

Yes, there will be disagreements. Yes, the conversations will have be robust. Yes, there will be passions flaring. But we will have to be respectful. We will have to be reasonable. And it does not have to be a blood sport. It does not have to be mean. It does not have to be petty. And we do not have to doubt the other person’s patriotism. We need to engage in a conversation that we can relish.

But how do we do it?

Some degree of seriousness in our political conversation is warranted.

When we say our conversation needs to be serious, it means our exchanges will need to be thought about carefully, dealing about issues in a careful and sensible way. When we say we have to make our conversation serious, we need to acknowledge that the conversation we are having is an important one for it is significant and worrying because it has great effect on our people. Being too cavalier in this conversation carries the potential danger and risk to the quality of our national polity, not to mention the potential harm to our national sovereignty.

Our political conversation needs to be worthwhile.

We spend a huge amount of time, money and effort in the run up to our elections. But is it worthwhile if all we are doing is bending the truth, issuing motherhood statements, exchanging cheap rhetoric, shooting hurtful blowouts, and sowing division?

Our political conversation needs to have a clear sense of purpose.

It needs to question the intention, aim and function of our politics. It needs to question the intention, aim and function of the conversation itself. It needs to question what is important to us and what is valuable to us.

Serious, worthwhile and a clear sense of purpose – that is how our political conversation should be for it to be meaningful. And if we can make our conversation meaningful, then relevancy slips in as a natural corollary.

Relevant conversation carries ideas that are valuable and useful to people in their lives. We debate about how best we can solve our youth unemployment concerns. We debate about improving the quality of our education. We debate about how best we can help our folks achieve a certain standard of living and make them hopeful of their kids being able to take a decent shot at life.

Making our political conversation meaningful and relevant will reveal more of our oneness and will only help it grow and strengthen. But for that to happen we have to harness the ability to see ourselves in everyone and everyone in ourselves, inspiring one another, not disparaging one another. We need to harness the ability to see our individual well-being in our national well-being and vice versa. We need to harness the wisdom to appreciate that political parties may win or lose and politicians may come and go, but our national oneness must endure and thrive. We need to harness the ability to understand that there are certain values that transcend politics, and that we must never compromise them for political gains.

There are know-it-alls and wiseacres who will write about anything they like. It is our job to find the truth and accordingly react, and not sell your soul to the devil. If anything will divide us, it will be how we react to what we are all given to see, read and hear. If anything will divide us, it will be our gullibility.

After the rough election waves ebb away, we will find ourselves in the same boat. We are all Drukpas first. We all carry the same aspirations for a more prosperous Drukyul. Our political disagreements should not divide us. We should instead take advantage of it to strengthen our oneness. We should focus on making our political conversation meaning and relevant. It is in our best interest to do so.


Contributed by 

Dorji Tshering

He lives and works in Australia