Scene 1: You look at the time; it has been half an hour since you have been standing in line and there are still few people in front of you. A few minutes later, you finally get to your turn and out of nowhere, a man cuts the entire line, makes some polite small talks and casually slips his form to the office worker. At first, you think he works at the same office and is handing over an office-related document but you unmistakably see that it is the same form that you have in your hand.
Scene 2: You have spent the last few years working hard and sincerely to gain more experience and competency because you believe that it will all pay off in terms of both recognition and other such payoffs that come naturally under a world ruled by fairness and justice. The day of recognition finally comes and you are surprised to see that a candidate whom almost everyone unanimously agrees is incompetent is selected instead. Later, you find out that the candidate is the child of your boss’ close friend.
Scene 3: You are at a farewell dinner party organized by your friend who got offered a position to work abroad. You suddenly receive an urgent text message that you need to reply to and walk towards the backside of a tent to get some privacy, when you overhear two people chatting in the tent unaware of your presence on the other side: “So, how many can I expect to get? I am sure the transfer I made to your account must have helped mo?” Later you realize when you walk around towards the front that one of them is a political candidate.
The first scenario is at an individual level; the second, at an organizational level; and the third, at a national level. However, regardless of their potential to affect, all three practices arise from a common root: a blatant disregard for fairness and a flagrant abuse of power. These practices place the individual benefit over the social good and eventually produce citizens who believe that the system exists to serve whoever is in power to exploit it; not to serve everyone as equally and fairly as possible. It is due to this very mindset that we hear this most commonly uttered phrase, “Do you have someone you know there?”
In reality, why should a citizen have to know someone personally to avail a service that the government is supposed to provide to all Bhutanese?
Have we lost sight of greater values that concern the good of the nation? Isn’t democracy supposed to be a government for all of us?
Coupled with the selfish mindset is short-sightedness, the inability or the refusal to picture where the choices we make right now will lead us years down the road, beyond five years. Are we setting the right example for our future generations or are we living like Bhutan and her democracy will cease to be after five years? These questions should guide us in our thoughts and actions because our children and their children after them will inherit the systems we built and the culture we create. If we have the courage to ask these questions of ourselves and think about their consequences seriously, then most, with their tha-dam-tsi still intact, will come to very similar conclusions. We do not want to pass down systems where connections and favoritism serve as the guiding factor, whether at the hospital or the bank, the voting booth or the office. We all have a responsibility to be incorruptible in our thought, speech and action.
It is only if we allow ourselves to be guided by the fairness principle that we raise every citizen to betterment and build our confidence in our organizations and offices.
Employees will take pride in working at organizations that serve the entire nation with a clean conscience; promotions will be based on competency; positions will be offered due to capabilities; and processes will become transparent, innovative and trustworthy.
People will be in careers that genuinely interest them and be able to recognize the importance of the role they play within society. Once our conduct and systems are guided by the need to serve all, efficiency and effectiveness will improve in the services that are provided because everyone will benefit. If we are unsatisfied by a social good, we will work towards innovating solutions to solve the problem instead of being complacent and complaining. What greater good can we work towards than the benefit of all of our citizens? What greater service than to strive to realize the aspirations of our monarchs to build a vibrant democracy for ourselves?
Thus, it is crucial for us to recognize that the jump that one makes from favoring one’s own friend at the bank to favoring a family member for promotion, to finally selling one’s freedom and responsibility happens ever so slowly and unnoticeably over a period of time. It however also unnoticeably expands the tolerance for injustice and corruption within a culture to the point where one day we are all left shocked at the news of how millions of Ngultrum were misused and embezzled by our own citizen. These social ills develop over a long period of time and therefore, it is immature to believe that they can be solved in simply five years. However, what we can do is be self-reliant, think beyond five years, beyond self to create systems and government that will lead every single Bhutanese to betterment, contentment and happiness.