Idolizing Political Leaders: Are You a Supporter Or a Voter?

Here's what to not do when you're voting in this General Election!

With one day left to General Elections 2018, the political drama seems to be at an all-time high with Pakistanis taking their duty as responsible, democratic citizens quite seriously. By duty, this author, of course, refers to Pakistanis taking to social media to share pictures, memes, infographics and tweets that are meant to support their chosen political party and ridicule those who dare go against them.

After all, there can be no greater act of democracy than calling out those with a different opinion, labeling others as pseudo-intellectuals or worse, liberals, sharing pictures of Imran Khan caught from extremely flattering angles and saying ‘khaata hai tou lagata bhi tou hai na’ to every possible argument against Nawaz Sharif.

But wait. Is this what it means to be democratic? Are you supporting your favorite political party because you read their manifesto, are aware of who is contesting elections from your constituency, agree with the political leader’s stance on key issues faced by this country?

If you haven’t done all three, then this author regrets to inform you that you have fallen victim to political idolatry.

It was not particularly difficult to conclude that a lot of people in this country suffer from this affliction; when you interact with people from different backgrounds (both culturally and politically) on a daily basis, have seen your fair share of tweets from aforementioned political leaders and their ardent followers and above all, have to endure a fifty minute class of political science on alternate days in which the instructor spends half their time rolling their eyes when someone tries to defend their beloved leaders, you tend to arrive at the conclusion quite easily.

A large percentage of Pakistan’s youth relies on one man to save them from the unfairness of the system. He’s a philanthropist, they argue, look at the laurels he’s brought back to Pakistan. A rebel with fiery, passionate speeches and an excellent career in sports; only he can bring an end to the injustice we’ve faced for years. He can obviously do nothing wrong whether it be political or private. His policies are impeccable, his style flawless and he’s been blessed with natural good looks; only this charismatic man and his policies can bring change, they say, blindly supporting a man who is exactly like them and knows exactly how to manipulate their emotions.

It doesn’t matter that his promises for a new country are likely to be empty since there can be no change if the people bringing it about are the same who fought so hard against it in their own tenure previously.

And down on the other side of the spectrum lies the politician who has consistently been asking the nation to put their trust in his empty promises and his extensive experience in politics. It doesn’t matter if he’s been accused of corruption, hidden his assets from the people and it doesn’t matter that he continuously uses the red herring to distract us from his flaws. So what if he implemented one project in five full years; what about education, foreign policy, human rights, water, sewage? Politicians are meant to be corrupt and unequivocal; we tell our children with pride, it’s a necessary talent if you wish to run an entire nation. 

Now that I have (hopefully) triggered the supporters of both parties let us address the original question; how does this idol worship make you a supporter, not a true voter, you ask?

The answer is simple – when you allow yourself to be emotionally attached to a person, worst of all, a political leader, you blind yourself to their mistakes and shortcomings, because let’s face it, who wants to know about their hero’s dark side? Thus, attaching yourself to one leader because you admire the way they look or the way they talk is bound to stem from emotion rather than logic.

The next question that this author is subjected to is this: isn’t it good to trust your gut and make decisions based on passion rather than reason?

Well, not politically.

Democracy was a political system that the Greeks advocated for on the principle that all men are equally rational and are therefore capable of making decisions for the betterment of the entire society. When you blindly praise a leader because of your emotional attachment to him you’re sidelining all forms of rationality, and if that is the case then your decision isn’t a democratic decision at all!

If you continue to vote for political leaders based on the similarities you bear with them or their good looks or their oratory skills, what you’re essentially doing is electing a politician for your own benefit rather than carefully and logically examining what is good for the community.

Therefore, with each passing second that you spend idolizing your favorite political leader’s strategies and defending them even when they are quite obviously in the wrong, you are responsible for derailing the entire democratic system.

Surprise!

Fanaticism, dear readers, is unhealthy. You will see examples of it littering the history of civilization and yet you choose not to take clear evidence into account.

Most importantly, when you believe that a political leader can make no wrong move or mistake you’re setting an anti-democratic precedent in which a leader thinks that he will not be held accountable simply because he can make no error. Accountability is more important for a democracy to continue than any other factor and when you set this tradition yourself, you can’t really blame anyone else for the downfall of democracy in our country, can you?

Snap out of whatever spell has been cast on you by these politicians who emotionally manipulate you just to attain an authoritative position. Instead of chanting the same old political slogans over and over again (which frankly often reminds this author of Hitler and his idolizing fan club) try to rationally understand and analyze the political strategies of different politicians to arrive at a proper decision about what’s best for the country.

Stay woke, folks and when you go to cast your vote this time remember to leave your biases out of the ballot or be ready to face more political drama in the upcoming five years!

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