Friday, January 14, 2011

The Servant Paradox: The benefits the People’s Doctor, the People's Teacher, and the People's Representatives


Africa has always been a poor and unstable region with reputations of dangerous political games. The reason is if you enter politics in Africa, you must enter with your whole life, because it is a ‘do or die’ contest. In political science, when reading game theory, you will come across the zero-sum game. In the zero-sum game the winner takes all, and the loser takes none. This is the style of politics in Africa. The fortune of winning an electoral office in an African country, like Liberia, exposes you to many benefits even out of your scope of duties. First you have a constitutional cover that protects you even if you flout public rule. Second, the country’s resources are at your disposal. With only the politicians having unfettered access to their country’s natural resources and the financial returns from those resources, the stakes for political seats will always be very too high. This is why we can see a real rush and plethora of candidates vying for electoral seats in Liberia as we go to the next general and presidential elections.

This edition of the series looks at the benefits the people’s teachers have while in the classroom making future leaders and servants, and the doctors while in the hospitals saving lives as compared to the benefits of those who represents the people in the Legislature makes. Do they do the same work? The man who teaches, the man who saves lives, and the man who makes the law - who lives the better life? These are the questions we seek to answer here, and ultimately we can determine while everybody is petitioning some people to petition him/her for a legislative seat.

The paradox here is that the people who are always in hurry and very busy making society to function are paid less and less cared-for by the governing authority, while the people who make laws for society, make a budget and determine their own salary, work just for two days a week in six months, and take a six months leisure break, live an extravagant and opulent life paid for by the people. The people’s representatives will call this leisure break an agricultural break, but it is mostly spent in cities and hotels in other countries like the United States. Imagine an Ambassador telling the people’s representatives to stop going for visas and spend their break in their constituencies. The people’s doctors work throughout the year, and practically have no break, likewise the people’s teachers.

According to the Constitution of Liberia, the people’s representative cannot be arrested for any crime while going to the Legislature, except for felonious crimes, but the people’s doctor and people’s teacher can be arrested for any crime including traffic violations, even if going to save lives or going to the classroom.
The people’s representatives practically live on the state, while the people’s teacher and the people’s doctor are left by themselves and survive on handouts from the state. Every year in Liberia, the people’s doctors stage strikes and walk out of health centers either because of low pay or no pay. The people’s teachers are the most deserted, and there is no successful school year in the country that does not experience a teachers’ walkout due to low pay or no pay.

The people’s representatives will never stage a strike for their ‘sixteen hours’ work per week benefits and salaries. Any attempt to delay, reduce or deny the people’s representatives of getting their pay, the official responsible must be ready to respond to contempt charges in a tribunal where the representatives are the prosecutors, the jurors and judges. Today in Liberia, the cash value of the monthly salary and benefits of a representative of the people is more than 100% higher than the total value of what the people’s doctor and their teacher take home in total.
This is how the socio-economic disparity, as defined by the body-polity is wide in our country; and this is a country that does not have running water, electricity, and better sanitation for up to 10 percent of its population. Any system of such terribly undermines the effective functioning of a society and cast doubts on the seriousness of modern capitalism in improving citizens’ welfare. Do we advocate here for a non-capitalist order? NO! We call for a social democratic revolution that will address our national income disparities in a way that everyone will not necessarily be paid equally, but that everyone’s income can be considerable enough to justify his/her level of contributions to the welfare of the citizens, and the state.

How then do we rationalize this servant paradox? It takes a real people’s revolution to mobilize the workers against such conspicuous disparity. The people must now begin to call for constitutional reforms and make decisions on these issues. By the law, the constitution must lay down the floor and ceiling for the pay and benefits of the people’s servants – doctors, nurses, teachers, representatives and other officials. And if every servant is left to decide his own pay and benefits, like the representatives have, there will obviously be no control, but effective exploitation and legitimate pillage of the state’s resources. With only the people’s representatives deciding their own pay (a very fabulous and huge one), all of the citizens will seek to be representatives, and the society risks losing teachers, and doctors, for everyman loves good and free life, uncheck and in abundance as we can see our fellow citizens on Capitol Hills.

-In the cause of democracy and social justice, the pen shall never run dry