The Gelephu Mindfulness City project is not only an economic and infrastructure project, but it is a challenge to us to get over our comfort zone of mediocrity and the mindset of pettiness when someone challenges that mediocrity.
While the media likes to cite others as examples it is probably good to start by taking an inward look sometimes.
There are many media houses in Bhutan, but only a few are doing good or impactful journalism on a consistent basis, and have hence developed a significant following and influence over time.
Advertisers of all stripes want to advertise in media houses that have that reach among readers.
However, when such advertisements are given, a few media houses, some of whom even lack good content and a proper team, try and make a hue and cry that they are not getting equal advertisements.
While private agencies and citizens go by reach and quality to advertise, government agencies come under pressure with all the crying and begging and give advertisements on ‘rotation basis’ as Kidu without taking into account if the advertisement is reaching the readers.
In the end, mediocrity and not excellence or any effort towards it is rewarded. Some can come out with hugely impactful stories of national significance and others come out with copy and paste press releases but they are all treated the same. There is no incentive to do better or actually compete.
Yes, the main problem is that the main source of advertisements itself, which is government announcements, is getting smaller for everyone, but the solution here is not to nit-pick on one another but to prove to society why the media and its existence is important through good journalism, good content, innovation and professionalism.
In short, develop a good product and readers and advertisers will come and if you don’t then nobody owes you anything.
This issue is not only in the media but is part of a wider problem.
In Bhutan, there generally is reluctance to reward excellence due to the fear of what the mediocre majority may think.
The effort and the results may be different but at the end of the day everybody wants to be rewarded equally. We have an egoistic mindset similar to a reality singing show where every singer, and especially the bad singers, think they are as good as the good singers.
While the Civil Service reforms are not perfect and there have been some hiccups, one reason why people are so reluctant to adopt it is because it is ultimately attempting to measure the individual performance of civil servants and reward them accordingly.
It is due to this inability to accept there are others who can do better than us or outperform us that we Bhutanese generally end up being very poor losers.
When parties lose elections, there is always a conspiracy theory from EVM machines to other excuses. Some are even ready to go to extreme lengths than accept that they lost as voters chose the better party or message.
When people lose court cases the Drangpon is almost always tagged as being in cahoots with the winning side.
When people do not secure a coveted post, the story is usually nepotism or that something was not fair.
Yes, there can be some electoral malpractices, some bad judgments or some unfair selections and our system has its flaws, but to say that is the norm is being dishonest to ourselves and to others.
The mediocrity and refusal to accept someone else did better feeds into a mindset of pettiness and what often happens is the mediocre either gang up to keep the status quo or spread a myth to explain their loss. It is much easier to lie to oneself and others than facing simple truths.
This refusal to face reality means one will not learn and grow.
This attitude when mixed with the petty small society mindset and the Bhutanese attitude to keep all sides happy then turns into a very toxic and potent mix that holds back excellence and growth and is like a poison in the national lifeblood.
In fact, we have been lying so much to ourselves for so many years about everything being hunky dory and just fine that we are not able to get our heads around why large numbers of our youth are migrating from our paradise of mediocrity.
Europeans conquered the world as the European states welcomed new ideas of Renaissance that strove for excellence in various fields and then they kept competing with each other in ideas, technology, trade, warfare etc. This is while much bigger, older and richer civilizations slipped into complacency and mediocrity and suffered.
Gelephu is getting a Special Administrative Region status not only to offer legal and other incentives, but it is also to protect against this mediocre and petty mindset ruling the roost in Gelephu too, and bringing everything to a standstill.
The Gelephu project is Bhutan coming out to play at the global level where only the brightest, best, hardworking and the fastest will do well. As a nation and people, we have to put our best foot forward. There will be no scope for mediocrity, pettiness and lying to ourselves otherwise we may end up learning some hard lessons.
As demonstrated during COVID-19, a special strength of all Bhutanese is the ability to come together for the nation and each other despite all odds. So, the foundation and sincerity is already there.
Now if we can come together for supporting excellence, healthy competition and growth then the sky is the limit and we can achieve things not only in Gelephu but in multiple fields.
The other option is to keep lying to ourselves, not face reality and wallow in mediocrity and then we will be heading down a slippery slope.
By Tenzing Lamsang
The writer is the Editor of The Bhutanese