The fact that Bhutan suffers from a ‘small society syndrome’ is well known, however, ever since the introduction of democracy there has been another growing syndrome called the ‘DPT, PDP syndrome’.
If bad ideas and bad philosophies could be called viruses then this ‘DPT, PDP syndrome’ has become a nationwide epidemic affecting the high and the low alike. With the 2013 elections coming closer this syndrome seems to be getting stronger.
For those suffering from this virus nearly every family member, individual, public figure, activity, media story, programs and etc will be seen either through the DPT or PDP lenses. In short the main priority is to tag X or Y as for or against a particular party, and if they are neutral like in most cases then a choice is made for them, without their consent of course.
For those afflicted with this syndrome the moral integrity and human character of the individual is not a priority but what is important is which side of the line they fall on. Another symptom is that the patient is not satisfied until he or she can give either a DPT or PDP tag to everyone around them.
This syndrome is fine if left at dinner tables or gossip sessions but it is starting to take on a life of its own affecting the growth of a healthy democracy, social harmony, good governance, institutions and media freedom to name a few.
A problem is that this syndrome has even afflicted the high and mighty and at times decisions are even made based on it.
It has caused a high degree of political polarization in the country with increasingly hostile language and attitudes between political parties.
It is also becoming increasingly difficult for the Media to do even remotely critical stories as in this time of the ‘DPT, PDP epidemic’ healthy individuals will not be tolerated or believed in.
Even constitutional bodies are not safe, however, given their stature it will not be appropriate to give them the conventional tags so modified ones like, ‘anti-government,’ and ‘pro-government’ are used.
The problem is not personal or confined to a particular section of society but is a larger reflection of Bhutan’s young democracy, nascent political culture and our socio-political condition.
Bhutanese democracy has sadly not yet evolved into one that can take criticism constructively but instead every public or professional issue is taken very personally.
This may sound a bit harsh but if one carefully observes how a foreign dignitary talks to some of our senior officials it is like a matured adult sweet talking a petulant child. Conversely when a local villager talks to the same senior official it sounds like the weakest student in the class talking to the class bully.
As a result of the syndrome the democratic space in Bhutan leaves a lot to be desired. A healthy democracy is not how much power an elected government has or not, it is not how loud the opposition is, it is also not about how great and learned its democratic institutions are. Even some of the world’s most corrupt countries have these in equal measure. The true essence of democracy lies in the ability of every citizen’s ability to speak their minds without fear of consequences. This is precisely what is under threat with the current wave of the epidemic.
Currently any critic no matter how sincere and honest is given the ‘PDP or DPT’ tag.
The government is also afflicted by the ‘DPT, PDP syndrome’ cannot stop seeing conspiracy theories around it. This affliction has been made worse by a spate of crises hitting the government, some of its own making and others not.