Loading. Please wait...


The proverbial common man on the street! (The common woman is also implied here. I will however stick to “man” in this article—no discrimination is intended!)
In an ideal world, the common man on the street would be accorded the same attention and respect as everyone else; in an imperfect world, that rarely happens.
When the lawmakers meet to lay down rules, no one thinks of consulting him. They put the regulations and directives in place and demand that he sticks to them—whether they suit him or not!
If that bloke happens to reside in a country governed by an authoritarian regime, he better abide by the laws or face serious consequences, including arrest and possible summary execution!
If he indeed is executed for expressing his political views, his death rarely makes headline news. Even should his brutal execution cause international uproar, such expressions of profound abhorrence at the despicable act of cruelty and barbarism by the international community usually tend to be momentary. Soon the voices of protest die away.
In this respect, the common man living in a free and liberal democracy is better placed than his compatriot living in an authoritarian society. At least in a functioning liberal democracy the common man can freely express his divergent opinions without fear of persecution.
It is one thing being able to express one’s views freely, and another getting anyone to take notice of them. That indeed, usually happens to be the lot of the common man in many free societies. Without any lobbying, yes without any links to the top, to the men and women of influence, to the establishment, how can he expect his expressed opinion to reach the ears of the decision makers?
Once in a while, though, the ruling classes in free societies create the impression of having the concerns of the ordinary man on the street at heart. That indeed is the case when elections are imminent and the convoy of election campaign vehicles have pulled to a stop in the middle of the huge ghetto residential area where the common man shares a small room in a dilapidated building with his wife and their four children.
For reasons best known to himself, the candidate seeking election has alighted from his vehicle and moves from door to door, interacting with the residents.
He has just reached the door of the common man.
“Is this where he you reside?” the visiting politician asks in bewilderment at the sight of two adults and four children crammed in the small room.
“Yes, sir,” the common man replies timidly.
“How on earth can human beings live under such appalling conditions, particularly so when little children are involved? These conditions are hardly suitable for human habitation!
“And your children! Each of them displays protruding bellies, exposed ribs and sunken eyes—obvious features of malnourishment; pathetic, very pathetic.
“What they require is plenty of food, not any type of food, but rich food—a balanced diet. My goodness! How can one expect children living under such appalling conditions to perform well at school? No, no, you deserve an improvement in your living conditions; a change for the better.”
The eldest child of the deprived pair, fascinated by the seeming magnanimity, open-heartedness, generosity, benevolence of the caring uncle, jumps out of the room. His eyes beaming with joy, he directs the following reply at the visiting Good Samaritan:
“That is very kind of you, uncle. Please help papa find work!! He has been out of work for quite a while! He is usually not aggressive to us, but of late he is angry for no reason—shouting and crying at the top of his voice at the least provocation. Please, please help him find work!”
Looking directly into the eyes of the little boy, the seemingly caring politician continues:
“You are right! Your Papa has to find work. A well-paid job, to enable him to meet his financial obligations to the family—to put up reasonably good accommodation, to improve your living conditions.”
Just as the whole family seem to be carried away by the sympathy of the visitor, the attention of one of the kids, a little girl, is drawn to the flags hoisted on the campaign vehicle.
”Papa, take a look; Papa, take a look!” she shouts, pointing to the flag: “That is the flag of the ruling party! They have been in power all these years—why haven’t they helped you find a job up till now!”
The remark of the little child takes the politician by surprise! “Goodness me! Just as I thought I had won their vote!” he murmurs to himself.
The veteran politician that he is, he soon regains his composure; after all, dealing with human beings is what he does for a living.
“My dear little friend,” he begins, tapping on the shoulder of the little girl. “You are right, my party is now in power. We have however been in power for barely four years—that is by no means enough time!
“Besides that, as your parents are surely aware, our party does not control both houses of parliament. Currently we are only in charge of the lower chamber. That has made governing difficult for us. Legislation meant to relieve the suffering of the common people like yourselves is frequently blocked by the opposition when it gets to the upper house. Those irresponsible ladies and gentlemen of the main opposition party are bent on opposing almost every legislation that comes before them, including those meant to lift people like yourself out of poverty. The only thing they appear capable of doing is: oppose for the sake of opposition!
“It is just for that very reason that I am asking your parents to vote for us. Their votes will not only help consolidate our position in the lower house but also win the upper house. With both houses of parliament in our hands you can be absolutely sure we shall deliver on our promises. So do urge your parents to make it a point to vote for us come election day!”
Hardly had the convoy of the governing party vanished from sight than that of the main opposition party pulled to a stop at the slum dwelling.
“Good day, my dear friends!” the parliamentary candidate greets them magnanimously. “You certainly are hoping for a better standard of living! If so, then I urge you to give us your vote. The ruling government is the government of the rich and affluent. We stand for the ordinary people, yes the common men and women, those who despite their enormous contribution to society have so far been neglected.”
“Blah, blah, blah!” the same little girl who placed the other politician on a wrong footing cries out in disdain.
“No, little one, this is no bluff! We mean our words. We are the party of the common ones like yourself. You urge Mama and Papa to vote for us for a bright future. The moment we assume power we will quickly put our plans for you into action. We shall build playgrounds, day-care centres, hospitals, affordable houses, you can keep on naming them!”
Come election day, the common man and his wife go out to queue hours on end in the scorching sun, determined to seize the golden opportunity to exercise their franchise, indeed to make their voices heard. Though they voted for the ruling party the last time, this time the arguments and promises of the opposition party hold sway on both.
Whether their vote was a deciding factor or not they cannot say for sure. The fact remains that the opposition party wins a convincing victory, gaining absolute control of both chambers.
“At long last we are assured of an improvement in our living conditions,” the common man and his wife declare as if with a single voice.
As they celebrate the victory of their ”party” pictures of a happy tomorrow begin to splash before their eyes. “This time round we are going to make it. Yes indeed, at long last our ‘party’ is in power so we shall for ever break the vicious cycle of poverty and want.”
Their little daughter, the thorn in the flesh of politicians of all persuasions, sounds a note of caution: “I don’t trust any of their words. I will only believe when I see with my own eyes.”
The era of their “party” in power dawns on them at last. The days turn into weeks, then months—but nothing happens and there is no sign of the promised changes.
“Papa! Are you sure they will keep their word?” their precocious little daughter inquires.
“Be patient my little one; they have not been in power for even 100 days. Let´s give them time to get settled.”
100 days; 200 days; 300 days elapse, and no improvement is noted. Prices of goods in the shops begin to soar!
The first anniversary of the change in power is marked with pomp and pageantry at the presidential palace. The ruling class, the big shots of the ruling party, personalities of class and distinction, meet at the luxurious State House and Conference Centre to mark and celebrate the first anniversary of their rise to power!
The first anniversary of the rise of his “party” to power passes followed by the second and then the third! Instead of the change for the better that the common man had hoped for, things get worse. The poverty-related family tensions worsen instead of improving.
The common man on the street! Poor him! He should have known from the beginning that he could boast of no lobby and that without a lobby his voice could hardly be heard.
He vows never to bother himself with future elections, indeed to spare himself the trouble of walking to the polling station next time round to cast his vote.
Can he indeed keep his resolve? Is he able indeed to swallow and digest the sugar-coated words of the politicians when they descend on his community days before the next election-day to promise him heaven on earth, yes to persuade him to give them one final chance? Only time will tell!
**If you want to help the common man on the street out of his poverty, please support the work of Poverty Alleviation Action Trust. You may contact the charity using the details on this website. **

Share it on your social network:

Or you can just copy and share this url
Related Posts