Sunday, November 4, 2012

When One Is Too Old for Politics

In Philippine political scene, age, too, is a determining factor. One particular trait of Filipinos is their strong respect for elders. This respect, aside from saying “po” and “opo”, is also translated into deeds. We allow them to wash dishes or cultivate the garden but we do not allow them to be involved in extra physical activities like chopping logs, climbing up mountains or lifting heavy loads. We want them to be productive but based only on their mental capabilities and physical capacities. More than anything, we expect words of wisdom, guidance and encouragement from them.

Aged men and women in our midst, our grandparents, are already accomplished individuals. They have nothing to prove of because they already defied history and were able to experience deeds more precious than any gem. They are already ready leaving behind us a legacy, especially those who spent most of their lives in politics.  My hail and praises to seasoned politicians who doesn't toy with the idea of fielding his/her relatives to political positions after their retirement and consequently build a dynasty. The true blue seasoned politicians have the capacity to share new insights and advice regarding present socio-political realities if they learned well their “Public Service-Not Business Gains 101” when they are still at their prime.

In the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 defines senior citizens as a “resident citizens of the Philippines aged 60 and above”. Do not get me wrong. I do not opine to say that aged men and women should keep off from the political arena or to occupy any political position. By all means they could of course join, not unless senility and infirmity hold them back, when they are no longer mentally and physically capable and that depends on how healthy they are.

As long as the any of the following early symptoms of dementia is not experienced by an aged prospective public servant, it’s alright:  apathy, difficulty concentrating, difficulty learning new information, difficulty walking, disorientation, impaired communication, insomnia, fatigue, memory loss, mild confusion, personality changes, poor balance, uncontrolled peeing, among others.

There are exemplary individuals who keep their mind constantly active and agile even if they are already old. We need politicians of sort and that is an exemption to the rule. Generally, we need them mainly as advisers, titular heads and think-tanks but not as a candidate neither a “performing” official. Any public servant whether s/he is in the executive, legislative or judiciary branches, s/he needs to be endowed with energy including sharp and quick decisions. He needs to attend to hectic schedules representing his/her office in various occasions outside and inside his/her area of responsibility.

Old and physically unable politician also tends to lean on to someone, most likely his/her immediate family members, even for his/her exclusive functions. Thus, seeds of political dynasty are unintentionally being planted and nursed.

But I am more worried in the result of physical infirmity in public eye. This would not cause much trouble if his or her team members and fellow public servants in a particular government where he/she belong know this limitation and cease from driving him or her too far. Large number of our voters or constituents belongs to the youth sector. Young as they are and greatly influenced by western media and culture, unjustifiably expect any public figure, including politicians, to look good, oozing with dynamism and smart. Anything less is a restrainer.

More often than not, aged politicians can no longer get along with the so called Generation X and they usually stick to their old mind sets rather than sway with the modern boys and girls. The old politician would surely have a hard time getting along with young people because they lack sufficient will and energy. This way, they lose their appeal electorally and politically.

I do not totally buy the idea of prescribing age limit to them but the politician must know exactly when s/he would retire. God gave us all power to know for ourselves when to quit or to stop in anything we do. Unluckily, some of the politicians trust more the power of their political patron or their party’s heads and the agitating words of their avid supporters (who usually are just using them for their own political, selfish ends) or allies than this inner power that the Almighty installed in all of us. 

The old and seasoned politicians have already proved their worth. He or she is already an over stretched rubber band that cannot be stretched further by pressures that could affect his or her already diminishing health. In doing so, we are breaking the great circle of his legacy and his moments of victorious achievements by just a snap of our fingers.

But on the second thought, I might follow what the former Indian army chief of staff  General VK Singh have in mind who advocated that a retirement age be fixed for politicians as in the case of other fields related to governance. In this interview he said that the older people can play the role of guides, but should give up active politics so that young and new politicians can enter or remain in the system. He said, “There’s a fixed retirement age for every other profession. .. But there is no such limit for a politician. There’s need to fix a retirement age for politicians as well.” The right retirement age if you are going to ask me is 75.

At 50, I am just thinking aloud even though I know that this idea would only land on a dustbin...


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