Representation: Questioning the Why and How of It

We the People: Representation and the How of it
We the People: Representation and the How of it
How and Why is the representor, representing the represented?

In the politics of being heard and represented, or being left out and abandoned, we often lose sight or blink out the why and how of it. Perhaps, we haven’t been taught to ask for these questions, nearly, as much as we are taught acceptance. It’s good in way, accepted the intentions of the representor as the sole criterion for taking up the mantle of representation.

But what of the represented? Don’t they have a say in who they want to represent them? How did the represented come to be seen as the represented community in the first place? Yes, from what I have seen, groups being represented are hardly aware of their representors and most of them don’t really see themselves and their stations in life as a “cause” that needs representation

Basically, we all ask for justifications. We are looking for credibility. We are also seeking affirmation that the cause – and in turn – those in need of representation, are not abandoned mid way to muddle through their protests. As for the represented, they are left out of the decision making process more often than not. “Since they need help, surely they can’t offer advice!” It’s the politics of exclusion practised on the very people who need to have that political voice strengthened.

It’s a tough call to be honest. The community might want the representors to focus on particular issues, while the latter might have his own agenda – honest, but not meeting with the goals of the people she / he represents. So, does the representor lose the right to represent if the community isn’t agreeable to her/his goals, objectives and ideas?

Let me understand this through an example: In India, there are many villagers whose girl child doesn’t receive education. She is married off rather young – yes, child marriage is still rampant – and parents have the additional burden of dowry (money given to the groom’s family at the time of marriage) to deal with. Social activists might want to focus on this societal ill and educate the parents about the harms of child marriage. However, the parents would rather the activists focus on their economic plight and help improve the economy of their village by making available jobs, improving infrastructure and proving better health care. Their daughter is safe after all with her husband – child or adult.

It’s really difficult to reconcile this situation. How does one put aside one’s honest intentions to change the system, do good for people and “uplift” their plight doing what the represented want? It means completely swallowing your idea of good and doing what needs to be done. That’s altruism. I am not so sure we act on that sentiment anymore.

– Nilofar Ansher


One thought on “Representation: Questioning the Why and How of It

  1. “It’s the politics of exclusion practised on the very people who need to have that political voice strengthened.”

    That statement was right on the mark. Its important for people to be heard first. A good listener empowers people to come out with their stories first. Depending on the “teller’s” needs, this could be in a closed environment first. Involving the community itself in discussions is a good start to finding solutions without just ‘dumping’ the solution on their laps as if we know-it-all. We don’t. Even Assange doesn’t. There may not be one set solution for every community though. Morals, laws and constants keep changing. And if we’re to go anything by the laws of relativity – every special community has its own specials needs.

    That’s what I was told recently by good project managers I had the fortune of meeting at workshops. They also mentioned that they themselves had no answers to solving many crises. What they did have was the power to connect with and to motivate people (into sharing their stories and even into coming up with their own solutions sometimes).

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