I was relaxing at home and reflecting on events of the previous night, it had been a busy day on facebook shuttling from one wall to another, there are days when politicians are out and about doing their thing, whether it’s something they plan beforehand I know not but it certainly keeps the inquisitive minds wondering & murmuring. Before the curtain came down I caught on an interesting comment regarding the expanse of a facebook politician’s reach. The thesis was with about 4,000 friends one can reach 100,000 facebookers. Anyway I would not want to delve into the mathematics of it all. What got me wondering was if politicians can reach such a number, are they making headway? I sunk into doubt as to whether there is any exchange of ideas; I juxtaposed this with the Muslim Imams in Cairo, strategically located for voice projection but nevertheless a nuisance to the intended recipients of their multitude of prayers. Such is the conclusion I reached regarding the facebook politicians, reaching many but heard by a few yet a nuisance to many. In the quest for outreach, rules of engagement have been altered.
While at it flashbacks of the “ZIM1” ran through my mind, it was like a sudden rush of wind in a storm; except that this kind made all else still while the cars sped away to wherever the president would be going (ZIM1 is the presidential motorcade in Zimbabwe). This is the closest most Zimbabweans got to engage the president albeit it was a very quiet & queer dialogue. I remember the president always moved for some grand event, no courtesy calls were made to citizens, no surprise visits from the country’s Chief Executive Officer be it in schools, hospitals, social gathering, everything danced to his schedule that was religiously followed I presume. The rule of engagement was “I engage you, you do not engage me”. This was somewhat an unwritten code that information & instructions was to filter downwards and that word or order was final. I see a similar pattern among the facebook politicians, they engage you at their convenience, “they engage you, you do not engage them”.
How many ordinary facebookers or those on the receiving end have engaged the facebook politicians on their wall not the politician’s wall? History informs me this is almost taboo, a breaking of the unwritten code, the altered “rules of engagement”. It reminds me of one facebook socialite from Zambia, one comment to his post simply asked “when are you going to comment on my posts also” with somewhat an air of exasperation. This was probably a case of someone not understanding the altered rules of engagement regarding facebook. Forget the politics of telling politicians what you want as a constituency, democracy has been turned on its head, they tell us what they want & we have to take it or leave it. The 100,000 being reached are not going to be solicited for an opinion; they are simply being told to take it as is, if there are any qualms the person has to go to the politician’s wall to try and knock some sense.
What fascinated me in all this is the fact that most if not all facebook politicians proclaim they are for democracy, this left me in frantic efforts to define democracy, the last time I remembered it was something along the lines of politicians concerned about those whom they purport to lead. Now I am no longer sure I will seek for the definition again. What I see in all this is a brand of politicians who are getting into the habit of telling us what they think, telling us what needs to be done, telling us how it needs to be done, telling us what they think never asking us what we would rather suggest, never checking on how we are doing it or what we are doing, never checking on what we are thinking. They just will not be bothered! They talk we listen, they write, we read, they order we do. How then is that different from the status quo? How different is it to the way Robert Mugabe goes about exercising his role of Chief Executive? The irony is that all advise that they are different from Robert Mugabe. Let’s face it, if someone never visited their constituencies, never took time to check on their constituencies, a courtesy comment, a courtesy like, a courtesy poke on facebook, can such be relied upon to pay a courtesy visit to the constituents in Matapi, St Marys or Nketa?
My own conclusion is this will be hard, facebook is instilling habits in politicians that might be hard to kick, and we are not much different to our online alter egos. Is it not time facebook politicians start to be engaged by their followers or friends on the friends’ walls? I believe most of these politicians will not be able to name at least 20 of their followers by name and surname or answer a simple survey of where we live. Its impossible to know every follower’s detail but to speak for the people one must be prepared to be engaged by the same people on their walls, more like inviting the President for lunch in your house & he eats matemba, then wash the meal down with jolly juice while sitting on a wooden bench, watching Premier League on black and white 14 inch television. Such a politician will have a good grasp of the people’s needs, his policies are likely to bring happiness to them and speak in consonant with them. So to all the facebook politicians, the rules of engagement must change for us to see the difference in comparison to the status quo!