As a difficult year has drawn to a close and a new one begun, it looks like many of its challenges will continue to haunt us even as we trudge along. There was much in the bygone year that we would rather forget. There is yet much more that we will cherish and be grateful for, forever.
Among the many blessings that we treasure is the gift of life that we continue to enjoy while we lost so many of our fellow-humans around the world. We are beholden to our beloved King and our Covid-warriors, to our revered Drukgyal Zhipa, to our pious Gyaltsuen, to our saintly Je-Khen Rinpoche, and to our Royal Government for keeping us safe through these difficult times.
Our selfless King has been on the move overseeing the state of our nation during this relentless period of the virus-pandemic and providing much-needed motivation and ensuring the well-being of our front-liners and citizens – ever unmindful of His own safety and comfort.
His Majesty took time out to address an anxious nation and to instil hope and confidence in the citizens during a difficult period while initiating transformative projects to provide critical livelihood services in strategic areas.
As the wide-awake consciousness of the nation, our beloved Druk Gyalpo kept constant vigil on the working of our public service machinery at all levels. His Majesty’s Royal Addresses to the Nation on the 113th and 114th anniversaries of our National Day were an uninhibited rap on the back of a complacent system that needed to be awakened to duty.
As my family and I watched the progress of the 114th National Day celebrations beamed live on national television from inside the historic Fortress of the Auspicious Doctrine and followed with bated breath the most anticipated Royal Address of His Majesty the King, there was a most poignant moment that broke my heart into guilty pieces.
A deeply anguished and emotional King bemoaned the downward slide of the system in the past fifteen years since the advent of Democracy and the period of His Majesty’s reign. Unmitigated complacency, reckless erosion of accountability, brazen compromise of quality, increasing corruption and absence of courage to take action against wrong-doing were of particular concern for His Majesty.
“…I have witnessed the boldness, rigour, resolve and sternness that defined the reign of His Majesty the Fourth King. Unfortunately, these qualities have deteriorated over the last fifteen years of my reign…”
I haven’t been able to come to terms yet with the painful fact that our King, who has done so much for Bhutan and the Bhutanese people, was constrained to make such a public confession clearly on account of our failure as public servants and citizens.
The impoverishment of national character that systems like Democracy have the potential to engender on the back of populist policies with little regard for the long-term interest of the country is a risk that we must guard against at all times.
Every act matters. As I drove back from the crematorium after bidding farewell to a dear student and fellow-educator, whose end was believed to have been precipitated by alcohol, I couldn’t help thinking of the long-term lethal effects of smoke and alcohol to our precious youth and vulnerable society. The image of His Majesty the King tirelessly traversing the country to save the Kingdom, on the one hand, and the country losing to smoke and booze and apathy, on the other, for instance, continues to trouble me deeply indeed.
As a humble citizen who has given my all to the country hoping that it was worth-sacrificing everything to build a beautiful future for our children, I can fully understand the frustration of our Bodhisattava King. But His Majesty has laid out a clear path for us to follow.
Yet, the fact that we constrained our self-effacing King make the painful statement on the National Day once is once too many and one too unbearable. Let’s face it, fellow-citizens: It is not the King’s fault, but ours, the spoilt beneficiaries of an all-giving nation, that we have come to this pass.
May we heed the imperative of the urgent royal call of our beloved Druk Gyalpo and do our part in earnest such as we ought to, such as our dear country deserves.
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Thakur S Powdyel
Former Minister of Education
Author: As I Am, So Is My Nation.