As far as the eyes can see, there’s a thrashing ocean of blood-red tongues screaming at the top of their voices defending their candidate. It is the roaring forties of representative governance — the general elections of the world’s largest democracy.
Beneath the chaos runs a strong and vast undercurrent of opinions that dare not show its face to the mob above ‘cause tongues easily bully minds into silence, or worse, into humiliation.
But that ocean current — invisible, inaudible, intangible — is moving with great speed, mixing up the waters of the national ocean, bringing hot to cold and cold to hot, balancing the salinity of emotions, getting ready to throw a bitch-slap of a surprise.
In human society, it is easy to mistake the audible opinion for the popular one. The key mistake that most people make is not factoring in the silent. The fact is, most people keep their electoral choice to themselves and express it only in ballot. You can even blame them of deception because sometimes they will readily nod in agreement with loud, caustic voices just to avoid confrontation, to remain an insider, to maintain relationships.
The anonymity of the ballot confers a massive power to the silent undercurrent — unlike in other forms of government, in a democracy, even the silent can make themselves heard. Right down to the last frail individual, everyone gets to vote their voice. That is the biggest magic of the secret ballot in representative democracy.
As magic tricks go, the surprise that these diffident individuals can pull out of the ballot box has got to be the most astonishing. They can topple purportedly popular governments, making red-tongues red-faced, demagogues eat humble pie, and psephologists scramble to cover their exposed backsides.
Will these elections be one that will throw up such a surprise? I don’t know. But I sense a pattern in the silent voices around me — they seem strategic, devious, like a tiger stalking a prey just to pounce at the right moment. There are thousands of loud voices on the surface. The cacophony this time is full of vileness, hostility, and disgust. The silent ones haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell on the surface.
But underneath these waves, I feel millions are waiting quietly. I see many voices go silent suddenly. I see some people staying away from political discussions. I see many opinions diving down and joining the undercurrent. Is a surprise possible? Maybe.
Or maybe not. But let’s not underestimate the meek. They may end up inheriting the PMO.