The obsession with keeping up appearances is behind many social problems. The faade often becomes more important than fact. There is over-concern that people will "talk" and less concern to "do" what is morally right. This cultural trend also has invaded the political sphere. Just as a financially hard-pressed family feels socially compelled to spend beyond its means on symbolic occasions like weddings, so, too, do the dominant elites go over-board in propping up hollow men and foisting them on the nation, just to maintain the mask of democracy. It didn't work then and it hasn't worked now. The prosperity of the few has cost the dignity of the many. While considerable lip service is given to the importance of learning, it is instructive to examine the low status society gives to teachers who impart learning. It is a cultural duality where there is "shock and awe" of big money. It sheds light on the brazen worship of raw wealth and power at the expense of common human decency. Crimes and misdemeanours are not always viewed leniently. It has to do with the identity of the accused. A servant caught in petty pilferage could get more than his share of shoe-beating or worse. Many have been tortured or beaten to death in police custody because of allegation or mere suspicion of theft. In striking contrast, plunderers who rob the national treasury in broad daylight have gotten away with their loot and have even been rewarded by being handed the keys to the kingdom. The fundamental structural flaw - the oligarchic monopoly over power and politics - remains unchallenged. Behind the moral decline is the culture of over-scheming that over-compromises state and society and feeds greed and bigotry. The unavoidable moment may be coming to show the mirror to the king and, perhaps, so too, to the king-makers. Too often, the middle classes - supposedly at the vanguard of critical thinking - are misled by the mirage of democracy. Can a set-up based on shallow foundations give hope to a nation hungry for direction? The gravity of the national challenge is matched only by the inability to grasp it. When the need is to move forward, many remain stuck in the tradition of keeping up a false front. It is one explanation why hypocrisy is so prominent and prevalent. While the average person struggles to survive, a dark elite continues to thrive. The path from obscurity to celebrity is occasionally paved with the gold of ill-gotten gains. The fixation with the faade of outward show reflects a deep cultural weakness. Albert Einstein's message is as relevant today as it was years ago when he said: "If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it." The writer is an advocate and senior political analyst