Politics of fear

My friend Ratnakar Sadasyula Tweeted these words:

Dissent is the lifeblood of a democracy, when you stifle dissent, it gives rise to the extremist movements, time the Govt realizes it.

Simple thought, but creates such paranoia!

But that is half the truth. The other half is worse for a democracy than the entire country rising in revolt – it is the silencing. It is the abdication of authority for demanding answers. It is a false complex of loyalty / patriotism / objectiveness / [insert desired quality].

This website is full of posts that describe how increasing regimentation results in a decrease in individual thinking and the willingness to take risks, even small ones. Of simply appearing different from the approved vision of perfection. Regimentation is basically about imposed rules. They have not been created by the follower, and often the follower is not privy to the processes that led to them. End result is that there is no hook to attach your brain to. The bottom line is provided, and there is no engagement on processes leading to it. With time, it erodes our ability to question through sheer disuse.

This cultivated handicap is enshrined in our education system, and it is taken forward in our governance. We are increasingly becoming a risk averse country. The fear of the unknown has such power, that unless you can predict the results of anything, it is not even an option.

This passivity creates an unhealthy vacuum of initiative, which is successfully exploited by opportunists. Be them within the government, or scamsters or corporates, or anyone. A risk averse environment guarantees that if you make the anything conspicuously dangerous looking, no one will challenge it.

It is a politics of fear and the only one to gain from it is the person exploiting the system. This is so profitable, that it is an active strategy with many scamsters, government or media entities who wish unhindered operations for fun and profit.

Yet, how many of those fears are true?

Today, Baba Ramdev is the great unknown. This man appears horribly naive, looks like someone from the previous century, and has money – the great evil of the “haves”. He is threatening to topple the garbage bin. There are many who are comparing him unfavourably with Anna Hazare. But the funny part is that those comparing him unfavourably with Anna Hazare were not exactly supporting Anna Hazare either when it was him threatening to topple the garbage bin.

I predict right here that there is absolutely no one who will “feel” safe for toppling garbage bins. They will be too rustic, too naive, too smart, too rich, too poor, too influenced by some power or the other, too something or the other. They will have something or the other in their past that can be focused on instead of what they say. The problem is that we don’t know what’s going to come out of the garbage bin if ANYONE topples it. All indicators point to it being potentially disruptive, dangerous. The government in power has been systematically exploiting people and has expressed no shame or regret no matter how much dirt gets dug up, and no one has been able to so much as say “sorry”. Imagine the destruction they will wreak if they truly fight with their endless resources for their own survival?

THAT is the real issue out here. We don’t know if the issues plaguing us will be there or gone. We are frustrated against corruption and think simplistic measures like denomination notes being taken out are ridiculously futile. We fear that we will have braved the wrath for nothing and our seemingly frail strategies will not stand the onslaught of the evils of the environment.

But of course, we don’t fear anything. If someone comes to know our fears, they’ll know where to hit us. Lets make the fears go away. Kill the messenger. Hazare is a barely literate ex-truck driver with dictatorial habits in his past. Ramdev is this fake person who has foreigners donating him hideously extravagant gifts. If he comes to a fast in a chartered plane, how the heck is he going to stand any real fight? And so on. There has been dirt dug up on everyone. Kiran Bedi – someone who is the pride of our country was not spared. Nor were people like Anupam Kher, the Bhushans….

The end result is simple. Paralysis. And the view that anyone rocking the boat are doing something extremely dangerous that you wouldn’t dream of doing. You don’t approve, you don’t support, and you damn well hope they don’t succeed. Well, duh, that is the paralysis.

Heck, for some mysterious reason, I’ve got someone calling me a BJP mouthpiece, because I approve of them supporting the movement. You might as well call me the Khap and Maoist mouthpiece, or even better the mouthpiece of all India, because there isn’t one person whom I wouldn’t cheer joining in. This is going to be a long fight. We can’t afford to be scared and fractured. Whatever our differences, we need to remain on track that we are calling for accountability and we agree on that. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and India won’t be either. We are a living culture. We will keep evolving.

If we make a mistake, we have the ability to assess and calibrate our actions. If we make a mistake, it is still unlikely that is will be something unnoticeable that will end in unspeakable disaster before we can stop. But what that future will be we can only find out by getting there, which is the big problem in a society conditioned to not move unless they have guarantees and permissions in triplicate. No greatness was achieved thus, but that isn’t what we are aiming for. We only want to survive without hassle. The corruption wasn’t such a hassle…. now that you think of it…. etc. Certainly not worth risking the unknown over.

My invitation to all of us is to see that guarantees are illusions. Which is how lines about “the best laid plans” etc etc become popular. Because no matter the illusion, we can only know the future by getting there. In reality, whether you have a reassuring statistic or opinion or anything, or nothing, what this anti-corruption movement wants is unprecedented. We simply don’t know how it will pan out. It could flop. It could fly. Its chances of success increase each time we let go of our paralysis and invest ourselves fully to making it succeed.

This isn’t about blind support or following. What I am speaking of is greater. It is you being vocal about problems you spot so that they can be fixed and we can be more responsible as a whole. It is about you refusing specifics that you think are not advisable. It is about focusing our criticism so that it doesn’t end up cheering something far worse and addresses the problem as accurately as possible rather than adding a drag to the momentum. What I am speaking of is participation in your country. If you think none of the ideas are good, present arguments against them all, but the day you start thinking that another person shouldn’t demand for attention to wrongs because of some quality or the other, you are also undermining democracy itself. It may look more approved and safe, but it takes you into the terrain of slavery.

I also invite you to see that no amount of “self-initiative” is going to challenge institutional corruption. If no citizen of India paid any bribe ever, that money outside, is still outside, people making underhanded deals will still do what suits them. This will of necessity have to be a political movement. It is by default going to be ugly, difficult, full of treachery and possibly bloody. A deeply entrenched government with massive stores of influence to tap into are not going to agree and give everythin gup out of the goodness of their heart. Not for any political process or any option mushrooming intellectuals present as better. It is still going to be a back breaking struggle. The only thing I can say is that the more of us share the burden and risk, the greater the chances of success will be. And the more we stand on the fence, the more difficult it is going to get to take the step.

One way or the other, the ones with the courage will keep trying. We have entered a new phase as a country. The choice seems to be simple – to make daily choices on moral judgments that allow us to be clean about our inaction and witness the trauma the country goes through, or to roll up your sleeves and wade right in helping the job get done faster.

Thank you.

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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