Most people these days seem to be plagued with a vague dissatisfaction that is all encompassing. Where we turn things seem to be operating below par. No matter what. Nothing is perfect and the flaws are always serious. Be it a corrupt government being challenged, terrorist attacks, public services or simply doing any of the many things of routine lives. Farmers are dropping off like flies and newspaper headlines have got better things to talk about. Rickshaws charge extra at night for the inconvenience, but actually won’t take inconvenient passengers at all, day or night. Nothing seems to work as advertized in the grand story of independence.
There is this vague restlessness in a country with a discredited government, dysfunctional crucial services, and dissatisfied public.
The other thing that strikes me is the all permeating feeling of helplessness that seems to be there. The people feel helpless about everything from inflation to terror attacks, the government feels helpless about the demands of the people, the security agencies feel helpless about the serious questions raised about their functioning…
It reminds me of a time during a training programme when the entire group was stuck in a situation that required acting on totally different patterns, but they were all being flatlined by each other’s actions or responses. The need of the group was for all to take the risk together and endure through whatever hurdles came in their way. The same interdependence that was causing the paralysis was the safety net if they trusted it and committed to the trust regardless of how daunting it seemed.
We did a quick exercise to experience the possibility. The group stood in a circle holding hands. The goal was for all of them to tilt back as far as possible – out of their centers of gravity. Hands crossed, held tight with the person next to them, bodies straight. It took a while to achieve. At a crucial moment, when the weight moves beyond the capability to balance, and the hands take the task of holding everyone suspended at a tilt, someone or the other gave in to the inherent insecurity of the position and bent their knee, or didn’t move out of balance, or whatever, to preserve their own balance. Their weight not acting against the pull of those next to them caused those next to them to fail too and the whole circle couldn’t do it.
After much trying and frustration, with little time left, they decided too give it their best shot or fall, but they wouldn’t foul the process for the group. No matter what, they would keep bodies straight, arms extended and taking their weight, and tilt off balance as far as the length of their hands allowed. If they fell, so be it. But they would do exactly this. They tried. One person leaned back before the others, pulled his neighbours off balance, and the circle failed again. This time, instead of becoming defensive at the failure and more protective of themselves, they consciously decided to counter problems by doing exactly as planned.
They tried again. This time, they also went slow, so that they could see problems sooner. This time, again a woman in the group was the first to tilt out of her center of gravity, but when she started falling because of gravity, the rest of the group quickly leaned back too, and everyone’s weight countered the others, and there was this group of people – all off balance, not falling because their linked arms countered each other’s weight safely.
Today, our country is like that. There are problems with everything, but there is a lot of defensiveness and lack of trust. We don’t trust the government to look after our interests, the government doesn’t trust us to not destabilize the country or safeguard its interest, we don’t trust the security agencies to conduct efficient investigations and safeguard our safety, they don’t trust us to accept their lack of results…. all of them very real reasons for mistrusting. The government has really failed to safeguard citizen’s interests, the citizens are really okay with disrupting the country’s well being if that is what it takes to bring the government corruption to heel. The security agencies really are not conducting investigations efficiently, and the people really are in no mood to listen to the lack of results in investigations. All the fears leading to this internal mistrust are true. Like that group, everyone is acting on their own fears only.
What is needed at this time to move beyond our own fears and trust that if we give up our interest out of belief that a goal that encompasses us all is better for us all, we may be able to take that risk of losing safety as we stop defending ourselves and being prey to falling in that moment before the interdependent system shows its function and we are all held safe because of each other rather than in spite of each other.
We may be able to pool strength to achieve something together that isn’t individually possible, just like it isn’t possible for a group of individuals to stand at an angle to the ground without other support.
This is the point where people look around at the magnitude of the task and shake their heads in despair that nothing will change, our system is like that, our politicians are like that, there is rampant unprofessionalism, etc. Another choice is to step in and shoulder some of the load however we can, so that we provide that safety for others to lean too. Will not be easy, answers will not be obvious, but it is clear to me that in a country that is better described as a mediocracy (both media ruled and outstandingly mediocre) change will only happen if we all jump into it at once, or any change made will be dragged back to old dysfunctional patterns by the inertia of the rest.
Just a thought.
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