Thursday, 15 September 2011

IAC Counter Attack

Lack of solution orientation is a disease that haunts several teams. This disease now torments India. IAC decided on a course of action and executed it accordingly. But the so called 'intellectuals' of our society (which primarily consist of the upper class for whom corruption is not really a hindrance) have sought to critize it every step of the way, while making elaborate speeches about the 'right' way forward which the IAC should take up. Does one not see the the futility of the situation? While these intellectuals don't do anything themselves, they deem themselves worthy of dictating what other's should do. They all make it a point to state that they are not 'arm-chair' critics, but that is exactly what they are.

Such individuals can broadly be categorised into four categories. However, as the first two steal points from the third (made clear later) it is sometimes hard to distinguish between them. The four categories are:
  • Elitist, who just want to look down upon what the masses are doing
  • Ignorant, who just don't understand the issue at hand
  • Idealistic, who don't understand the practicality of the world
  • Divergents, who insist that other steps should be taken first
The 'elitist' category consist of the upper middle class who are not effected by corruption on an everyday bases. To be fair, their lack of interest in the movement is understandable as their need for an anti-corruption bill is far lesser than the lower classes. But norms of society expect them, the educated ones, to lead such a movement which makes many uncomfortable. While some openly admit to this (crude honesty that one learns to appreciate), there are plenty of others who try to shift the blame on the movement instead. They rationalise to others (and sometimes even to themselves) that the movement is 'incorrect' or has the 'wrong spirit' or some other flaw they can conjure that justifies their lack of support. Such chain of thought is meant for the weak.

A very popular argument among this herd is that if you were to question random individuals standing in protest about aspects of the bill, they have no response. They question the right of such unaware people to protest. Leaving aside the fact that most of these elitist don't know much about the bill themselves, I beg to question – so what? They protest because they believe in the leadership of this movement. They believe in Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and so on. But what is so bad about that? Individuals specialise in their chosen field, and there are tons with almost no acumen in the political sciences. Does that mean they should avoid voting too? People have known to invest considerable money simply because they trust the new CEO of a company. People will open accounts in reputed banks even if others provide better returns. Reputation does count in this world and that is something Anna Hazare has earnt. So maybe there are some people who are 'investing' (supporting) in a 'company' (IAC movement) just based on it's leadership. It seems fair enough to me. A soldier finds himself kept in the dark on numerous occasions during a war, does he stop fighting? Or does he trust his commander to make the right calls?

The ignorant ones: One of the issues with India today is that in the years after our independence street protests have gained a negative connotation. Many people now automatically assume that street protests simply consist of mindless, jobless masses, rambling about things they don't understand and making unreasonable demands. This allows them to make quick and ignorant judgements. One the most prominent ones, that comes to mind are the exorbitant claims that the Lokpal will become a supreme head of our country, with too much power. This is what the politicians try to publicize and many people who believed themselves to be the 'voice of reason' in an increasingly 'agitated India' blindly repeated the propaganda. Not so smart now, eh? Even the government, which at one point had the audacity to blame the US for this movement, does not shelter under this argument anymore.

I also club the people who claim 'that lokpal will not solve all our problems' among the ignorant. This excuse for not supporting the Lokpal is pitiful. Not on one occasion did anyone, Team Anna, IAC or any other individual claim that this would be the case. But does that mean we don't support a movement which can at least bring about some changes? Maybe it will only help improve the situation by 30%, maybe even less. But is that not worth it? Such arguments are made by cynics, and cynics are simply a burden on society.

Now for the idealists. I bumped into a college student on the train home from a protest. As I was trying to persuade him to join the cause, in a very reasonable tone he replied that he supported the Jan Lokpal bill but despised the tactics employed by Anna, i.e. fasting. He believed it to be a form of blackmail and completely undemocratic. With my stop approaching soon, I wasted no time in countering his allegations and simply questioned him whether he saw the bill passing without immense public pressure? No he said, but still insisted that fasting was wrong. So I suggested to him not to go to the protest to support Anna, but simply to show support for Jan Lokpal. It was clear that he did not believe in the means, but did so in the end. So the question really was that is protesting against Anna's methods a higher priority than protesting against corruption? There were some who disagreed with IAC's approach, but where is the balance? Even if we were to admit it was 'wrong' (which I don't), which is the greater of the two evils? What will benefit you as individuals more? This is a classic mistake in prioritizing, where we divert our attention from the greater problem by focusing on some technicality.

There are other idealists who make suggestions that IAC should have entered politics and brought about the change from the inside. Such people don't do so themselves, but find that they are at liberty to tell others how to do it. But leaving the frustration of this hypocrisy aside, there is an issue of practicality in such a route. If IAC were to be large enough a party to bring about this bill, it would take them years of campaigning. Lets not forget the added burden of the existing players continuously trying to quell the rise of an honest party. Entering politics can be a dirty game and requires patience and a lot of sacrifice if you are to be honest and even then chances of success are low. What right do these idealists have to demand such sacrifice of others?

History has demonstrated that major battles, while keeping casualties to a minimum, are almost always won by changing the rules of the game. Ghenghis Khan trained the best archers in the world and won his empire using them. Chankya manipulated kingdoms to get Chandragupta Maurya his empire. Babur used the unconventional cannons to destroy the armies of the Rajput. This is a war against corruption and the rules had to be changed to win it. A frontal assault, by fighting elections, would have destroyed the IAC's armies, just like Chankya's army would have been on attacking Maghda. By changing the rules we achieved a better chance of success.

Another point of discomfort for the idealists is the concept that by assembling a few lakh people in Delhi anyone can influence the country's policies. To assume that the crowd in Ramlila was the only reason that the government was pressurized is just naive. In such a vast country, a few lakhs will not change anything in terms of election out-comes. The government was pressurized because they rightly realised that besides the people on the streets of Delhi, this movement was supported by lakhs of others who just didn't have the time to demonstrate their support.

Finally the divergents. Such 'intellectuals', in the midst of a movement start making suggestions that instead of fighting corruption we should be protesting for economic reforms, or other such policy. Their motto being – First do this, then do that. Not getting into the debate of in which order we should be bringing the reforms, I would just point out the absurdity of such a comment. When the momentum has already been built, what sense does it make to change the goal and kill the movement?

During the days of Anna's fast, I read an elitist's comment that protesting on the roads had become a fashion statement. The comment was in obvious disdain and I was irritated by it. But now when I look back I feel like an idiot for being frustrated. What the elitist said was true! It was fashionable to come to the roads, just like it was fashionable to burn the British clothes during satyagrah. I remember the glee on the people's faces as they climbed on to the police trucks to get arrested. Even now I see the pride with which people recount the stories. Yes, it was fashionable. But this fashion helped improve our country, unlike the Gucci bags of our elitist counterparts.