Wednesday, June 19, 2013

India 2020: The Search for A Strong Leader

The times are confusing, uncertain. Despite all the advances in technology and sophistry in business, from the vantage point of a common man, it seems we are less in charge. All the solidity and continuity middle class life was associated with, is gone. In fact, one can feel that there is no point in being middle class anymore: Either you are climbing up, or you are falling behind. 

At this time, we must find someone to save us, or in absence of hope, someone to blame. Therefore, with the rather bleak prospect of middle class life, we blame our leaders: In the exposed brutality of modern day existence, we feel exposed. We want to be led, told what to do: Therefore, we turn the discussion about ourselves into a discussion about leadership. We hide our weaknesses into a convenient search for a strong leader.

But, who really is a strong leader? We have an impression of a man on horseback, with a faint suggestion of the charge of the light brigade. We want someone decisive, but do we care enough about the direction such decisiveness will take us? Besides, there is another twisted irony at the heart of our desire: We want this strong leader suspends everyone else's ability to obstruct 'progress' and everyone else's rights of opinion, except our own, of course. That way, the desire for a strong leader is an inversion of our own desire to dominate, to drive and to dictate, a celebration of tinpot dictators that we all are.

Benjamin Franklin warned us that 'those who are willing to give up a little liberty for a little safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety'. The middle classes have now lost the plot and indeed, forgotten that democracy is a gift, earned after centuries of struggle. The cacophony about a strong leader is fuelled by our desire to trade off freedom for consumption, a collective abandonment of our dignity for selfish pursuit of pleasure. It is easy to wish for military rule for a day to sort out all the democracy's confusions, but the tragedy is that military rulers hardly ever go away after the designated day is over.

People always get a government they deserve, because whatever we may think, governments emerge from among us. It is built of our own strengths and weaknesses, our abilities and desires. When we tolerate, they become less accountable. When we give up our rights, they become dictatorial. When we lose the will, autocrats take over our states and our lives. When we search for a strong leader, we, by implication, seek to weaken ourselves.

So, finally, then, this is my take on India's various troubles: India does not need a strong leader, just a more involved citizenry. It is time to grow up and take the responsibility of the republic: To vote sensibly, to hold our governments to account, to set standards and not compromise every time for a little personal gain. We have been lucky to have been born in a democratic and republican state; it will be a great folly of our generation if we end up losing it just because we traded it off for easy Credit and more time in shopping malls.

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