Friday, 26 November, 2010

India - A tall-errant society

The pattern is simple: looting, the indignation accompanying it, biased investigations and criminals being let off, repeated until death.
The solution, according to those in power, is simple too: Show zero tolerance to corruption
The result: is out there for all to see.

I wonder if I am missing something fundamental.

What the hell is Yorkshire pudding?

"Political corruption" is a western, renaissance-ish concept related to social consciousness.

A version of a democratic political system was thrust upon the Indian people by people tutored in universities which grew out of that European renaissance. Indian society itself never experienced a renaissance. Thus, in the interest of adapting to an alien system to survive, we introduced cultural concepts that we were familiar with. We looked up to our elected leader as the king, and his henchmen as ministers who could grant us small favors in return for loyalty and obedience. When loyalty and obedience did not pay, we discovered that bribes worked.

The concept of a king or emperor is political corruption taken to its logical conclusion. A king will get you to till your fields to produce grain and hand over most of it to him, in return for services you did not really ask for or need - and even better, you have no right to question him about the quality of the services he provides. Now, why does that sound exactly like the state of affairs in India today?

They the people, solemnly resolve....

It is hard to imagine a society where only those who happen to find themselves in positions of power lack integrity, notwithstanding the fact that power corrupts etc.

When one visits a temple, a supposed bastion of equality, god being the great leveler, the amount of money one is willing to spend is directly proportional to the 'quality' of the experience. But wait, the 'kings' are the ones who build temples in the first place and one's 'proximity' to god varies depending on how close one is to the king.

The trend having been set, each one of us tries to use whatever influence we possess to achieve whatever goals we might have, lofty or minuscule in the grand scale of things.

We are only the products of whatever came before us. Having sprung forth from a society based on kings, ministers, intrigue and favors granted for loyalty and obedience, it would be naive to expect ourselves to suddenly, without precedent, raise ourselves above personal gain and look to the betterment of all.

For such a change to happen, we would need a revolution of sorts. However, for a revolution to occur, there needs to be a small strata of society against which a large number of oppressed can revolt. Since each one of us indulges in whatever it takes to get by and the society allows us the space to do so, there is no essential difference between the politician who loots tax money and the rickshaw driver who charges an arbitrary sum depending on the weather and the honest citizen who will not hesitate for a moment to ask his cousin, who works at the passport office, to submit an application for speedy processing.

While India has witnessed revolutions, in spiritual thinking, religion and culture, it has never seen a revolution which demanded an improvement in the quality of people's lives, and possibly never will, thanks to our society's DNA. It is a very accommodating and tolerant society, where aberrations are seen not as vile things that need to be eradicated, but as beautiful nuances that make life worth living. This accommodation of diversity, in all forms, is what makes India a great civilization.

How, then?

We need to stop calling what we indulge in, corruption. It is like calling honey, 'bee spit'. It is what it is and we indulge ourselves. This is our take on economics. If you don't want the politician to steal your tax money, there are proven ways of evading tax and getting away with it. We need to stop comparing ourselves to enlightened societies (wherever they might exist, if only in our books). We need to stop acting concerned when transparency international releases a report stating that India is among the most corrupt countries. If the world economy really did care about our corrupt practices, it would stop trading with all 1.2 billion of us and hurt itself in the process. Since every society is designed to protect itself, to the best extent possible, we can count on the essential selfishness of man and in effect each country to try and benefit from our resources; you, me and the land.

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