30 July 2011

Are you listening?

People value their opinions. We think our thoughts are important. And we like being heard. It hurts us when someone dismisses our thoughts or refuses to listen or disobeys us. We like our view of the world and wish that it was in fact the only view of the world.

There has been lots of debate on Anna Hazzare's fasts and the methodologies of India Against Corruption. There have been even more debates on the Lokpal Bill. And far too many on the Prime Minister's Faggot-ry. But what are the outcomes of these debates? Do people grasp the concepts and ideas exchanged/written? Do they make for good tea time bragging? Or are they meant to appreciate the speaker/writer's oratory/writing? What are we thinking when Prime Time Debate is aired? "Kya badiya sawaal poocha Barkha ne" "Kya jawaab diya Kapil Sibal Ne" Is it a Game of Chess? Or Age of Empires?

There is nothing that you can do that will force people to think objectively about an issue. Even at crucial points like elections, we just vote. No Manifestos. No Past Record. No Personal Details. We just land up at the booth to ink our fingers. Because we like our opinion being recorded. Do we like being held accountable for it?

Due to some freak of nature, I live in Kapil Sibal's constituency. Now, the Anna Gang decided that we'll hold a door to door referendum in the households of Kapil's constituency. The questionnaire (Click to See) contains almost all the conflict areas of the Two versions of the Lokpal Bill. After the survey, they are going to shove the results in Kapil Sibal's Face and say, "Now tell us, will you vote in Parliament on the basis of what your people have decided in this survey (Refer Ques 8) or on what Madame President (not Patil) tells you to. Check (Chess wala).

Are they going to ask poor people or rich people, I don't know. I know that they came to my home and all the three adults filled in their answers. My Mother had some trouble filling it coz well she's never filled an OMR sheet. I observed two things. She was sentimental about some answers. But that's true for almost everything else, including voting. (This is a logical fallacy. You can't justify a wrong by simply saying that other similar wrongs exist. Sophistry) The other thing was that she asked me things she didn't understand. How reliable a source I am, is out of the question, but the point is that she asked. I think that the referendum at least made us think once as to what really the issue is and that do we really have an opinion on it. Nothing else has ever had that effect on People.

As much as we like being heard, we are also afraid of being judged. This is the answer to the question I asked before. We don't like being held accountable for our opinions. We don't like being told we made the wrong choices. This is why, even I flinched twice. I don't know if this referendum will be used or misused. But for once, people will be held accountable for their opinion. If the proposed Anna Lokpal goes through, and God forbid it turns out to be a monster, we can finally BLAME the people. It would be their fault. Akal thikane aa jaayegi. And if it does not turn into a Frankenstein, well wo-ho! Bye Bye Corruption!

All Democratic Institutions have an exit route. You can collectively decide to no longer obey the collective. The most fundamental principle of a democracy is people's opinion. And if people decide, for whatever reason (rational or crap), that they want to give up their opinion, this has to be upheld. As much as any hero would like to fight against such a rogue idea, which would kill a democracy, he cannot. He would be fighting for people's opinion in general which is against the current opinion of the people. You can only pray. And do good. What is Good? People's Good. Opinion or No Opinion, people are still hungry and dying. Help them?

A democracy collectively decided to appoint a dictator.

Look around carefully and you'll realize that the above is very likely.

Opinions are important. Welcome to Jibber Jabber.

Addendum : This came with the newspaper on July 31st 2011.


Ahana Datta said...

I scream and scream and scream till my lungs burst but no sound comes out. Are you listening?

Devna said...

I completely disagree with you.
One of the reasons that I like political theory is because it is the only arts subject that places faith on the nature of human beings as a precondition to its theorizing. Without faith in ourselves as individuals or a collective, we have nothing.
Its true, that some people learn best after making mistakes. But if you can see how and why we're making mistakes, you're no different from a parent who can foresee the pain that your child will experience if he sticks his hand in fire. What do you do? You stop them.
The foresight that knowledge gives you, is what makes you different. Its what makes Anna different from Kapil Sibal. But if you dont use that knowledge responsibly, you're no better than Sibal and you've failed as a parent.
Gandhi is relevant even today because he showed us how to use extraordinary power in responsible way. Anna wont be relevant even after his political blackmail because history will discard him as the man who tried and converted to the other side.

As for this ancillary benefit of Anna's trying - look at it critically.
Your family answered that questionnaire today. Does that mean they will have better opinions tmro? That spark, the one your mom had while she filled in that questionnaire lasted all of circling the OMR. Its not there today. Anna's spark is not sustainable. Its farcical.

His time, energy, man power and effort would have been better spent in talking to the people he handed out the questionnaire to. Explaining to them what it meant for them to be armed with the Lokpal. so that when the election came, they'd vote they way they are answering his questions today. Lasting impact.

That guy from the Slutwalk thing who tried to talk to us at Dschool?
He did better than Anna.

Devna said...

"A democracy collectively decided to appoint a dictator." <- TRUE.
We need to move ahead of democracy - its a dangerous dead end.
What do you think that can be? I think going back to small communities is our only way out.

Rohan Chawla said...

I am glad you wrote to them.