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Monday, April 21, 2014

Politics? Simple!

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius

The Indian citizen like India itself is a “Sleeping Elephant”. It revels in self-imposed sloth until the elections arrive and then goes on a rampage like a drunken elephant on a full moon night. The sloth and the rampage both are rooted in the classical Indian psyche. First, let us understand our predilection to sloth. When confronted with choices, we are more likely to choose the option in which our own house remains clean but the street in front can remain filthy. And, having pronounced “this nation is beyond redemption”, we repose in front of TV screens. Siesta for Indians is craftily distributed over twenty four hours of a day.

Second, Indians are a restless people when awake and outside the comfort of their homes. Doctors’ waiting rooms, roads and queues of all kinds are testimony to our basic instinct of catching up on lost-on-purpose time. Specially, national or regional politics cracks us up big time. Our zeal to ameliorate the nation or state begins with “Enough is enough”, swells to “Enough is not enough” and reaches its climax with much physical and emotional violence. Groggy after extended sloth, like zombies, we march to the beat of wily politicians. And, our political idols will send us to hunt innocents like that somnambulist from Dr Caligari’s cabinet.

Indians hate simplicity. Our music, arts, culture and psyche, all are relatively more complicated and of higher-order than what is found in most other world civilizations. Being complicated itself is not bad. It produces incredible beauty and variety as evident in Indian music, paintings, languages, dance forms and food. Sooner or later we must gravitate away from the simplicity of Kabir, Bhagwad Gita, Guru Nanak and Rahim to the garishness of Bhagwati Jagrans, Sai Bhajan Sandhyas and ostentatious weddings.

A complicated psyche poses a special challenge when it comes to making political choices and governing people. The complications in our psyche arise out of wide disparity in people’s incomes, regional economic development and social histories. This stitched together “vibrancy” [sic] is what wily politicians intend to take advantage of. They divide people exactly on these fault lines before elections and then exhort them to come together again in the ‘larger national interest’. This is the destructive manifestation of our national complexity.

So, is there hope? Fortunately, yes! The answer lies in breaking down the destructive complexity into simpler, more manageable forms. It’s like devolution of species from complex forms to single-cell forms or the mathematical concept of Fourier Transformation (FT), where we break down a seemingly random waveform into a number of regular wave forms.

In terms of politics, this means our capability to break our wish list down into simpler, closer-to-everyday-life issues that matter to everyone, including those at the bottom of the pyramid e.g. Food-water-shelter, Hygiene, Education, Healthcare, Employment and Safety. To that end, the role of our political leaders is limited to governance and not actual execution of actions that will fulfill these essential needs of citizens. Political leaders are the people-appointed trustees who as part of their dharma will ensure equitable and optimal distribution of national resources such as to maximize welfare of the people.

A politician who is corrupt, communal or criminal is incapable of following this dharma and thus unworthy of people’s trust. We must therefore examine the political choices in front of us first and foremost on their past record and capability of following this dharma. Spare yourselves the analysis of complex scenarios spun like cobwebs by wily politicians and demagogues lest you soon find yourself stuck like a helpless fly in the spider’s web.

Keep it simple stupid!   

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci