Sunday, November 04, 2007

Unnecessary survival

Just as recent spat of words between UPA constituents regarding the nuclear deal and 1-2-3 agreement with United States seem to head towards a silent death, Pakistan, an important ally of Washington in "war against terror", plunged into the deep crisis of emergency. As I sit glued to the TV news channels to gather what’s happening across the border while guessing what might have happened in our own country during 1975 – I disturb myself with a more fundamental question.
Long back had Professor Darwin answered that when it comes to survival, only the fittest would be able to do so. But, neither he nor any sociologist till date has tried to pen down under what circumstances survival is necessary or to put it in different words – if there is a conflict between two survivals, which would be given the priority?

The best and most popular answer would be to say – to everybody self survival is of paramount importance, yet I doubt that such sweeping generalizations would make everybody happy. When an individual assumes a position of influence or power, when an individual represents an institution or when individuals remain bound by social contracts – my personal choice of surviving priority should go to the institution or the valid contract. Unless, prima facie, the system is at fault, it is of paramount importance that we, as individuals, respect the institutions more than personal independence.
That’s probably one of the reasons I have a liking of the way democracy functions in the west and not the way it is modeled in India. History shows that America has always valued independence fiercely yet has put institutions ahead of each and every discussion. We have been historically dependent on good kings and kingdoms and it’s not a surprise that India flourished under great kingdoms while plunged into depth when the ruler turned bad. Unlike Americans, who have bound themselves to the constitutions under the “Declaration of independence” on July 4th 1776, which till date remain supreme, we have only started experimenting post 1947.
In any democratic society, laws and institutions are of paramount importance and when the choice calls for an "either-or" situation, they remain front runners. Back here, we have dug ourselves into a difficult situation by trying to please everybody. Even though the individual freedom is of highest accord, we should argue for institutions and country ahead of everything else – be it religion, ideological hardships or personal losses. Sadly, that’s not been the situation and we still remain hostage to age old ideas of compartmentalized ideologies at the risk of putting the nation at shame. A PM or a President or any person representing the country should be more criticized if they fail to honor national commitments rather than risking a mid-term election.

Indians, in general, are more prone to be influenced by stars or individuals rather than institutional ideas. Our choices are driven by star system; we put more emotional emphasis on the individual star or celebrity rather than the institution itself. Our cricket, our films, our history, our religion and even our politics is so individual driven that every dishonest and fallen celebrity poses grave threat towards the base. In democracy, everybody remain equal (and importantly, no one or no section is more equal than others) and we are yet to digest this simple truth. Changing a rotten system and fighting for a transparent administration is centrally justified, as long as it is not guided by the hogwash of charismatic individuals. In any democracy, the ultimate goal and good intentions are of paramount importance, and even at the risk of conflicting ideologies, we should respect the opposition as much as the popular ideas. Just like in any relationship, individuals should cease to be of less importance than the justified institutional ideas, and even though, all efforts should be made to guarantee individual independence, a successful partnership should ensure survival of democratic ideologies. In democracy, a less popular opposition is equally respected till such times when those opposing ideas run contrary to the democratic fundamentals of the country and constitution.
Under no circumstances should law be held hostage to popular emotions or whims and fancies of individual dynasty, neither laws should be framed with coveted biasness against genders or sections of societies and above all, a citizen must understand the importance of the fundamental fabric of this country.

Just as we regret at the declaration of emergency in Pakistan we must ensure that back home, we honor the democratic fundamentals much more than individual freedom and when we discuss survival strategies, we could start with a more fundamental question – is survival every time necessary? Not every time, survival of individual is important and the biggest gift of democracy is the realization that defeat to an institutional idea is not the end of all independence. Our neighbours, to me, remains an example of how dangerous a flawed democracy could be and my fear is that, unless we change our attitude, we could head towards the same situation, albeit manifested in a different manner. Unless we prioritize our national and collective choices, we expose ourselves to a clash of egos, rather than of transparent ideas.
Then, nobody could be blamed for such a shameful end to a so called vibrant democracy, which probably juggles with more right ideas than it could handle.