Image: Thirty-Six Faces of Expression by Louis Boilly
A common complaint that is sweeping the country is that the grand (and largely self-imagined) brilliance that India could have been has been cut short thanks to the apathy of those most necessary to fix our problems – The middle class, the educated, the intellectual and the rich. They all failed to ‘react’.
I have found this desperate demand from every half-baked group out there that India ‘react’ to every single thing with great gallops of outrage and ‘anger’ nearly always ends in tears for somebody.
Unending, uncontrolled reactions always eventually reach the point where the original cause is long forgotten, but the engine of vengeance is well oiled and churning through the flesh of innocents.
I dislike ‘reacting’ and ‘reactions’ to everything,
The very word – Reaction – indicates its core philosophy. It is an action taken in response to an action that has already occurred.
Reacting is passive-aggressive. Reacting is creating an answer – hurriedly and with little foresight – to a situation that has already developed. When the moment is upon to us and the pressure is crushing, taking the decision that seems the best at the time is always a shot in the dark.
And reactions, by their very nature, are temporary.
Long term solutions cannot be found through reactions because the action taken was the solution to a very unique situation, that has already played out. It is so customized to the situation at hand, that it can never be used again.
In India, unfortunately, reacting has become official policy – be it of the man on the street to the latest gang rape or the hopelessly backward and clueless administration to anything.
India must stop reacting to everything.
This does not mean that Indians must stop acting. It means India needs definite actions, not simple and emotional reactions.
Protests have their part in any society. Protests register the urgent need of the moment. They are the most visible sign of the feeling of the public. They are absolutely necessary to shake up an inert political class.
The Delhi gang rape protests were a brilliant display of what is possible if people get mobilized. And a law did get passed – though it was a highly butchered and diluted version of the original Justice Verma recommendations.
The arguments made against it’s stricter clauses in Parliament were ludicrous and obscene. Mulayam Singh, the man who dreams of becoming the PM one day, apparently felt no shame is telling us that stalking should not be made an offense because that is how men in India get their women. (It was not made an offense finally)
There were no large-scale protests about that. And the rapes have continued.
There is no blame here towards anyone – it is not possible to have protests of that scale to run eternally.
However it shows the vulnerability of issue based protests – they tend to very focused and blaze brightly, but inevitably fade away when the issue goes out of mind.
Where are the ‘I am Anna Hazare’ people I wonder? Less than 10% of them showed up for Arvind Kejriwal’s attempts to make the solutions long-term, I notice.
But since politics and foreign policy are hard-to-grasp and complicated issues, here is a simple one -
Traffic in India must improve. No one opposes the thought. All parties support it. It is equal to all – no reservations necessary. And nobody is claiming bad traffic is an Indian cultural thing.(yet)
The normal way to drive in India is to ignore every rule and every other person on the road, driving with ‘naked celebration of ignorance and causal disdain for the suffering of others’.
Side Note: There is an entire article on that one
The default ‘reaction’ to a traffic incident is to ignore the victim or silently watch the tamasha.
This is Indian apathy at work.
Sometimes, however, a mob forms and they burn a bus and beat up the nearest policeman before taking up an angry march to the Commissioner’s office.
That is also a reaction. That is also a protest. That is also proof that India is ‘angry’ and ‘motivated’.
If you manage to take out a protest of 1,00,000 people and halt traffic in the center of the city for three days – you will make a lot of noise. You might even believe that you, the non apathetic Indian, just did something meaningful.
You may bring about a dramatic change in the way we drive through this. It is possible…though highly doubtful.
The only action that will definitely make a difference is this – follow the traffic rules, even if you are the only one in the entire district to do so.
This action does not require you to ‘react’. It requires you to keep calm and carry on. It requires you to understand that the traffic situation will not change in three days, but it will take three decades. It requires you to believe that you are making a difference, even if you cannot see the difference you are making.
It requires you to teach others, patiently and quietly, without hooliganism and beatings, the steps that will bring order to the roads.
You will not win any accolades. No newspaper will publish your face on it’s front page. No media will come to cover you. You will not be hailed as a ‘leader’ and politicians will not come to receive you in the airport. Most likely no one will even care.
But if you follow the rules, and convince even one other person to follow the rules – the traffic situation will change. Most importantly, it will be changed forever.
And that is what action means. A change that will last forever.
To quote Narendra Modi – “Solutions must be institutionalized”.
Actions are those deeds that are undertaken not to address a situation that has already happened, but in an effort to anticipate a problem that will happen.
Actions are proactive and long term. Actions depend on understanding all causes for a situation.
Actions are also slow and often in a minority.
It is fun to burn a bus. It is thrilling to scream and shout on the roads. It is easy to chant slogans. It is definitely easy to berate people with death threats when they don’ t do what you want them to do because you think you have the magic solution to all problems.
It is even easier to force a reaction and then completely lose control of the whole situation.
So next time, instead of blindly following whoever you like and threatening others into (temporarily) following you – Why not take the lead?
Convince us. Show us the path and teach us why we must walk it.
In short, take action…IF you can, that is.
The above has been inspired by a comment on Reddit. The comment -
“This zor dude represents exactly what is wrong with India’s so called educated class. The malaise of apathy that is afflicting our society. The attitude of unless something affects me personally, I am not going to get off my fat arse to change it. The naked celebration of ignorance and causal disdain for the suffering of others. India needs its own Cultural Revolution to get rid of such bad blood.”
Telling me that you want to cleanse my blood from this land…not a way to get me to follow you. Just FYI