Our Big Fat Indian Illusion

It is said that when G.K Chesterton was chosen as one among many famous authors to respond to the question “what is wrong with the world”? He responded with a letter that merely said “I am”.

The greatest threat to our nation’s future is our avidly avowed self-belief that politicians are the single reason for all of our country’s problems and unless some political hero rises to save the day, we are damned and doomed. In other words, when it comes to democracy we are notional believers and functional atheists. Yet, if we were to think deeply about the Indian problem, it should boil down to two words: “Selfish Individualism”. It’s seen in our caste system. Visible in our justice system. Learnt in our education system. Leaks out of our tax system. Builds our chaotically stuttering infrastructure.  And then brazenly manifests in our political system which only selfishly reaps the benefits of our intertwined systems of individualism.

Indian flag

Here is a bitter truth. If democracy is a government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’, it will never better the average moral sum of all its people. If the left believes the only thing right with this country is the left and the right believes the only thing left in the way of this country is the left, not much will be right or left in our country. One political party makes you believe that the only problem with the country is the other. The truth is that all political parties are made up of people like us. Who, when push comes to shove either don’t want to swim against the tide or find it in their better self-interests not to do so.  Most politicians love themselves more than country. The party serves only to fan that self-love.

I am not saying that some political parties aren’t better than others. Of course there are politicians who can reverse progress. I’m not even saying don’t hold people accountable or give up on clean politics! I’m saying the larger problem with our country is our selfish individualism that eats into our culture, businesses, media, justice system, religion, and local communities. The political class preys and thrives on this. Even if we aren’t serving others to our own detriment we could at least quit climbing our ladder to other people’s detriment. Will we stop driving on the wrong side of the road to save a few minutes? Will a lawyer lose a client for refusing to bribe a High Court filing registry official to get a faster court hearing? Will a leader tell his sycophants not to heckle people who express dissent on twitterati?  The inconvenient truth is that becoming a just society involves being inconvenienced at the individual level.  We can spend crores on swach bharat but unless we learn to drop that piece of ice cream wrapper where it’s supposed to go, even if it gets us really sticky hands, we will be no cleaner a country when a regime in the distant future comes up with a new jingle!  The end to bonded labour will arrive when individuals realize that peoples liberties are far more precious than their gains from cheap and exploitative labour.

India needs no one-man ruler. India needs no political revolution. What India really needs is a moral revolution. For the rich and the poor. For the political and the apolitical. For the black and the brown. For the Punjabi and the Dravidian. For the Christian and the Muslim. For the Dalit and the Brahmin.  And when we begin to believe in our individual power to come together and change things, we will realize that the winds of change blow in the direction of fraternity. That the sum of our hopes is far greater than our narrow self-interest. That our nation can be “one India forward”!

By Abishek Jebaraj

Abishek Jebaraj is the managing partner of Isaac & Jacob – An Indian Law Firm.  He practices law in various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.

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