16 October 2012

Open Letter to Team Anna

Respected Shri Anna Hazare, Shri Arvind Kejriwal and members of Team Anna,
A large section of the nation is supporting your criticism of the present state of affairs in the country and share your concern about the rot in our political system. Corruption in the form of scams is one thing, there is also the serious issue of a corrupted and unethical mind-set among the entire elite, whom the rest of the nation imitate and aspire to be.
You have said that the present democratic system is flawed and needs to be set right. May I ask, sir, most respectfully, if we can do this without also looking at the very basis of the democratic system, which is modern, western civilization? It has economic, social and political objectives based upon its own history and thinking - these are completely at odds with Indian civilizational worldview, and the nation has suffered due to this experiment.
Is it possible, sir, to see and recognise this foundational fault and then re-shape the democratic system - after all, even the modern, western democratic system is its own, it is not at all the way Greek democracy was defined, as the 'power of the people'.
More than a hundred years ago, Mahatma Gandhi wrote 'Hind Swaraj', where he foresaw and addressed this issue. May I quote a brief section from it which is uncanny in its resemblance to today's state of affairs (it is in the form of a dialogue betweeen Gandhiji and a reader):
Reader: If the education we have received be of any use... if the English Parliament be the Mother of Parliaments, I certainly think that we should copy the English people.
Gandhiji: You want English rule without the Englishman. You want the tiger's nature, but not the tiger; that is to say you would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan, but Englishtan. This is not the swaraj that I want.
Reader: From your statement, I deduce that the Government of England is not worth copying by us.
Gandhiji: Your deduction is justified. The condition of England at present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight. That which you consider to be the mother of parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute... it has not done, of its own accord, a single good thing. The best men are supposed to be elected by the people. But, as a matter of fact, it is generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and selfish. Each thinks of his own little interest. It is fear that is the guiding motive... Parliament is simply a costly toy for the nation. These views are by no means peculiar to me. Some great English thinkers have expressed them.
Reader: You have set me thinking; you give me entirely novel views. I shall have to digest them. Will you now explain the epithet 'prostitute'?
Gandhiji: That you cannot accept my views at once is only right... Parliament is without a real master. Under the prime minister, its movement is not steady but it is buffeted about like a prostitute. The prime minister is more concerned about his power than about the welfare of Parliament. His energy is concentrated upon securing the success of his party. His care is not always that Parliament shall do right. Prime Ministers are known to have made Parliament do things merely for party advantage. All this is worth thinking over.
Reader: Then you are really attacking the very men whom we have hitherto considered to be patriotic and honest?
Gandhiji: Yes, that is true; I have nothing against Prime Ministers, but what I have seen leads me to think that they cannot be considered really patriotic. If they are to be considered honest because they do not take what are generally known as bribes, let them be so considered, but they are open to subtler influences. In order to gain their ends, they certainly bribe people with honours. I do not hesitate to say that they have neither real honesty nor a living conscience.
Reader: As you express these views about Parliament, I would like to hear you on the English people, so that I may have a view of their government.
Gandhiji: To the English voters, their newspaper is their Bible. They take their cue from newspapers which are often dishonest. The same fact is diffferently interpreted by different newspapers, according to the party in whose interest they are edited. What must be the condition of people whose newspapers are of this type?
Reader: You shall describe it.
Gandhiji: These people change their views frequently... these views are never steadfast. The people would follow a powerful orator or a man who gives them parties, reception, etc. As are the people, so is their Parliament. If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be ruined.
Reader: To what do you ascribe this state of England?
Gandhiji: It is not due to any peculiar fault of the English people, but the condition is due to modern civilization. It is a civilization only in name. Under it the nations of Europe are becoming degraded and ruined day by day.
One might say this is roughly the state of demoracies all over the world today. They have all copied England initially for the elitist political system, and then the USA for its exploitative commercial system, the result being that many nations are now in different states of ruin.
Sir, while reshaping the political system, is it possible for you, and us, to make this foundational correction and to aim for a socio-economic system which is based upon strong local communities, self-sufficiency and sustainability, party-less local self-governance - all of which will celebrate the Indian civilizational way of living? We may still have something substantial to give the world.
I write this letter in earnest. Your movement has shaken up a sleeping nation. You have my support as of millions of others - may the opportunity come soon when we can make this fundamental correction.
Rajan Venkatesh