Can We Govern Ourselves as a Nation?

We are fast approaching a state of dysfunctional democracy.  When we look at us from the world standards, the mechanics of our democracy have functioned relatively well.  We still have peaceful transitions of governments, respectable electoral turnouts and significant changes in the make-up of the government after each election.  In spite of the political exploitation of the uneducated, caste politics, region politics, religion politics, language politics and what have you, the voice of the electorate still comes through clearly.  All these factors do distort our democracy but do not make it dysfunctional.  What is pushing us to a dysfunctional state is the spectacle of corruption rampant in our government.  Corruption is very unique in its make-up as it touches us.  It cuts across all our caste, ethnic, religious, regional, sex, professional, economic, educational and language divides.  It is embedded within the very fabric of our society.  With such a ubiquitous state of corruption how can we govern ourselves?  It does not matter what form of government we choose for ourselves; democracy, socialism, communism or even the dreaded dictatorship, the corruption running in our social stream is going to make it dysfunctional. 

Can We Govern Ourselves as a Nation?

To answer that we need to look at our history and its impact on our psyche.

Before we worry about the success of our democracy, we have to understand that we are one nation with a shared system of living as reflected in our constitution.  If we belong to this nation then we have to take ownership in it and protect it and guard it.  We can work to improve its flaws and make it better; nonetheless we have to take ownership in it as it is.  We may not like elements of it, but it is ours – all of it.  That is called nationalism.  We have to be nationalistic in our outlook.  The concept of nationhood is relatively new in the human civilization.  Show me a progressive country and I will show you its people who take pride and ownership in it.  It takes generations of evolutionary thinking and experience to understand and appreciate nationalism.  We can copy a form of democratic government from others but we cannot copy nationalism.  It has to germinate from within and be nurtured for many generations.  This is where we are severely handicapped. 

If we look at our history, there are only a few periods over a span of 2500 years when we were under one umbrella; notable amongst them were Maurya, Gupta, Mogul (mostly Akbar) and British empires.  Only two of these were indigenous empires.  The other two were forced upon us by the outsiders.  Most of the time we lived as a fragmented set of states under monarchies with very narrow outlooks that often fought with each other for territorial or egoistic reasons.  They were never united to fight against an outside invader.  Worst yet, they often invited foreigners to fight against their neighbors as a means to take revenge.  Over this period of time, as a people, we got divided in our mindset in a multitude of ways.  During the Mogul and the British empires, we were treated as second class citizens.  Therefore, the question of having any nationalistic feelings toward these empires did not even arise. 

The only time during this large period of history any nationalistic feelings were espoused amongst us was during the freedom movement against the British.  This movement spawned a few great leaders who aroused the feeling of nationalism within us.  This was a short span of some 60 – 75 years in our history.  Once the independence was achieved and the pioneers passed away, the germinated nationalism within us also withered away.  It just underscores how long it takes to understand, appreciate, nurture and preserve nationalism.  We didn’t have it to begin with and when it was aroused within us it passed away before we could internalize it.  This is precisely our problem.  We don’t seem to have what it takes to be nationalistic.

So what does nationalism have to do with corruption?  The answer is – everything.  Corruption is inversely proportional to nationalism.  If we have strong nationalistic feelings, we will protect the national interests over our personal interests.  We will intuitively see that the national interests are the very foundation of our personal interests.  Conversely, if we have weak nationalistic feelings (or none as appears to be the case with many of us), then we behave like a herd of wildebeests on the planes of Serengeti.  We may look as one large group (nation) but when we are chased by the lions (under any testing circumstances), everyone is on his own with no regards for the other.  This is precisely how we behave.  When we get the opportunity, we only watch out for ourselves with utter disregard for our fellow citizens or the nation.  This is the root cause of corruption rampant in our society, particularly in our government.

Back to our question - Can We Govern Ourselves as a Nation?

Not if we do not comprehend and buy into the concept of nationhood.  Not if we do not have any nationalism.  Not if we apply all our intellect in serving ourselves at the expense of the nation.  Not if we stay corrupt.  We are simply not fit to govern ourselves.  Ironically, this is what British used to tell us when we demanded independence as a nation.  That should put us to shame.


More by :  Dr. Gopal Singh

Top | Analysis

Views: 3387      Comments: 3

Comment Your analysis is very right. Greed of the rich and men in power has reached such a height that common man has very little or no opportunity to redress his grievances. The police force works for the rich, and regretably the judiciary appears to lend a deaf year to the common man. Who can reach the Supreme Court? The lawyer's fee is running into several lacks, I presume.
The inherent goodness taught at family level across the country is pushing the wheels to move in the muddy roads of governance of the country. I do not find a noble statesman these days to be a role model to us and the youngsters.
Nationalism is an object of despise these days. I liked your lines, 'If we belong to this nation then we have to take ownership in it and protect it and guard it. We can work to improve its flaws and make it better; nonetheless we have to take ownership in it as it is. We may not like elements of it, but it is ours – all of it. That is called nationalism.'
We were told that during the wars the Japanese volunteered to jump into the 'submarines' to destroy them in the attempt to save the country. That is fierce love for the country. Scamsters in high places do not serve the nation, they are vultures waiting the nation to die. It is time that we wake up and be custodians of our nation and save its ancient heritage.

Kumarendra Mallick
08-Jan-2011 08:02 AM

Comment I agree with you that one can be national and international at the same time. The communist that simply wear the garb of nationalism while cheating their nation do not have the integrity toward the nation. They are simply opportunists. This applies to any one. I don't think that communist have any special claim toward nationilism.

You made a point that corruption has to do with personal integrity. The term nationilism here is being used in the context of governance of one's own country. The personal integity toward the nation that you wish to govern or within which you strive to seek high positions leading toward governanve can be defined as Nationilism. It is not at odds with international commerce, trade, international professional opportunity seeking etc. One can maintain national and international (in the foreign country of service) integrity at the same time. The nature of commitment toward one is slightly different than the other. In each situation you are displaying the personal integrity.

Have you noticed how well Indian nationals do in the foreign countries as professionals where they are not actively involved in governance? They are required to adopt (by and large) to the system of living established by those countries. The same (educated) nationals behave very differently when they are in India. The simplest example is to watch our behavior while boarding or disembarking foreign air carriers at International airports versus Air India in New Delhi or Mumbai.

When it comes to self governance, our lack of integrity (in this situation lack of nationilism) is debilitating.

06-Jan-2011 01:34 AM

Comment One has to admire your analysis, but on a practical level are you not the observer to the reality that has overtaken any hope of the solution you posit in renascent nationalism? You are seeing it with your own eyes. It is a sign of the times that nationalism is strictly an identity check in an internationalism that pervades all modern nations. In this sense, one is at once national and international, indigene and expat; and one is driven by financial considerations overriding the national. Examples are seeking the best remuneration for one's skills anywhere in the world; out-sourcing of labour to Eastern countries like India such as is currently the policy of national companies like BT in the West. There is simply no scope or hope for a return to the nationalism you dream of. Nor has it anything to do with corruption as you directly proportion it - that the cause is a lack of nationlistic feeling: corruption has to do with personal integrity that is not acquired as a nationalist trait. The most nationalist are invariably the most corrupt and restrictive: examples abound, chief in the ex-Communist regime of the USSR and present day North Korea. It is when there is an effort to become more international in outlook that we have doors opening and mutual respect gaining and integrity, because divested of nationalist prejudice, becoming the operative principle.

What you observe as corruption in Indian life is really regrettable, and it boils down to the compromising of personal integrity by individuals, living persons, at the specific place and time - and all probably under the influence of nationalism: that is the irony of it. For who but a national can pull off a scam in his own country?

05-Jan-2011 13:31 PM

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