Comfortably Numb

Democracy is a political system that guarantees fairness. It ensures that all members get equal say in the direction to be taken on any matter. However, democracy can default into anarchy, autocracy, liberalism, plutocracy, republic, just about anything, if the majority desires a leader who is representative of that. Democracy works on the idea of averaging, clearly implying that the entire data set should be used in doing so, not a meager 30% or 60% or even 80-90%. In a sense the proportion of people whose opinions are considered in a democratic system becomes the precision of the political system. And how truthful the polling system is to its voters, in terms of authenticity of votes, is the system's accuracy.

A political leader to most of us individually means nothing. He/she is too far to affect our local sphere of operation. But he/she decides the position and amount of sphere that our offspring or even our future has for survival. For instance, it was the degrading Mughal leadership that led the people over to the hands of the British, and it was the leadership of our ancestors that has now guaranteed us our rightful space to live.

What happened after independence to our political system? Whom did the British leave the power to? Most of our freedom fighters were tired and happy to have won independence. They did not want to get into another struggle just after and so with anyone to question out of the way, the bourgeoisie took over. People gained the right to vote and elected their own Zamindars as they were the most popular. We chose whom we slave to. Gradually this became apparent and our enthusiasm to 'choose' has faltered.

The precision (as defined in the introduction) of the democratic process in the state of Tamil Nadu in 1996 was 55%. In some constituencies it was as low as 40%. And who is to speak of the accuracy, given the party that was most accused of corruption and had on-going cases in the State High
Court on several accounts, came to power; right after which most of the cases were resolved to the party's favor re-electing Jayalalitha, the accused in several cases, back as the Chief Minister of the state. (please re-read the sentence as it is too long)

Consider now as a dramatic contrast, the United States of America. A poetic upholder of justice; and has as its leader George W. Bush and his Grand Old Party (G.O.P). He and his party, in an attempt to recoup the flailing economy have sanctioned enormous tax cuts. These long-lasting tax-cuts returns money to the wealthy who invest in foreign economy and in non-circulating wealth such as stones (diamonds). Vice President Dick Cheney is known to have been involved in accounting malpractices while serving as the CEO of his oil company Haliburton. He refused to release documents relating to this, even when the court ordered him to do so. Finally when the case was taken to the Supreme Court the judges' panel voted in his favor.

The political likeness across continents is comforting in the fact that evil is as common and uniform as good. One would agree that the population in Tamil Nadu is very different from that in the United States. The US of A is known for its educated society. Districts in Tamil Nadu are still fighting female infanticide. So what common property across the two sustains such corrupt political systems. To answer this question I would like to extend Tamil Nadu out to India, since the same is true in every other Indian state. Now the discussion becomes a comparison of the "corruption-sustaining" properties of India and USA.

The Americans (at least majority of them) hardly care. The average American is well-provided for and he/she knows this. The politicians of this country are aware of this critical comfort zone that needs to be maintained around most of its citizens. Revolution requires an agitated crowd not just one that is aware. Agitation requires an orienting force. The current American society is aware but not agitated. Keeping them thus requires giving them the right amount of comfort. The politicians know that too much comfort is unnecessarily expensive and that they can achieve the same effect by playing it cheap and keeping the populous right beneath revolting.

The Indians of which we are millions have millions of problems of our own. Our government is the able student of the British aristocracy. Divide and rule is their policy. I truly believe that our government is in coalescence with that of Pakistan's. Together they are a consortium that corrupts both countries by distracting its population against each other. Well if they are not in this together they are stupid and evil rather than just evil. Another great default in our nation is the percentage of poor. One would think that in a democratic system, given the poor are the majority, they would be ruling at least indirectly. Not true at all. Television, my dear, is the rich- man's magic wand. Have you ever seen the rich watching television? No, the television is only meant for the poor. And the rich broadcast television.

That should raise alarms! After a hard day's labor, the poor return home to watch sermons given by the rich in bright colors and statistically proved faces of beauty. So you see the people of our country are either orienting their anger towards Pakistan or who-ever the current local enemy is (Hindu, Muslim, Christian) or just engrossed by the rich. Just as a matter of pointing out the irony here, the rich also give 'National Awards' to the most heart-wrenching movie, which is usually about the poor.

So the issue with the Indian system is that its population is kept ignorant and its people constantly distracted and that with the American system is that its population is kept lazy its people comfortably numb.

A partially implemented system is no system. Today's democracy is not "people by the government of the government for the government" (the order may be incorrect). Democracy should be a legislative system and for any legislative system to have moral claims its precision and accuracy must be high.

Over 60-70% of today's Indian youth are computer engineers. I believe them to be the constructors of a more just system. Computer network connectivity in India has to increase. People in our country must have options besides television. The Internet will let them choose what to read. And reading is good, it is intellectually a more stimulating task than idle visual in-take. The Internet is a cheap and easy to enter media hence cannot be controlled by the rich unless of course they lobby for some silly regulations.

Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT is eager to provide wide-spread internet connectivity to the nation. A few corporations should provide the capital for such a high-revenue system. A few public organizations should join in the venture to ensure the freedom of the new media. The plan will recruit a wave of computer engineers who loath to go abroad in search of a future.

The educational institutions should direct their research money for a secure connectivity channel or protocol with the view of conducting national elections over the Internet. This will increase the accuracy and precision of our democratic process. And will put us way ahead of any country in the world in terms of a just-government. Wide-spread secure internet connectivity throughout the nation has many other emergent goodness. Such as fair ration distributions. Instant complains to government organizations. Tracking government processing. Enhancing the transparency of the government and its efficiency.

As we proceed to improve the accuracy and precision of the democratic process in our country it is imperative that we pay equal attention to having an informed population. An informed population is one which has the ability to choose 'thoughtfully' among its electoral candidates. This will prevent democracy from being a pure popularity contest where in an inexperienced cinema figure has greater chances to win than an experienced statesman with good opinions on issues. The Internet can be used to make elections more issue-based than popularity based.

Consider the electoral process executed over the Internet. When a citizen logs in, he should have access to information about all candidates running for election. This should include the election commission certified background check, the average income of the individual and his/her family in the past 'x' (say five) years, criminal records if any, educational status and finally issues that the candidate is fighting for. This instant access to information even at the moment prior to voting is crucial to the possibility of a more intelligent voting population.

This might avoid the likes of G. W. Bush.

And while we progress... we should make sure we don't forget our history and get comfortably numb like our western compatriots.


More by :  Punitha Manavalan

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