Nurturing Young Minds

Nurturing Young Minds

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Politics, Intellection and Emotions

Emotion is a word found in the commonest of English dictionaries. Intellection, on the other hand, is a word that would seldom be found in dictionaries, except in the ones that are the most advanced. Coincidentally, emotion is found in most of our political leaders, but intellection, in few. Intellection is defined as “the act or process of using the intellect; thinking or reasoning.”
The reasons for this are as under.
The first reason is that there are no educational standards set by our law as the minimum eligibility criteria for entering politics, becoming an office bearer of a political party, and entering a legislative assembly or the parliament. There is also no formal educational degree of any sort required for becoming a Minister or even the Prime Minister. Therefore, most people who enter politics have all the emotions, negative as well as positive, which nature gifts freely to everybody on account of being a  human being. However, since they could not find opportunities for higher education, or could not study at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University,  they cannot be faulted for their limitations as regards intellection. The law did not prevent them from contesting elections, and from becoming a Minister. Since they could successfully climb unhindered to the highest ministerial posts in the government, and to very high positions in their political parties, just on the basis of  exhibiting, understanding and manipulating emotions (apart from using money, these days), they could never  appreciate the need for intellection in politics. Also, as legislators, they could not understand the need for a legislation that would prescribe different suitable educational standards for becoming a legislator, a parliamentarian, or a Minister. In fact, they must have though that  if any educational standards were prescribed, it might possibly jeopardize their own positions in politics.
This is the reason for politicians not being intellectuals.
But what is the reason for intellectuals not being being in politics; and, when in politics, not being successful in politics?
This is the question which I consider much more important today, the answer to which needs to be found and understood by those who are intellectuals. With the universities churning out ever larger numbers of post-graduates, scientists, engineers, doctors and MBAs, it is truly a pity that politics is not getting even a fraction of the due share of these highly educated intellectuals in the country, some of whom have returned after receiving education at some of the best educational institutions in the world, and are immensely capable.
There are many reasons why this has been happening, but I would not like to go into all those different reasons at the moment. I would like instead to focus in the current context on the reason that is the most important.
Though politics is about attaining and retaining power, the power is attained through the support of the people. These people are not one or two, like you have in the family. There are lacs of them in a constituency from where you would be elected as a member of a provincial legislative assembly, and a million or more, from where you may be elected to the national parliament. The number may easily be 30 millions or more if you aspire to form a government in a state of India, and more than a billion when you aim at forming a government at the national level, in New Delhi. Leaders, or people’s representatives in other democracies do not have to deal ordinarily with such mind-boggling numbers, yet the principle applies in essence to them too: they have to deal with large numbers of peoples who they would be representing.
Whatever your learning and capability, you have to find a place in their heart in a democracy. It is known that voters and votes are also ‘bought’ these days, yet you would find that, more often than not, those ‘buyers’ were preferred who, or whose parties, had secured a place in the voters’ heart for whatever reason. And when there is a surge of emotions in the people’s heart, no body can buy them and their votes, as we all saw in 1977 and on a number of other occasions.
A place in the people’s heart is not secured by argument or intellection. It is secured through actions and character that exhibit your emotions towards them: whether you love them, whether you understand their agoniesand ecstasies, and empathize with them, whether you hold out any hope for them. Love, agony, ecstasy, empathy, hope are all emotions. The people would not leave you ever if you also had a great policy or program of welfare for them. But that would be seen later. After all people talk a lot about policies and programs, but all policies are forgotten after the elections are over.
The matter can be understood this way too: there are two persons who want to woo and marry a lady; one a true intellectual, and another an ordinary mortal. The true intellectual, tells her a lot about what true love is , the quotes from various writers, and the different aspects of the sociology and psychology of love. He also tells her about his policies and programs that he has for her when they got married. Not to leave anything to God and destiny, he hands her over a CD containing a presentation on his post-marriage programs and policies, and also gifts her a hard copy of the presentation with bullet points.
The ordinary mortal does not know much about psychology and sociology, but he takes her hands in his, and kisses it gently. His eyes exude love, and his demeanor, admiration.
Ideally the girl should have obtained the full bio-data of the two aspirants, got them verified.  She ought to have looked at the various aspects of both individuals that would keep her both loved and comfortable after marriage. At least she should have  once seen the presentation CD, before taking a final decision.
In real life, unfortunately, such a scientific approach is not followed that an intellectual feels must be, or would be.
The girl somehow takes a decision to marry the ordinary mortal, who knew basic emotions and their expressions relevant to the girl, instead of the true intellectual who, in her  perception, was having a lot of intellectual stuff in his mind, most of which might have seemed ‘garbage’ to her due to her stupidity and ignorance. But the intellectual failed to secure a place in the girl’s heart because of surfeit of intellection and lack of rudimentary emotions. In any case, the girl had heard from her mother that all boys made great promises before marriage, and forgot all, once the marriage ceremony was over. Unfortunately, the girl did not know that this learned boy was not of that kind, and that he really had very good  post-marriage plans for her, which he truly intended to implement.
Surely, there are ordinary mortals who show fake emotions to the people and succeed in wooing them; but it would finally be known that they were faking emotions, and would therefore be finally abandoned.
It is a tragedy that owing to the faults in the system of education, those who become intellectuals, tend not only to lose emotions, but also their understanding of emotions.
I was one day narrating to a learned JNU-intellectual friend how Gandhiji started walking barefoot from village to village to stop the Noakhali Hindu-Muslim riots before Independence, and how his feet finally started bleeding, pricked by thorns and prickly pebbles. Not that he always walked barefoot, but on this occasion he chose to.
I still recall vividly the leftist  intellectual smiling with disdain, and asking:
“How could walking or bleeding feet stop the riots?”.
I had promptly changed the topic then, because I had some experience of the levels of emotional intelligence of the true intellectuals.  I could not tell him that the pricks of pebbles in their beloved leader’s feet pierced people’s hearts too, whether it was a Hindu heart or Muslim, and the blood from his frail feet made their hearts bleed as well. It made the people pause for a moment to put their hands on their own hearts in order to feel and remove the thorns that had pierced the Mahatma’s sole, and in that moment daggers had fallen from many hands.
Gandhi’s emotional intelligence was superb, even though he nowhere looks inferior to any other intellectual of his age in erudition, learning or knowledge. In fact he seems to surpass all of them. The collection of his writings runs into 99 volumes that have already been published. And these are a fraction of his writings. I disagree with many views of the Mahatma, which is natural in changed times and circumstances,  but I firmly believe that there is nobody who is in politics, or who wants to be in politics, who could not learn from the Mahatma one lesson: temper your intellection with right emotions and emotional intelligence,which can only develop when you live and identify with those that you wish to represent,  like water identifies with mud. And if the water and mud come together, it signifies that the time is approaching when the adept hands of a sculptor would fashion a Durga out of this mix that  would destroy the demons.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Word for Aspiring Political Reformers of India

What is the most effective tool for rapid socio-economic transformation of the country?
The answers are many, but the one on which most people tend to agree, ispolitics and governance.
For joining politics and government, unless one happens to be in Pakistan where one can first become a President and then get elected, one has to either himself contest an election, as an independent, or join an existing  political party, or set up a new political outfit.
By one person entering a legislative Assembly,  or the cabinet of ministers, no great change at the macro level can be expected. If he joins an existing political party, it has to be one of the main political parties, that has some proven strength, and some following among the people. All these major political parties have some established leaders, some party culture, and some ideology, partly stated and partly unstated. When an ‘outsider’ enters the party, he is least likely to be given a say, or a formal position, which would threaten the views or positions of the seniors and older veterans. If the new entrant is an extraordinary fellow, like Mohandas was when he entered the Congress party on return from South Africa, he would gradually make a place for himself in the party by cleaning toilets or other such exemplary work without seeking a formal position, which in any case the party will thrust upon him, when it is realized that the party would survive or advance only if this extraordinary fellow led the party. If the fellow is so strange that he wishes to remain away form formal positions of power in the party or government, in order to remain more faithful to God and His people, the party would be left curious, confused and helpless, and may decide to benefit from his presence and guidance, or even to be led informally by him.
It is much easier to join an existing political party and then transform the party, like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did by totally changing its elitist culture, and turning it into a mass platform. Joining an existing party gives one some immediate logistical support, some ready workers and helpers, and, possibly, some financial support, unless the entrant is identified as one who is very rich and therefore would himself support the party financially.
Why don’t the aspiring political activist-reformers, now outside active politics, do what Mohandas did? Or why shouldn’t they do it? Why do they want to create a new political outfit?
For finding an answer to this question, we will have to know a few facts, and understand a few things.
When Mohandas joined the Indian National Congress party, Congress was in a formative and fluid state. Its ideas and ideology were  not firmly shaped. It was a motley group. It had no immediate need for comprehensive programs for governance, and its immediate objective was to win partial or full independence from the British Rule. It was relatively easier to mold the party, if a great visionary entered it backed by a  lifetime commitment and passion to turn the currents of history.
The situation is not the same with the BJP and the Congress of today. BJP cannot sever its umbilical cord with the RSS, and cannot survive without its support. The RSS  has a completely firmed up ideology of having a Hindu Rashtra, and it created a political outfit essentially to achieve the objective. It would be very naive to believe that at this stage of Indian civilization, any leader of either the BJP or the RSS truly believes that a Hindu Rashtra could be really established in India or Bharat. But if they drop this agenda, RSS would get extinct. All their committed workers and Pracharaks have worked all their life nurturing the dream of a Hindu Rashtra. They would all drop out. Clinging to this ideology, therefore, is a  survival need for the RSS.  The RSS, and therefore its political arm the BJP, are an  ideologically highly firmed up party, which it is very difficult, if not impossible, to mold into a new cast.
The Congress party, led essentially by people whose surname resembles that of Mohandas, is not perceived as having a die-hard ideology like the RSS and the communist parties. Accommodating diverse ideologies  and people – leftists and rightists – has been a great strength of Congress party in the past, and before Independence. But it is very rigid in another manner: the leader must be having a surname exactly resembling that of Mohandas. This makes it problematic for a new great visionary reformer leader to enter the Congress party, where, quirks of history permitting,  you can perhaps become the Prime Minister, but not the leader. The party finally remains a family concern. If the family disappears from the scene for some reason, the party would collapse soon because it has no person who could be accepted as the leader by other leaders.This is the firm official culture now of the Congress – united in paying obeisance to a Gandhi, though ‘Gandhi’ does not  signify here Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, or any of his descendants - genetic or ideological.
Thus, at the present juncture, if there is an aspiring political activist-cum-reformer who wants to join politics and government for rebuilding India, or rapidly transforming India, and not just for becoming an MLA  or MP, or a minister, he or she has to set up, or be a part of, a new political outfit.  However, setting up a new political party is very difficult, because politics is an extremely expensive activity today. In addition, there are other apparently unsurmountable problems. Therefore, this is no easy option.
In fact Mohandas, who later became Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, having changed history, could read the future trajectory of the Indian history. He could see where the Indian National Congress would finally end up, and he wanted it to be dismantled soon after Independence. Obviously, he felt the need for a new political outfit. Many political outfits came, but the one that should have come, did not. Let us go into the issue of whether such a political outfit will emerge in India now. The issue, along with many related political issues, which are entangled with each other like links in a chain, may be discussed in my future articles on the subject.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shaping The Future: Nature of a Political Party and Political Activity...

Shaping The Future: Nature of a Political Party and Political Activity...: "Political parties, in a democracy, aim at capturing power and then retaining power, ideally for the good of the people. In actual practice i..."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nature of a Political Party and Political Activity

Political parties, in a democracy, aim at capturing power and then retaining power, ideally for the good of the people. In actual practice in India and many other countries, however, a political party aims at capturing and retaining power by any means, not essentially for the good of the people, but for the benefit of the party itself, and, in worse (read most) cases, for some of the individuals that control and lead the political party. The object of a political party in reality is, therefore, not primarily public welfare, but enjoyment of power, and amassing of wealth through power, and enjoying all other benefits that might accrue on account of being in the seat of power, or being close to it.
This is happening irrespective of the fact whether the people, or the leaders, in the political parties are highly educated , semi-educated or unlettered. The things in this regard are not radically different, be it India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
Think. People, who are not very enlightened (being enlightened is different from being educated), are driven essentially by their emotions, and their intelligence is used primarily to fulfill their desires, which are also essentially in the nature of emotions. At the level of fundamental desires, in these countries, whatever be the causes, there is no great difference between and educated and an unlettered person. They all want power primarily for enjoying power, wealth and social status. Earlier, the emotions of humans used to be structured and moderated by some of our holy books, and there was some fear of God, sin and punishment. In the age of reason, these books, whatever their value, have been exiled from our lives, and the system of education has no element built into it to make us understand our emotions, and to provide guidance on how to direct and control them. The families of nearly all of us are propelled by the same emotions, and they propel us towards the goals that match with those blind, crude emotions.  The net result is that we talk great things when we are intelligent and well read, and then, when we are in power, start doing what the uneducated did: enjoying power, enjoying wealth and status.
We talk of team and ideology, but when we find that we are not going to get a share in the pie of power, we find reasons to become rebels, and to form our own parties, and do whatever else is possible.
If we form a political party, and give a call for people who would offer themselves to become MPs and MLAs, and if people have some reason to believe that we may one day, in not so distant a future,  become powerful, they wold quickly offer themselves for the party. When they do not get a party ticket for an MLA or an MP, they would defect in no time to some other party.
If we give a call, on the other hand, to people to join a political party without any claim to a party ticket, a different kind of people, much fewer in number initially, would join the  party. Without men and women who are not driven by greed for power and party posts or tickets, no political party can achieve much in terms of public welfare. They would again, like all other politicians, start enjoying power, wealth and status, for which they actually joined politics. And they wold start fighting with each other for party posts and posts in the government, throwing to winds all their former wisdom and erudition.
What is the solution?
The solution lies in changing the nature of politics and political activity, and therefore of the political party.
A political party has to start engaging in constructive activities, rather than politicking all the time. If the workers are given a constructive program which the top leaders themselves engage in most (and do not only talk about), a new political ethos formation will start. When service will begin in right earnest, the emotion culturing will also start, gradually turning politics into service. Today most parties and most men in active politics are visible to the people only when elections are around. This is just because politics has been accepted essentially as an instrument to acquire and retain power. Since all political parties are the same in this regard, what option the people have in not choosing any one of them? If politics were an instrument equally of service, politicians and political parties would be visible to people not through the TV shows but in their close vicinity.
And when this culture would be embedded in politics, leaders will not land from the skies suddenly. They would grow usually from the grass roots. Even highly educated people trained in MIT and Harvard would start working for the people, right in their midst, without elections being around.
But this change in the political ethos can only be brought about by great leaders who have all the wisdom and erudition to understand international affairs, and yet who have the humility to live and work with the masses, understand their aspirations and problems, and then lead them to economic and social salvation.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Freedom and Leadership

I want complete freedom, though I may not want absolute freedom: I do not want freedom from the dictates of my conscience; I do not want to exercise a freedom that tramples upon the freedom of the less privileged; I do not want freedoms that snatch the bread from the mouths of one billion humans.
When I lead, I want to be fettered by the aspirations of the millions that I lead, but not by their clamors for injustice towards those that are few, and therefore weak; when I follow, I do not want to be completely free from the dictates of my leader, because then that will take me and us no where – after all I chose my leader only when he gratified my conscience.
I want complete freedom, but this freedom I want in order to free millions of people from the bondage of hunger, disease and poverty.
I want to be free, not just for the sake of enjoying my freedom,  but for giving my own and others’ existence a sense and a meaning!