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Heart over head;democracy is dead

May 14, 2008

In the Sunday Hindustan Times of May 11,2008, Vir Sanghvi has written in is article “The American President” that whatever be the merit of Barack Obama, Americans are likely to choose republican John McCain as he fits more into the mould of White Anglo sexan protestant which, historically in the recent past, a majority of American Presidents have tended to be. Sanghvi is so sure of this assertion that in his own words he is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

I had read somewhere that Democracy has meaning only in a literate society and in the same vein, American and British democracies were more vibrant. There is some merit in this as we have evidenced how in Bihar Lalloo Yadav ruled Bihar by person and proxy over a period of 15 years without commensurate merit. One can imagine poor, illiterate people casting their vote parochially in favor of their caste or religion without giving a damn to merit but if educated people also allow themselves to follow heart over head, one wonders what is in store in the long run?

Apart from Americans, the emotional element is very much evident in British society where monarchy persists though in this day and age, it is clearly our of vogue. Though South Indians are perceived to be down to earth, it is not too tough for a filmstar to become a prominent politician without any commensurate merit. Heart predominates also because the head does not decide the merit parameters of politicians.

In his Article “to woo UP, Rahul should tie the Dalit knot” of 5/5/2008 , journalist Jug Suraiya says “The proclaimed Yuvraj of the congress party, Rahul should emulate kings and emperors the world over who have used marriage as an instrument with which to forge links with other principalities and powers to help them extend their own domains. “
That’s a new one but may not be a bad idea while the going is good. Had India been a completely literate society, dynasties would never have lasted for four or five generations where American and Russian Presidents cannot stay in power for more than two terms.

It is really strange that people like President Putin of Russia who has given a superb performance in terms of turning around Russia has to think of abdicating power even if technically whereas other politicians can continue without merit on the strength of heart alone. God alone knows when genuine democracy will arise on sheer merit. Democracy seems more dead unless we use more of head.

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4 comments

  1. good analysis!
    However, don’t u think this constant refrain upon “merit” somehow renders this whole notion of democracy very elite..which one must acknowledge it is, if one divides the whole population (like u did) between educated literates and ignorant illiterates.

    Lalu managed to rule the kingdom of Bihar for so long by whatever means. but then he is no different from other politicians in that respect. However the reason why he’s being voted in the office term after term might lie in the very tangible line of caste along which our country is divided socially, politically as well as electorally. A society is built upon a heirarchichal structure that priviledges some at the expense of others. this also decides who gets the privildge of education and who doesn’t. What u’re discussing here, the problem of literacy is but mere symptom of the deep rooted disease of casteism and oppresion.

    when an ‘illiterate’ person from the scheduled castes of bihar votes, then globalization, economic reforms and other so-called pan indian issues are not on his mind. his only concern would be to make sure the upper caste of the village (backed by the poiliticians of the constituency) don’t make life hell for him and his family.

    As for the “liberal” educated west, the fact that bush got two terms in a row, especially at the time when his infamy was at its peak following Iraq war…what does that tell u about the educated west? “when in doubt, play safe” that’s the motto of West. In war times, americans do NOT change their Presidents. that’s that.
    This year, with a Black democart in the race, the presidential race has grown complicated. And with “change” being the lietmotif of this black democaractic candidate, knowing well the American double standard regarding radicalism when and as it suits them….i wouldn’t sweep aside Vir Sanghvi’s observations ina a hurry.


  2. I’ll see everybody tomorrow on What’s Up Wednesday. ,


  3. This is the respect in which philosophy today is in his view, a complex form of systematic and axiomatic thought: modern philosophy is an axiomatic conviction, a modern conviction, which begins from the event of our times. ,


  4. The bolsheviks for instance were just a tiny fringe party the one time there was an election, but they still had total power within a few years. ,



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