What our country needs is a social reboot

Yatha praja tatha raja.

Actually the saying is opposite, but since we live in “democratic” times, this is more apt. According to the traditional saying, it’s yatha raja tatha praja, which roughly translates to: the qualities of a king can also be found in those he rules. In India, the way our society is, so are our leaders. So the corruption among our politicians and administrators can be traced back to our society.

Corruption and immorality don’t easily repulse us. Although we are the land of Geeta, we believe less in karma and more in fate or fortuitousness. Instead of working hard for success and wealth, we try to please an assortment of gods by performing rituals and placing talismans and amulets at strategic places. After all fasting for a day, throwing garbage in already polluted rivers in the name of oblations or feeding a few beggars is a lot easier compared to toiling for years.

Similarly, greasing palms for getting work done is a done thing. In fact the situation has come to such a pass that now your work won’t be done unless you grease a few palms. Whether you are on the giving side or the taking side, it’s a part and parcel of day-to-day dealings.

There is no civic sense in the country. The moment you start admiring the Mercedes moving ahead of you, pop opens one of its doors, comes out a head, and a long streak of expectoration is splattered on the road. While you are recovering (if by chance you haven’t gotten used to such oral precipitations at public places) an autorickshaw stops by your side, the driver leans towards you, performs the same fete carried out by the guy in that Mercedes, and speeds ahead singing a Kishore Kumar song. If you want to witness democracy and socio-cultural equality in India, you’ll find it in the crystallizing mucous on the road.

What does it show? It shows you have no respect for people around you, you don’t care for the cleanliness of your city and you roads, and more alarming, you don’t care what people think of you, unless they know you.

We have ingrained insensitivity towards our fellow citizens. As long as I can get into the bus or the train, you can go to hell, or under the wheels of that very bus or train for all I care. Can I squeeze my bike into that gap and get ahead of this car? Sure, even if it ultimately contributes to the current traffic jam, why not? Everybody is doing it. I should probably break this queue and show these losers what a go-getter I am. How cool it will be to break this law and not get caught, and even if I get caught, how doubly cool it will be if I can threaten that policeman by calling up a relative with “good connections”. Why not throw the garbage on the road? How do I care as long as my own house is spic clean? Why should I interfere while those goons molest that girl, she has probably asked for it.

All this percolates into our political choices. Oh, this party promises caste based reservation. Good, now my kids don’t have to study and compete with those nincompoops perpetually having their noses in their books. And this one favors minorities? That politician is raking in millions — lucky dog! And above all, he belongs to my community. So proud he makes us. Development? Don’t be so elitist.

You can very well imagine what a ripe ground for corruption our country has become. It’s irrational to blame politicians and bureaucrats; after all they are not coming from abroad. They originate from our own, morally decrepit social fabric. You remove them, more will come.

So what our country needs is a social reboot. Rather than political and administrative reforms, we need social reforms. It’s not our politicians who are the problem. We are the problem.