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Prisoners of System : The vicious cycle

Most of us talk about corruption in India and most of us are apt to pinpoint corrupt politicians as the root cause of all problems in India. Little realised in the fact, the these politicians rise to ranks from the masses and if corruption is common in politician, its because its common in men.

I once asked a close Marvadi friend, if he keeps black money. He replied yes, upon which I asked him being so educated why you should continue to involve in such practises. He said blankly, “We are not interested in indulging in such practises. But are you aware that at every point we are forced to cough up our hard-earned money to so many officials without any official purpose? If I don’t have this kind of money, I can’t have even a decent life. But atleast I have decided in personal front, that the moment I needn’t cough up money unnecessarily, I shall give up this practise”.

In the struggle for Indian freedom, Gandhiji was correct to dismiss the ideology of revolutionaries whose agenda was to eliminate few elite officers to create terror. However insofar as the system itself is concerned, X is replaced by Y and Y becomes the new X.  The system was intact. Killing top officials may create terror, yet another person soon replaces the dead and we remain to be prisoners of system.

Most of the intelligence organizations do the same. Mossad of Israel is notorious for having eliminated all top leaders around the region to maintain their supremacy. Apart from the moral aspect of cold killing, this is in long run highly useless. Leaders are born out of system, and soon, most of them were replaced by leaders as much effective.

Going back to medieval ages, the continual subjugation of masses was maintained intact through the feudal system. Knowledge was concentrated in the hands of few. As long as the system remained unbroken, superficial changes were of no avail. Man is a product of his environment and if the environment encourages discrimination, nothing can prevent him from doing so. Hence, the invention of printing technology created ripples down the system, and masses were soon informed of their misery and developments worldwide inspired many others.

Going back much beyond, in the age when men were hunters, food was scarce and might was right, it was alright to kill someone for trifling causes. The system encouraged this practise; only when men began farming, and when survival became a bit easier, we established a stricter moral code. Through farming, the system itself was shattered to pieces.

Coming back to Industrial age of 17th century Europe, the new system made it impossible for the feudal system to remain unharmed. The new system required mass scale immigration and it followed that landlords were no longer as powerful as before. The new age lords were capitalists. This system too remained intact for two centuries.

The power (wealth) remains concentrated in the hands of few capitalists and the rest were immensely poor. For all the success of Communism across world, this fundamental nature of Industrial System made it impossible to distribute wealth more equitably.

This remained more or less the same (irrespective of the economic ideology) because huge difference was integral to the system. Not until the rise of Knowledge based economy, these differences collapsed bit by bit.

We, Indians make a huge and costly error of believing that if a certain section of people – politicians are better, then India will improve. The system continues because we give it sanctity at every point in life.

 Movies like Tagore, Oke Okkadu, Bharateeyudu etc wrongly depict that India would strike gold the moment few elitists change(or forced to change). It’s something like dowry system; we cry aloud when we are at receiving end, and yet we happily wish to benefit from it whenever occasion arises. The system is finally on decline mainly because women are better educated and economically independent these days.

The system which doesn’t punish wrongdoers without delay is infact encouraging to many others to commit wrongs. The system which doesn’t reward honestly indirectly rewards corrupt practises.

I personally see a Leader as the person who breaks the system. Who unchains us from the prison of System. He is more like a midwife who understands the Spirit of the Age and brings in change.

PS: Leadership is one of the most fascinating things psychologically, philosophically and socially. I would like to bring in my views on this soon. 


  1. Madhav,
    Ingenuous article. I appreciate the way you presented it. It is true that a very narrow minded perception is today being propagated by the Indian Media Circles, that politics is the root cause of all the misfortunes and poverty in Indian Society. Little do they recognize that each and every person has a role, small and large, in it. You do echo my views. Politics and Bureaucracy are jeered at all levels of public information systems in India. This is what making people inept towards politics and bureaucracy, the very system that is in place to safeguard the virtues of honesty and transparency in administerial matters. Too much of blame and responsibility is laid upon the system that instead of introspection and rectification, it is driving the administrations more into a vicious cycle of opportunism, bribery and loyalty based exchange systems. A common citizen, either a layman, agriculturalist, Industrialist or Businessman, only approaches the politicians and bureaucracy for a personal favor with such loyalty based connections and Bribery. Such an opportunism exhibited by the citizens is the feeding fodder for more opportunistic, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to use this as a ladder of opportunity to step up in their party or administerial status and cadre. For an instance, political parties in today's scenario, choose their candidates based on various qualities, but last of the priorities is honesty and altruism.The selections are based only on money and opportunism. At the end the voter is left with a choice-less choice.
    Overall, this is inherently a societal phenomenon and difficult situation, but only until grass root level awareness is brought about by propagation of right education and public information. That is where the responsibilities of those good Samaritans lie, who really would like to improve the society.
    Any attempt to break the cycle anywhere else by policy changes or revolutionizing political system would back fire and increase instability and leave us in more difficult situations. For example if we look into the past, we cannot miss how the revolutionary changes in election procedural codes by TN Seshan have failed. Today because of those code alterations enterprenuers and bourgeois class entered our political system . Political aspirations and pariticipation of common man and poorer sections has just vanished to zero levels. A neo-feudalistic system where the rich and elite class has taken control of the reins came into existence. Even though well intended, those policy changes have really affected our entire political system in many other undesirable ways. But the good intentions were only partially fulfilled.

  2. Bang on Madhav. I feel there cant be a radical change unless one of these 2 happens.

    1) Grassroots level change in people to realize they need better lives and its manifestation in some effective ways that forces changes in governance and administration.

    2) A powerful leader who works top-down. Who employs a carrot-and-stick policy but more importantly guided by a strong vision to better our lives. He/She should be on lines of the philosopher-king!

    Looking at our society and the leaders and social equations it throws up, we should be really lucky for any of these 2 to happen. The T movement did give me some hope though that the 1st option may materialize if things get worse in this market-driven world.

  3. @Amar:
    I am in full agreement with 1st point. However from my chilly perspective born through experience I doubt your 2nd point. Plato's philosopher-king idea looks very nice on paper. Yet, as Aristotle put it precisely "Who watches the watchmen?"
    You can see that we have worst kind of leaders in India (sorry to say...leaders of T-movt are no better)...You have observed in your blog itself that people are leading this movement. System must be improved to make leaders more accountable to public..Else even if an educated person like you holds an authority it can be of no avail..

  4. Amar,
    As you might have rightly pointed out in chronology you chose,
    the grassroot level changes take the precedence over the prospect of having a powerful honest and able leader.
    With out the expected desirable changes in the way people think, no good and honest leader would ever gain support, or at least would be recognized as a leader for that matter.
    And may be that is the reason why we see in our history innumerable number of scholars who failed to inculcate absolute changes in the people's behaviour. That includes all the religious prophets and leaders. That is why religion is failing people everyday.
    At the end it is a question rather than a solution just similar in the lines of the famous logical question: "who is first - egg or chicken??"

  5. @Madhav & Sravan,

    While the 1st point looks logical, it may take eternity simply because at any point of time there are good number of people benifitting from prevailing corrupt system. They would not back a new revolution and complete unity would not be possible. Recent T movement is a case in point. There are too many elements who derive their power from existing 'samikya' setup. So for a grassroots level enlightment to counter these established players is quite a task, not impossible though.

    On the other hand, we should not confuse between a politician and statesman in my 2nd point. A powerful statesman who can sway the masses in not impossible. This leader need not necesarrily reflect the masses. Did Gandhi reflect the masses of his day? In fact he bought a whole new definition to Hinduism as a non-violent religion! That was his power in forcing ideas on masses. I dont even think Nehru represented masses of his day. Was such open-mindedness, romanticism in culture, economy, industry inherited from masses? And Kemal Ataturk of Turkey bought a modern air to his country even before 2nd world war and Turkey is the only country today calling itself secular despite 99% of its population being Musilms! Ataturk did not reflect his masses.

    My point is all enlightened leaders have a streak of convitions. call it madness. they are as mad abt their beliefs as out regular netas are abt power and money! once one of this breed gets a break, they wud b as compelling as other netas in aggression and pursuit of power. Its just that their motives wud b different. with so much internal churning in this well-read country today, it is possible some such leader is taking shape somewhere with the motive of wiping out plutocrats and opening up this countries resources for its masses. not impossible. Just like the 1st point.


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