My Company (read Country)

I am employed with a large corporation. Emotionally, this instills in me a sense of pride. Back then, my community was an unorganised set of people who were engaged in unorganised work, sans any defined code of conduct. A few men decided to change this order, decided to organise the unorganised. This was duly achieved by founding a company that would be run by defined codes. What followed was a clear organizational structure with a board (read legislative body) at the top comprising the top brass (read lawmakers) who would deliberate on how to run the company more efficiently. The mandate of this board was to further the interests of all stakeholders including the worker (read citizen) at the end of the queue.

In the initial phase, things were good. The organised way of working brought with it many benefits. Our company now competed with many other established companies, even surpassing a few, and returns for all stakeholders were good. A wave of democracy swept the scene, and we celebrated the fact that from now on the board will be filled with elected members that would allow every stakeholder to have a say in how the company is run. Now since the company had workers from different divisions (read faith/ caste/ race), these heterogeneous groups formed their own unions (read political parties) that were represented by members from within that group. Everything looked great.

But with all these advances came corruption. Although the board hailed the mandate of serving the interests of all, it placed the interests of top brass above that of others. In order to achieve this objective, the board aligned with union representatives, in turn corrupting the latter too. A new arrangement was promoted where all workers were called upon to join forces to make the company the best amongst all corporations. In the morning assembly, workers were motivated to sing praises of the company and swear allegiance. Workers, many of who were politically ignorant, started developing a feeling that the interests of the company are paramount even if they collided with their own honest interests.

To attain the formidable objective of making the company the best, workers were asked to sacrifice all comfort. The board made policies with the rhetoric of ‘company first’ but what lay underneath was the unquenchable thirst of board members to hold on to their top positions. ‘You can do it’ for your ‘company men’ was the slogan that was raised. While to the workers, the company meant everyone including them and their children; to the board, it meant just the top and the upper middle brass. To further own comforts, workers were brainwashed by the board on how other companies are plotting to bring down theirs and why it is so important to make sacrifices. Workers rallied in the support of these glossy policies.

You may ask, was no worker competent enough to understand and raise alarm against the tricks played by the board? Indeed, there were a few, but the board managed to oust them by labelling them ‘anti-company’ elements.

Today, workers are reeling under many difficulties, but the board and union representatives are thriving. The workers are staring at ‘good days ahead’ as guaranteed by the board. They have fallen prey to the rhetoric that unless they bear unprecedented costs, the aim of becoming the number one company cannot be achieved. The state of affairs is more or less the same in all companies, and the boards of many have colluded to project themselves as each other’s rivals so as to preserve the grip over workers’ allegiance and loyalty.

I am employed with a large corporation. Emotionally, this instills in me a sense of pride.

Using Democracy to Deploy Demagoguery, and ultimately Theocracy

That the democracy of India is under pressure and is ceding ground to dictatorial forces is the popular narrative of opposition parties. Is it so? One, electoral politics is still intact and people are electing their representatives at various levels of governance by way of universal adult franchise. Two, institutions are functional- legislature, executive and judiciary- albeit with lapses that have long-prevailed and are deeply entrenched. Three, there has been no explicit attempt by the ruling party to subvert the basic structure of the Indian constitution. What is it then? All democratic elements appear to be in place but why aren’t they delivering expected outcomes including inclusive development and rule of law?

Let’s recall what Socrates once argued. The philosopher was a critic of universal suffrage- the right to vote to all adults irrespective of gender, faith, class, caste and race. He gave a convincing argument when he compared the society to a ship. Who should be in charge of the ship when we plan for a journey by sea? Socrates preferred a person having proper knowledge of seafaring over any other who could win the popular vote on the back of rhetoric and good oratory skills. In this sense, Socrates pointed out that voting in polls is a skill, not mere intuition.

The philosopher highlighted the difference between intellectual democracy and democracy by birthright. While the first can be criticized on various grounds, the latter is even more dangerous when it paves the way for demagoguery (appealing to common people’s desires and prejudices to garner political support).

That’s what is exactly happening in today’s India. Democracy by birthright is intact. In reality, the ruling party is persuading people to step out of their homes on polling day to ensure a clear mandate. How can then anyone justify that India’s democratic fabric is under threat? In fact, such diagnosis is not only unproductive, it is also counter-productive. The problem lies elsewhere. What we need to consider is how the two key pillars of any progressive society- democracy and secularism- are being pitched against one another, and how this is leading to the rise of dictatorial forces even as democracy underpins the entire arrangement.

Gandhi’s ideology and that of most nationalists of pre-independence India is facing a threat that Gandhi did perceive during his time- the threat of majoritarianism. The situation today is this- many members of the upper class are backing the ruling party as they have nothing to lose since their plates are full, and in fact, they hold a belief that maybe someday they can have the same old privileges of class and caste order. And for the poor and middle class, the ruling party and upper dominating class have partnered to give the former a false sense of devotion and security in the name of faith and chauvinism. ‘Don’t think about you or your family; think about Him and borders’. That’s the message which has excellently been passed on (read sold) to the mass.

That’s it, simply, that is it. Democracy by birthright is hurting us; the cure, however, is not abolition of democracy but furthering intellectual democracy without compromising the idea of universal suffrage. For this to happen, the opposition has to educate the mass on a large scale by borrowing from the tactics employed by the then nationalists against British Raj. Send out messengers, hold sessions at ground level, publish material in local languages and engage the youth.

If not done in due time, the ruling party will use democracy to bring in theocracy, for they have already achieved the demagoguery feat.