By the time you read this, the dust must have settled on yet another outrage (I’m bored of them now). Mark Zuckerberg changed his profile photo on Facebook to include the Indian flag, a gesture to support the Digital India Campaign. It made us feel good - after all, Facebook doesn’t do something for a country every day. So many of us joined in. And then some jealous Congees or AAPTards probably saw the mention of internet.org in the code, and declared that Facebook was using it to show our support towards their cause. Immediately, our sense of righteousness kicked in, and as Rachna Parmar said, everyone became a coder. We saw as many people posting status updates about the ‘perils’ of the display photos as the people who updated their photos. Facebook had to come out with a clarification stating that there was absolutely no correlation between internet.org and the Digital India Campaign. Of course, none of the ‘righteous’ people will listen - after all, they know better than everyone else, isn’t it? The fact that they haven’t achieved anything in life except a new level of complaining and cribbing is a different story.
So where does hypocrisy feature here? After all, these adarshis are standing for something they believe in, however stupid, right? Not quite. I’m willing to wager a bet that if Facebook does launch internet.org, or Airtel launches Airtel Zero, these righteous folks will flock to use it just like everyone else. Their justification? “See, I said it was wrong. But if everyone is using it, why shouldn’t I?” Flimsy, isn’t it? You see, people who portray themselves as righteous and moralistic on public platforms like social media and mainstream media, don’t really have a spine. The honest ones don’t need to make a show of it. They quietly go around doing their work, making small invisible changes which contribute to something big. And then every critic joins in to take the credit.
Imagine the laugh that Facebook’s employees (and the world) had at our IQs. Then again, this is not the first time that hypocrisy has hurt us Indians, has it?
|Hypocrites be like....|
Let’s start with our desire to eradicate poverty from our country. We have been solid supporters of socialism and despised capitalism since the days of Nehru. Socialism implies that production, distribution and exchange should be regulated by the community (or country) as a whole. You know people who proudly strut around calling themselves Marxists? They’re socialists. On the other hand, capitalism is a system where trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit. Nehru taught his whole generation that ‘profit’ was a dirty word, that people who make money are greedy and should be looked down on. Think about the disdain you feel when you say the word ‘marwari’. After becoming Prime Minister, Nehru declared that everything would be under the government’s control, and placed uneducated people in bureaucratic bodies to ‘grow' of our economy. While Nehru was busy having a gala time, his bureaucrats who knew nothing about business were taking decisions to approve (or reject - mostly reject) proposals from businessmen. Those years bled our coffers dry repeatedly. And Nehru staunchly defended the losses stating that a government should not be accountable to anyone, and that it is not in power to make profit. We were so enamored by his ideologies that we fell for the hook, line and sinker. Not only that, we passed those thoughts down to all generations believing that socialism was the way forward, and that businessmen were greedy. What we failed to comprehend was that greed is an innate tendency of man. So when we should have encouraged businesses to flourish, which would create countless jobs and independent cities like Jamshedpur, we let greedy illiterate bureaucrats ruin our country and fill their own pockets under the pretext of socialism.
Staying on Nehru, let’s talk about another case. While Nehru was PM, we frequently encountered famines. To the extent that we would import about 12 million metric tons of food grains from other countries, primarily from the US, to feed our people. However, when the US urged us to try becoming self sufficient in regards to food, we looked at them suspiciously and said that they wanted to stop us from advancing technologically. Yeah, right! Any Indian citizen who called the government’s attention to the need for improving conditions for agriculture was called an ‘American agent’ (ring any bells?). Nehru kept saying that it was shame how we, a country whose primary occupation was agriculture, could not feed our own people. He was all talk, no action. Just like the majority of us today. Nehru and his ‘trusted’ bureaucrats also chastised the US for the latter’s concepts of capitalism. Despite importing food grain from the US, we cozied with Russia. Guess whose wide-open arms that pushed the US into? Pakistan’s. Till date we’re ruing that mess.
I want to delve more into our hypocrisy. We say that we are supporters of art, and that we want up-and-coming artists to flourish. But in reality, we only like what is ‘big’ and ‘glamorous’. That’s why the senseless Khan movies rake up hundreds of crores in the first weekend, while true art movies get accolades from a few but lie unnoticed by the rest. The same holds true with sports (yes, here I am guilty too. I only watch cricket in Indian sports). This hypocrisy took its toll during the very formative years of our economy. Nehru’s bureaucrats (you can roll your eyes now) believed that steel and heavy machinery “had the highest correlation with national income in different countries.” So, with the help of loans from foreign governments (we were socialists remember? So no FDI), they set up three massive plants. But we still imported steel at a yearly cost of $200 million in the early ‘60s. It didn’t matter. The project was big, and glamorous. There was an alternate unglamorous view too. That we employ surplus labor to produce ‘wage goods’ like toys, clothes, shoes, snacks, etc. These low-capital, low-risk businesses would attract entrepreneurs for their quick return on investment, and laborers would consume the wages in buying these goods that they produced. Something on the lines of Henry Ford’s model. But this suggestion was scoffed at, and it stymied small innovation in our country which could lead to big changes, something that USA has done very well. Now you know why millions of Indians abandoned us for other countries. Now you know why the ‘brain drain’ occurs. “A little more realism and a lot more humility among our leaders might have helped in those days”, wrote Gurcharan Das in India Unbound.
One last point. I wrote about the famines we experienced regularly. When Lal Bahadur Shastri became Prime Minister, he decided to address this problem. His trusted bureaucrats negotiated for months with other states and launched an ambitious (and risky) agricultural policy. They imported fertilizers and 16,000 metric tons of Lerma Rojo, a miracle wheat which kept soil fertile for longer, needed less attention and grew faster. The result? From being seen as a basket case of food, India became, as quoted by the official US hunger document in 1980, “the only developing country in the world which has built a solid system of food security.” We no longer encounter famines and sit on a surplus pile of food each year. The world applauded us while our own countrymen cried foul.
But do you know where the biggest opposition to these policies, which only did good for India, came from? The media, and the Congress itself. The media wrote vehemently against these initiatives, calling them the ‘biggest sellout to America’. Academicians wrote extensively decrying these moves, and the Congressmen secretly kept hoping for a peasants' revolt, which never came. What came instead, much to the chagrin of critics, was the green revolution. So you see, everything that has ever done good for our country has been chastised by the media and us common folk since we are so heavily dependent on it. We are comfortable with complaining about things that don’t work, but are pushed out of our comfort zone when something unconventional is tried, and oppose it with everything we have.
I’m not saying Indians are bad people - okay, some of us are. This hypocrisy, which is deeply embedded in us, is not out of intent; it’s out of ignorance. We’re too ignorant (and lazy) to peel the layers and look for the real truth. For instance, the 'meat ban'. If someone does something which doesn’t auger well with our immature minds, we run to oppose it. When someone else does something else, we run like donkeys in that direction. And another. And another. We cannot wait before we judge, let alone considering alternate avenues for more information. We know the media is shitting us, but we will play along nonetheless. Look what we did to Maggi. And when it comes back, we will still eat it, won’t we? And don't even get me started on the 'secularism' rhetoric.
Are you looking for something to take away from this post? Well, there is none. Or wait, maybe there is. I’m asking (no, imploring) you to be driven by common sense and rationale for the sake of this country and yourself. Understand that there are more than 2 sides to every story. When we start looking at things objectively, maybe… just maybe… we will stop making fools of ourselves and this country will get onto the path of genuine inclusive progress.