An old lady asks when her pension will be released. The officer asks her ten thousand rupees bribe. The poor lady does not have that amount. She goes back crying. He sees all this. That evening when all are leaving, he walks up to the officer, takes out a knife and stabs him multiple times killing him and leaves a message on his body that he’ll kill everyone and anyone who asks for a bribe. The audience rejoices. They come out of the cinema hall wondering if only someone stood up for them in real life society would be different. The movie is a hit. Indian, Aparichit, Tagore, Nayak, and similar movies just reinforce this idea. And, we pine for a ‘larger-than-life’ hero to change our life. And, when we see any semblance of this in any person, we pitch our hopes on them, mostly to be disappointed. Can one person really bring change? Or is it just to be only enjoyed in movies? But, didn’t Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lincoln bring change? Were they not just one person?
What we see in movies is just hyped up drama. Most of us realize that, but we still fall for a hero, we fall for a person, whoever that might be, who promises change, who stands up and punishes the wrong doers. Many actors who’ve portrayed these roles are now successful politicians. So, do we need personalities like them to bring real change? Is that the only way to bring change? Is it sustainable? True, Gandhi might have brought change, but, it was not just his dream. He galvanized an entire nation to fight with him. He was a leader who gave voice to an entire nation’s aspirations and people like him are rare. And, yes he did not use a gun. But, what about the others? Those who say, ‘elect us and we’ll end corruption, elect us and we’ll see a golden age’? Can we trust them? Can you change a person at gunpoint? Can we – you & me – not bring change?
Seven years back in my college I read a book named ‘The Fifth Discipline’ which discusses a topic – Systems Thinking. I don’t exactly remember the complete book (hope my professor is not reading this), but just that everything in this world is linked (kinda butterfly effect). If one clog in the machine turns, it affects another clog to turn which in turn affects another and this way the whole machine turns. Similarly, we need multiple clogs to move to see actual/sustainable change in the machine called society. Let me explain: I remember one ACP when questioned about the rampant corruption in the police force, answering in one of our college meet to which he was the chief guest, that it took more than 18 years for a constable to get promoted to a Head Constable. And, given that situation, with not much of a salary hike for such a long time it becomes very difficult for him to manage his life without accepting bribes. “I’m not giving you an excuse, but that’s fact” he said. Given this, even if a person in the police department stops accepting bribes at gunpoint, do you think he’ll still be not taking when there’s no gun at his head? 1
So, does economical situation spur crime or corruption? What about our ‘babus’ (ministers) involved in various spurious deals & scams? What reason do they have to give?
I remember a scene from ‘Cinderella Man’, when Russell Crowe’s son steals a loaf of bread to feed his family which was going hungry during the great depression, Russell Crowe simply tells his son that no matter what, we don’t steal and takes his son with the loaf and goes back to the shop and makes the boy return it. The movie is based on a true story. But, I’m not sure if this incident actually transpired or if it was just creative liberty. But, it does tell us what we need – character. Not the happening term you wanted to hear? Yes, character is not a glamorous term these days. Money, rich, greed (greed is good – Gordon Gecko) are the words which bring a spark into our eyes. The Kardashians and Paris Hiltons are our new role models; not Lincoln & Gandhi.
With this focus on ‘need-to-become-rich-ASAP’ ideal, can we expect anyone to change? Do you think you can force someone to change? No one can change if they don’t want to change. No society will change if its citizens don’t change. The how?
I had the privilege of listening to ex-President of India Dr. Abdul Kalaam speaking at an occasion. I’ll always remember the quote he made the audience repeat:
Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character.
Where there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the Nation.
When there is order in the Nation, there is peace in the World.
This is what we need. Change in everyone, change in culture, change in ‘me’. Not in one person. Not monitored by one person. Till change starts in us, we will not see change in society. Expecting a hero, a political party to bring in change is naive. I’m not being cynical. I am just wondering if that’ll bring long lasting change? It was touching to see the citizens of Delhi & elsewhere spontaneously, without a leader to guide, spill onto the road to protest the heinous rape of Nirbhaya. It showed we wanted change. But, rapes did not stop (even in Delhi). Who will stop that? A hero? AAP? More police? Stringent Laws? I don’t think any will. What will then? We the people. Crime & corruption or for that matter any wrong will stop the day we realize they are not the right thing to do.
But, where to start? Should institutions change first or should I? Is the egg first or the chick? Am I here, proposing any practical steps or only goody-goody talk? Although, I have a few ideas they might prove to be very foolish and naive in the future and already look foolish to a few. But, we need to start somewhere, I need to start somewhere. If we wait to become wise we risk never starting.
- Listen to your conscience – Listen to the voice you’ve successfully suppressed. What does it say? It instinctively what is right. Not what is safe, but what is right. Let it be your guide in deciding your next action.
- Do the right thing – Breaking rules is cool. But do we even stop to consider why we have the rule in the first place? Breaking traffic signals is easy. Copying in exams is easy. Throwing food on the road (and blaming the municipality for not cleaning) is easy, but what am I doing? What is the right thing to do? Am I being a part of the problem? Or the solution?
- Fight in your capacity – Not everyone can take to the roads and protest. But, we all can fight in our own ways by taking responsibility. Educate an illiterate, volunteer to create (political or social) awareness, adopt a child from the streets, support a volunteer organization, anything. There is always something we can do.
Nenu saitam samidhanokati aahutisthanu – Sri Sri
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse – Whitman
- Change is discomforting – Change is never easy and there can be no change if we don’t dare to face discomfort. Societies don’t change, cultures don’t change by following someone on Twitter or by liking something on Facebook. We need to get our hands dirty. Do something.
- Educate yourself – Question your knowledge base. Ask yourself from time to time if your ideals, beliefs hold true. Are they right? Learn more. Explore more. Seek conflicting views. Don’t get stuck in ‘filter bubble’ (reading/listening only that which reinforces your belief). There’s never a right answer, never a wrong one. A lot lies in the grey. Only, when we understand a situation from different angles can we think of a win-win strategy.
Change is society depends on change in culture (and what is culture but the ideas and social behavior of a society?) doesn’t change if individuals don’t. Knowledge is knowing smoking kills & wisdom is stopping it. Reading all this is useless if we don’t act on it. Be the change you want to see in the world2 don’t wait for a hero.
1: Long Wait for Promotions
2: Quote by Gandhi