opinion, Rationalism

Observing Modi

Modi’s strength is his ability to say exactly what the audience wants to hear.

This occasionally leads to laughable incidents like telling a group of traders that they have better risk taking abilities than soldiers, making fun in Japan of people suffering from demonetisation for an NRI audience and crying the next day for a local audience, quoting Dylan in music concerts, Star Wars in America, and relocating Taxila from Pakistan to Bihar.

But make no mistake, it gives him a direct connection with the masses that no other leader in India can match in scale, and this allows him to make other leaders in Gujarat, within the BJP, and indeed in India…. irrelevant.

This mandate from the public allows him to concentrate power within his own being and this has allowed him to make quick decisions for corporates trying to do business, further enhancing his credibility in that stakeholder group (environment, etc. be damned).

He gets more money and that is invested in PR that connects with the masses. It’s a virtuous (?) cycle of power reinforcement and all other politicians are playing catch up.

There are a few problems that come along with these strengths.

One is he says different things to different people and they might figure out he’s not trustworthy.

But only fact checkers catch him on this as the rest of the groups he speaks to are remarkably insulated from one another. He could easily speak about meritocracy in some Business India conclave that is uploaded on YouTube for bschool (business school) kids to watch while speaking in front of a poster of the Ram mandir (temple) in some UP rally the next day. He could just as easily give lectures on the importance of press freedom while his government is forcing TV channels off air.

narendra-modi-in-mathura5_pti
Modi uses a lot of emotional Rhetoric

Most people will not catch on to just how duplicitous he is. They’re too busy with life to audit his promises.

So he’s getting away with it.

The other problem is that he has no coherent vision or ideas past national and cultural pride. Everything else is a mish-mash of self contradictory nonsense.

He can set rules on how much money we can withdraw of our own money after having wowed the corporate crowd with his ‘vision’ of minimum governance. He can talk about black money and transparency after his party has blocked every effort to make its cash based funding and expenditure visible.

Sooner or later, as a result of this incoherence of strategy, we were going to see a train-wreck.

It’s here

It’s called demonetization.

We’re seeing the impact of centralized decision making of a man not intelligent or secure enough psychologically to surround himself with smart people who can say no.

It was a harebrained idea that was shambolically implemented by someone who would be excellent at organising the logistics of the local fair in a town.

But nothing bigger.

And as the initiative fails to clamp on black money, counterfeiters, terrorists, etc. while killing lives, businesses, GDP growth, and trust, the question we can ask is…. how will he worm his way out of this hole?

Easily.

He will simply tell the business crowd that it is the first of many steps to clamp down on black money and also present them with yet another Ponzi promise – this time the vision of a cashless utopia.

And the bschool crowd will fall for it because they have no clue about black money and cashless utopia sounds even more exciting than bullet trains. And of course because their universe revolves around themselves they will conclude that the cashless economy has been achieved in all parts and pop strata of India if they themselves occasionally pay an outlet or kaali peeli in South Mumbai with paytm.

The poor will be told that rich black marketers were hurt very badly and shown repeated footage of one or two success stories till they believe that something actually happened.

Belief in karma allows the poor to put up with any level of suffering. It also allows the rich to remorselessly celebrate their entitlement since they believe they deserve everything they get.

Is there anything the opposition can do?

Yes.

They’ve got to segment the market and deliver differentiated messages to each group using the medium most suited to that segment just the way that Modi does.

Marketing 101.

With the rich crowd they just need to keep using international Nobel prize winning economists to express horror at the idea, let alone the execution of demonetization. Also magazines like Economist, etc. The MBA crowd don’t want to sound dumb so if every foreign reputed news source is down on demonetization, they will speak less loudly. You can’t influence them by telling them babies and pensioners died. They really don’t care and think it’s all worth it for ‘development’. And they will wait as long for acche din as Christians have been waiting for the second coming of Christ. They will let as many people die in the civilizing of Bharat as Christians were willing to kill while civilizing the savages of the Americas and other Imperial conquests.

With the poor crowd, the message just needs to be driven in that all the rich black marketers got away and in fact it was all a scam by the fat cats. There is little to be gained by telling them they should feel upset at the totalitarian implementation or in reminding them of the ‘inconvenience’ they faced. They are used to taking orders and suffering.

With the liberal crowd you’ve got to keep using stories of babies and pensioners dying. Liberals are horrified by harm to the voiceless.

And tell the Hindu traders there are rumours that Modi is going to take the money he made from their suffering and put it in bank accounts of Muslims and Dalits.

Then watch them lose their shit!

Opposition politicians are too coherent.

Kejriwal is just as likely to criticize Ambani at a crowd of slum dwellers as he is in front of a crowd of capitalism loving MBAs. This is why the bschool crowd love Modi and hate Kejriwal.

And Nitish and Mamta and Mayawati, etc are all similarly one trick ponies who say the same thing in all forums.

Modi is not a one trick pony.

He’s the entire circus.

Opposition politicians need to use several different narratives for different audiences.

If they are to ever beat Modi…

They first need to learn from him.

Personal Opinion, Philosophy, Rationalism, Skepticism

Questioning and Rethinking Democracy

“The world will not be right until kings (rulers) become philosophers, and philosophers become kings (rulers)”
                                                                                                                 – Plato

If you think Democracy is a Greek invention then you are deeply mistaken. In any human civilization or society, some form of order or force has some inevitable form of resistance. Freedom for Tyranny, Tyranny for anarchy, Communism for Capitalism, Secularism for Theocracy and Authoritarianism for Democracy. But these are merely just terms to describe the various different modes of struggle any human society can go through over time. I consider it to be a simple yet complex process of evolution of the collective psyche.

Be it 3000 BCE or 3000 CE, these struggles may differ in terminology but their essence will remain the same. So no; the concept of democracy has been here since the very beginning of the human species. If we look back into our history, we can find examples of non-Greco-Roman democracy across different cultures and tribes. So it’s origin isn’t limited to antiquity and Athens, even though the modern concept of this structure of governance is heavily inspired by the Greco-Roman model.

Now the point of this particular blog of mine is not to discuss the types or origins of democracy, but rather to question the concept of that form which most of us are familiar with today.

What comes to your mind the moment you come across the word democracy? Maybe people’s rule or public governance? Well, I’d say it’s valid to some extent at least on an ontological basis. But I’d like to put forth an inquiry as to whether it really means so in it’s true sense. When we think people’s rule, how can we distinguish Hegemony from Democracy? Or one may also question as to whether Democracy itself is in reality Hegemony? If Democracy becomes Hegemony, the voice of the minorities are suppressed so can it be considered another form of Authoritarianism where the oppressor is the majority. If this is so, how can we improve to establish a democracy where everyone’s voices are heard?

These aren’t just questions that have sprouted in my mind randomly but are actual questions that have been asked and raised as an issue throughout various revolutions and movements across the globe. They were asked during the Suffrage, the civil Rights movement, anti-apartheid movement, ‘Leave India’ campaign, the Arab spring, Kranti and two Jana-andolans in my home country of Nepal and even more so, these couple of years following the Rise of Narendra Modi, Brexit, Columbian Referendum, and the election of Donald Trump.

Now one would like to apply the heuristically-driven slippery slope logic here and say that the whole world is leaning more so towards the right and may be nearing destruction, but anyone who has carefully studied world affairs and history would rather say that the entire human civilization is based on an eternal argument towards utopia. Sometimes the yin-side will be heard and sometimes the yan-side will be heard and throughout the ages after numerous such cycles of arguments systems will be more and more polished and refined in order to strive towards utopia, much like a parabolic graph than a linear one, never perfect!

Talking about the dilemma of democracy, there have mostly been two main arguments. Whether to allow every faction and individual the right to vote and elect a government, or whether only some factions should be allowed to vote to elect a government? Now my argument will be trying to justify the latter postulate, and I will not be basing these factions on race, ethnicity or gender but rather on their reasoning abilities.

I’d like to consider the fact that most of the time any democracy has made a supposedly bad-decision, it’s mostly owed to the ignorance in part of the population. Some of you may argue that it might also be out of prejudice, which is true, but I’d like to mark prejudice as a form of ignorance in itself for reasons beyond the scope of this blog. And then going along the Socratic method of questioning, one may ask where does ignorance stem from? Some say it mostly stems from the uneducated or the less well-educated or the illiterate factions of the populace but I’d like to upgrade on that answer and say that it comes from the faction of the populace which cannot reason critically and think creatively. This fact could be universal.

Simply put, ignorance stems from those people, regardless of literacy, who cannot think for themselves and think clearly or rationally and would rather appeal to emotional and prejudiced slurs from sly politicians or leaders. So you might have figured out my main reasoning. Only allow those people to vote who have the ability to think critically and creatively without only the influence of heuristics.

But instead of just declaring my opinion, I’d also like to provide solutions to this philosophical standstill. People may ask how can any system assure and determine who can and not reason critically? Can that method be fail-proof? What if such an implementation instead of creating a just and reasonable system, lead to another bureaucracy or an elitist government that oversees the problems of the grass-roots?

To that I’d say my solution isn’t without its own flaws like any solution to any problem would have. We just have to argue taking into effect the benefit to harm ratio of this particular solution with relation to the society of interest. For instance, in highly literate societies like Sweden and New-Zealand, where per-capita GDP and the quality of Education is among the best in the world, this system may be fail proof and would ensure a baseline of well-educated critical thinkers in cohorts with suffrage. Same reasoning may apply for the US if implemented. Whereas if the same solution if blindly applied to nations such as India and South Africa with significant number of poorly educated and poverty stricken populace, it may not immediately work, though we can never say for sure for the long run.

So these are the simple solutions I propose and by this I do not claim to be an expert on political science or philosophy. I think the whole model of democracy should be changed by

  • First inspiring and teaching people how to think rationally and creatively, i.e to create a critical-thought-centric education system. (i.e Board exams and world education indexes should focus and reward more on analytical and thought processes.)
  • Instead of just assessing a nation’s ‘literacy rate’, judge a nation’s reasoning ability by assessing its ‘Critical Thinking Index’.
  • Make it mandatory for every educated person to go through an aptitude test for their Reasoning abilities for quantification purposes.
  • Finally, changing/amending the constitutions of Democracies to only allow individuals above an acceptable age with Critical Thinking/Reasoning ability above a certain acceptable threshold.

Simple four-step solutions for the betterment of democracies world-wide. This ensures a base-line of well-informed and responsible voters who would tend to think before casting their votes and would forever help improve the quality and integrity of the voters as well as the candidates for leadership. This would help prevent to much extent anyone from swaying the voters away from a reasonable rhetoric towards emotionally motivated and prejudice-driven ones.

In short, this system if it had been brought into effect, might have prevented a Brexit, a rejection of the FARC peace deal, the rise of the Modi-RSS system, or even a President Donald Trump.

Now it may be argued again that this will adversely affect the general liberty of the people. It may be scrutinized (a process which I encourage) saying that the illiterate will lose their right as humans; to which it can be argued against, saying that good education is a fundamental human right, and to choose not to be educated would become an unprofitable choice and automatically a deterrent towards not opting for education and hence ignorance. Absolute liberty may not always be beneficial and decisions are better made with a consequential mindset.

This is all I have to say for now. Feel free to disagree and please do put forth your counter-arguments.


P.S For those who say I trust Critical Thinking too much, like I trust the Scientific method (the two system of thought being mutually inclusive); I answer: They’re still the best two system we’ve got in order to understand reality, and until another better one comes up, its Critical Thinking and Science all the way for now! Cheers!

Watch the video below to learn about Socrates’ argument against Democracy…..