Guest Speaks – Support Hazare at Own Peril by Ashok Malhotra

Support Hazare at own peril

The Yaksha asked Yudhishtra -what is the most surprising feature of human existence?  Yudhishtra’s reply was “the fact that we all know that we are mortal, yet behave in a manner as though we will live for ever”.

The insight is useful in understanding how we all can shout slogans, take up candle marches and keep symbolic fasts in response to Mr. Hazare’s clarion call, and, totally ignore the fact that in the ultimate analysis, his real fight is with us and our obscene life styles. It is tempting to delude ourselves into believing that he is fighting only against the Rajas, Rajus and Kalmadis, and the rest of us are only enjoying the priviledges due to us by our merit and earned by us through our hard earned money.  It is tempting to close our eyes to the fact that we are all beneficiaries of an exploitative, inequitable and corrupt superstructure. It is tempting to ignore the fact that in almost all organizations the ratio of highest paid person to lowest paid person is in excess of 100 to 1, and in several cases it runs into four, five or even six figures. It is tempting to not take notice of the fact that a very small portion of mankind consumes over 80 percent of our natural resources. It is tempting to condone all kinds of dubious practices by marketeers, advertisers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, media people, NGO activists and several others in different walks of life as “necessary part of the game”.

After all we are all trying to get ahead, aren’t we? We must keep up with the joneses and we must chase every new consumeristic toy, which is dangled before us, without even recognising that we are doing so. If in the process we have to collude directly or indirectly with blatant lies and misuse of power in our homes, in our work places, in our immediate communities, then so be it.

Perhaps no one understood this process better than Gandhi did . He used to say “my fight is not with the Angrez(British) but with Angraziyat(imperial mind set)”. Sadly we have thrown out the Angrez but embraced Angraziyat even more. Presumably Gandhians like Hazare understand this and hence they are inviting us to struggle not just against the Rajus, Rajas and the Kalmadis, but with ourselves.

Decades back Gandhi asked us to burn all imported clothes – in a sense he was asking us to say good bye to a way of living. Today, we are required to do the same except that we have got so much more steeped into it that it seems a virtual impossibility.

Hazare’s call is not just for a bill. It invites us to take a closer and honest look at how each one of us is involved in this process and contributing to it. The only real and meaningful response to it would be to say good-bye to a way of life, which we have embraced in the name of progress and modernity. But is it really possible for us to do so? I don’t think so; at least it is not possible for me to give up the priviledges, which I enjoy no matter how inequitable they may appear to my conscience. After all my conscience is only a part of me. I am also a captive of my habits and creature comforts. Please understand Mr Hazare, I have travelled a long distance on this path and it is not possible now to retrace my steps all together.

The only thing I can realistically do is to atleast stop walking this path of personal and collective destruction. I may not be able to say good bye to all the luxuries, creature comforts and inequitable priviledges that I have got accustomed to, but I can at least bind them, set a limit to them and to the extent possible, not get embroiled in them any further.

That’s the best I can do Mr Hazare.

about the author:

Ashok Malhotra is a management consultant who has nearly four decades of experience of working with individuals, groups and organizations in the areas of personal growth and organization.  He is one of the founders of “Sumedhas Academy for Human Context” and has published several articles in professional journals and presented papers in many national and international conferences.

Ashok in June 2010, published  his first book called “The Child Man – The Selfless Narcissist” published by Routledge Publications.

Through the stories such mythological figures as BalaramaDuryodhana and Bhima, the “Child Man” explores the potent but deeply ambivalent aspect of the human psyche that neither listens to the voice of reason, nor easily submits to social and moral conventions.  Like a child, it relentlessly pursues whatever catches its fancy and keeps playing with fire. This energy can, equally help us actualize our heroic potential or set us on the path to self destruction.  The key to making this energy positive lies in what we do with the emotional and psychic wounds which are a necessary part of our growth.

Ashok calls himself a compulsive gambler and has often departed from the straight and the narrow.

He lives in Bangalore and can be contacted at ashokmal(nine)at gmail dot com

woman, mother, thinker, citizen of the world, curious and hopeful about the world, generous, opinionated, argumentative, insightful, intuitive, psychotherapist, executive coach and organisation consultant

17 thoughts on “Guest Speaks – Support Hazare at Own Peril by Ashok Malhotra

  1. Thank you Ashok for this post. How true and how hard hitting! Infact just before I read this post, I updated my status on facebook saying perhaps its time to also look at the “corruption” within. I find it quite easy to join the “aam aadmi” clan and say , the problem is out there and burn some wax – as though the darkness is only out there. The American dream is so deeply entrenched and so bloody comfortable! Time for thought – discomfort (well a comfortable amount of discomfort!) – and action.

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    • Dear Rachna,

      Thanks for your comment. The american dream as you call it is not just an entrapment; there is much to be said in its favour also. however, we seem to have lost all sense of proportion and made it the “be all and end all” of life.

      Thus any real action has to stem from re configuring and re positioning the american dream into our psyche and being; otherwise it will remain only a fantasy.

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  2. I often feel rather inflamed at the public’s whimsical reaction to situations like this. it makes us feel so good, dos it not to light a candle or march a yard fully geared to spew the right diatribe and yet like you said it is never a part of the philosophy by which we lead our lives. I have often wondered at the futility of these endeavours without the basic foundation of a political idea or ideology…unlike the red war. But it does share a dialobic similarity to the red war – both are pretty evasive about what will replace the current system of treachery?! I was watching a holocaust film last night and once again shuddered at the fact that its not one man’s monster idea that scares me but the millions who followed and created a conspiracy of silence around it. Anna Hazare…how many people even know him! It’s a bit like the jessica lal case and its allied candle light marches – nobody really talked about a screwed up judicial system or the thousands of similar cases that lie around our courts…but it was about a nice looking young girl made famous by her pathetic murder by a politicians son. This too, is just about us feeling good, feeling better than we actually strive to be.

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    • Dear Aru,
      Share your angst about these appropriately hysterical responses to whatever be the flavour of the month, be it Hazare or Jessica. At one level, these are also safety valves which we need in order to ensure that the status quo is not unduly threatened.

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  3. Very well said, Ashok. We’re all perfectly willing to give something ‘chai-pani ke liye’…because it makes our lives easier. Very few of us are willing to take a principled stand and say ‘I’ll do without this connection/convenience/document…but I won’t pay a bribe’. It’s getting fashionable to revolt without really thinking things through. The real change must come from within.

    @Arundathi – I loved your comment.

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    • Dear Corinne,
      Thank you for your response. I do not expect people (including myself) to always live by their principles and pay the price of living by their conscience.
      However, I do expect us to at least recognise our own vested interest in any phenomena, including corruption.
      Can we continue to enjoy our inequitable priviledges in a corruption free society?

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  4. Thank you, Ashok, for your note.

    Last morning, I found a 500 rupee note missing from my wallet. I had drawn about 2,000 from the ATM the night before, so, there could not have been too many ways of losing the money. I felt sad that my suspicion is all too pointed to a house-hold help. A month ago, one of our office staff lost his job after he admitted to taking money from several of my colleague’s wallets (mostly women since their money, in handbags, are more vulnerable to pilferage).

    I could not deny the fact that despite my sadness, my anger of being cheated despite being fair (in my opinion), both of them earn about 2,500 rupees (part time household help, woman in her 50s, 2 hours in the morning, runs a family of four including a widowed daughter and grandchildren, has a one acre land) and 3,500 rupees (young man of 22, married and has a child, admitted to stealing to cover medical expenses for his few month old child, single earning member). And I cannot even imagine how they run their families, what hopes they live with. I live with the dilemma that stealing is not acceptable – after all, they could have asked for it, yet in their experience – maybe in their experience, asking does not beget them anything. Maybe, the ‘stealing’ is also about anger – about having nothing in comparison to people around having so much. When a friend of mine and I went out with her daughter and a caregiver for the daughter for a coffee, our collective bill was as much as her monthly salary.

    I agree with you, Ashok. That the corruption is not only about scams and bribes. The corruption is about the disparities in income, the inequality in distribution of wealth. In our spending habits, and what we consider to be ‘necessities’.

    At the same time, it is about the power inequalities between the State and the individual. We are probably in a stage of development of democracy where, where this electorate is asking for more accountability of the State – and hence the RTI and now this. Hazare’s protest comes from a philosophy which you draw our attention to. But for now, most will respond to the ‘concreteness’ of his campaign – and be more comfortable in the ‘otherisation’. Perhaps, that’s how it will begin.

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  5. Dear Roop,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree with you about the need to make the state more accountable; and surely Hazare’s struggle can help in this regard. However, I sometimes wonder whether in our obsession in making the state more accountable, we end up ignoring the need for accountability of the other sections, particularly the industry, the media, and our own selves. We all have deep vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

    While we may be able to do little about the status quo of the others, I believe, that we can at least, do something to reduce (not matter to what little extent) our personal vested interest in this situation.

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  6. A valid point raised Ashok and one that I have been thing about alot. I do not buy into the online petitions, make a missed call to a no, sms campaigns, fasting etc as I think these create people frenzy. Counter argument is that these help to raise awareness, which they have certainly done but I question the kind of awareness raised. I did not know Hazare till a few days ago nor am I equipped to spk intelligently abt the Jan Lokpal Bill but I am thankful to Hazare for bringing the corruption issue to the fore and for doing it in a manner that has forced the govt to take note. Rather than petitions, sms’, fasting, jail bharo etc, I wish there was also a call for action around effecting a personal change. My feeling is that this whole movement will have a disappointing end and people may just go back to doing what they were doing feeling happy that they took action. As Indians desiring change, we must make a change at a personal level with regard to our stance on corruption. This will determine the true success of the movement that Anna Hazare has set forth….right now the jury is out on the success of it….

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    • Gail,
      thanks for your comment. my concern is not about the efficacy of the campaign – in fact it has already achieved its first goal. the issue I am raising is whether we are willing to acknowledge our own vested interest in the present state of affairs. Do we really want a change and what price are we willing to pay for it?

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  7. Very well articulated. It is imperative to mend ourselves first, but when the system doesn’t get overhauled individual efforts are futile. A man fighting for his ration card can’t afford to say ‘no I will starve but not give bribe,’ but a man with a six figure monthly salary can do it. Unfortunately it is this class that refuses to say no though it can afford to do it and thereby help change the system. There are times when it is not enough just to say, ‘I am perfect, so what do I care?’

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    • Zephyr,
      thank you for your comment. I agree with you that individual shifts without systemic changes do not make any sense. However, if by systemic changes we only mean that people should stop giving/taking bribes, then it would be a very narrow definition of the system. Clearly, the issue of bribery is a important one and needs to be tackled; but looking at the issue of corruption only through the lens of bribery is over simplification. The only purpose it serves is that it allows us to feel as hapless victims and not acknowledge how our vested interests are perpetuating.

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  8. Quite right, Ashok.It has become fashionable to jump into such bandwagons without thought and some introspection. While clearly it is a case of people projecting their own guilt onto someone else eg. tainted politicians and bureaucrats and also projecting their own King energies onto Anna Hazare, I sometimes wonder if there is also a feeling of desperately wanting to be attached to some cause or the other. As if life would be empty and meaningless if one werent a part of something big. Are we at some deep level aware of the utter insignificance of our own humdrum existence that makes us lurch and lunge at anything that seems to offer some hope of redemption, however ephermeral and illusory it might be?

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    • Ganesh,
      Thank you for your comment. people join a movement for multiple motives and I don’t find anything wrong in that per se. The issue here is not of personal motives, but one of collective collusion of not recognising our vested interest in perpetuating an inequitable, unjust and corrupt super structure.

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  9. Dear Ashok,

    agree with you totally. soon after the Club of Rome met and came out with the idea of ‘limits to growth’ was floated. We have come through 40 years or more of deafness to that message. Al Gore is going blue and purple in his face talking about impending disaster, we carry on regardless. Gandhi, Vinobha and Hazare can come and go, but we go on for ever! or do we?

    Raghu

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  10. Very well written Ashok & so true. Real and sustainable change must come from within. Its one thing to stand out there and champion a cause or criticize but another to actually live it in our own day to day life.

    Like

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