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Every Citizen Is Important

Every Citizen Is Important

We are Unequal Partners in a Common Venture

It is interesting to hear that Johnson Boris wants to make UK the “greatest place on earth.” It sounds like Trump wanting to make America “great again,” or Modiji proposing a $5 trillion economy in five years. Certainly, we have no grudge about national leaders holding out great goals before their people; but Modi’s proposal would inspire young Indians only if they see some convincing strategies towards what is proposed. Amitabh Kant of the Niti Ayog argues that India will have to gain an 8% growth rate to attain a $5 trillion goal, others insist that unless she picks up a 13% growth, she will not hit the target. Meantime the hoped for 7.3% growth of this year has fallen to 7% (WB). That is the Indian reality. No wonder, Chidambaram called Modi’s goal a “pie in the sky.”

The problem in our country today is that we are not equal partners in a common endeavour. We are a fragmented society; communities are polarised, and the leaders are proud of it. As of now, some are “more equal” than others, as George Orwell would say. Others don’t exist. Others still are meant to be gun-fodder like in Chhattisgarh, UP, and Kashmir. Recently a panchayat president in UP eliminated 11 Gond tribals with little compunction. Priyanka has accused the Government of crass insensitivity. Many feel that the Triple Talaq bill has been passed only to harass the Muslims, and that the RTI is being suppressed to hide official violations of Human Rights. They fear that, the SC ruling that individual liberty may be subordinated within ‘Reasonable Boundary,’ will be misused. After all, ‘Reasonableness’ will be defined by the Ruling Party. Consequently, activists, teachers, and writers are in jail for violating ‘reasonable boundaries.’  Urban Naxalites will be next.

Gender disparity is another economic anxiety. Further, the small economy of millions of Muslims and Dalits has been brought to a standstill with the ban on cow movements and trade. Even the little income of the average man is important for the national economy. But today, even his life is under threat. Meanwhile beef-export has risen sky-high. It is easy to see that licensed slaughter-house owners are “more equal” than others. They belong to the Upper Echelons of society.

“Brahmins Should be at the Helm,” says Justice Chitambaresh

The ‘concept of equality’ itself is rejected as part of an Indian conviction.  Justice V Chitambaresh of Kerala High court said the other day, “Brahmins should always be at the helm because of their certain distinct qualities.” Such solemn declarations come from the horse’s mouth, as Adityanath Yogi’s conviction that South Indians and tribals were Hanumans. Protests against such irrational statements have grown feeble, intelligent thinking has gone dead. In Hindutva view, those who believe in equality are Marxists or westernized anti-nationals who do not reflect the Indian mind! They are Macaulay-putras. Scientific temper is anti-national. These beliefs, once part only of the RSS creed, today form central principles for our officialdom.  Is the judiciary fast moving in that direction?

Chitambaresh was addressing a gathering of Tamil Brahmins in Kochi. He spoke against SC/ST reservations. Now, listen to Hindutva-inspired Indian wisdom from Chitambaresh: “Brahmins have good qualities because of the good deeds they have done in their previous birth.” He seems to be arguing that the lower classes ‘well deserve’ to be at the lower ranks for their wrongdoing in earlier lives!

Marginalization of the Weaker Sections in the Educational Field

Shivraj Singh Chouhan was very proud in claiming, “The BJP is not an election-oriented party. It is a campaign for national rejuvenation.” Sounds very inspiring. But the National Education Policy has nothing in it to ensure this ‘rejuvenation!” Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra noticed only a disdain of intellectuals in the country. The education-strategy seems to stand for the marginalization of the weaker groups who want to lift their heads. Meantime the nation needs more skilled hands, she needs better equipped brains. The skilling of youth in advanced technologies is falling far short of national needs. Even skilled people will soon need re-skilling and upskilling.

But what we hear is of young people committing suicide, unable to take the next step forward in education, in one part of India or the other. There is too little assistance to ambitious upstarts from humbler communities. They are invited to join the Bajrang Dal for a change, or help at a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram  for a while, or assist the Amarnath pilgrims whose numbers are steadily on the rise.  Macaulay-putras cannot understand the benefit of this sort of ‘Rejuvenation’ in keeping with Bharatiya culture!

Shall We be Caught Unprepared for the Oncoming Demographic Surprises?

Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, China, S. Africa and Brazil enjoyed Economic Sunshine for a brief while when their demographic dividend was at its highest. Unlike the Middle East and Africa, they were better prepared to tap the resource of their sturdy population growth during its peak period. However, today they seem to be far less prepared to address the problems related to a precipitous population decline.

All indicators suggest that India is totally unprepared for a proximate rise, and much less for the subsequent dip. We may clash with each other as we rise, with a ‘Jai Shri Ram’ cry; and be at each other’s throats, as we sink with a ‘Jai Godse’ sigh. It is calculated that India has already entered its advantageous period in 2018, and too few are aware of it. It is expected to last for 37 years…unless we annihilate ourselves in a mutually destructive exercise before that.

Members of minority groups have their own reasons for anxiety. Social observers say that in a multi-ethnic society like India’s, it is population strength that determines who controls affairs at the local or national levels. Numbers count at elections; they count for resources.  If a minority community has a large number of people between 15 and 64, they feel secure.  They will feel confident of the future, both political and economic. A growing community may be reckless, but a dying community goes frantic.

A generation or two ago, they were the minority communities that were manifesting these tendencies. Today majority communities feel far more insecure, which leads them to a majoritarian aggressiveness: gun violence, mob-lynchings, and attempted genocide. The Latinos have grown fivefold in the US in forty years; the Whites have sunk below two-thirds of the population. That explains the emergence of people like Trump and Boris. Internal tensions are growing in every country rather than external threats. An acute awareness of this trend has changed the nature of “geopolitical discourse” in recent times from anti-Marxist anxieties to surging populations in conflict. Arms producers are the greatest beneficiaries.

A Sense of Responsibility before an Emerging Global Order

With the ageing of the industrial West and the shrinkage of labour force in those countries, the  westward movement of labour force has intensified, either as refugees or migrants. Meanwhile as the economies of developing nations expand with exploding populations and unforeseen possibilities, there is anxiety among Declining Powers about the gradual emergence of a New World Order, over which nobody seems to have full control. Those mighty men who “strut and fret an hour upon the stage” today are merely witnessing to their helplessness, and will prove themselves pathetic figures in a later reading of history. Thus, the twenty-first century trends present the reality of Aging Powers with declining Labour Force and Young Growing Nations with abundance of Manpower, says Jack Goldstone in his “Political Demography,” (Oxford, 2012, Pg. 5).

That is the reason why demography dominates today “almost any discussion of America’s long-term fiscal, economic, of foreign-policy direction,” says Howe and Jackson (ibid 4). Demography is given the utmost attention while studying the reasons for social uprisings, rise and fall of ethnic groups and religious communities, changing patterns in economic trends, religious/tribal extremism, voting patterns, and geopolitics. It is demography rather than economy or culture that influences the political orientations of communities and the domestic and foreign policies of nations. Rapid, unplanned, and reflected change in demography is the cause of ethnic, religious, and nationalistic violence; and consequent migration, from places like Syria or Africa.

Nothing Is Impossible to the Young, to the “Many”

Everything seems possible to a youthful, healthy, energetic, well educated, adequately trained, and highly motivated society. Recent history tells us that even the best equipped army turns helpless before  a sturdy population that is determined to resist it, that even the high-tech, capital intensive armies can lose asymmetric wars to backward, labour-intensive militaries belonging growing communities, e.g. the US in Vietnam, Soviet Union and US in Afghanistan. 

History has always looked at population as an asset. The Sumerians did so. Hammurabi, Lycurgus, and Solon made sure to include family norms in their code. Pericles encouraged larger families, so did Philip of Macedon (ibid 38) and Alexander; so did the Chinese and the Romans.  In the 3rd century, Polybius lamented the low birth rates of the Greeks; Cicero grieved over the decline of Roman rates. Machiavelli desired good population in order to have a powerful state. Empire builders, trade-expanders, and revenue-planners of the 15th-18th centuries ...all sought a bigger population (ibid 39).

Henry IV of France, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Bossuet and Denis Diderot thought that national strength came from its population (ibid 40). Louis XIV and Colbert encouraged bigger families. After the Napoleonic wars, there was a decline in French population. When they were defeated by the Prussians in 1870, they attributed their defeat to the smallness of their families compared with those of the Germans. Today the French are ahead of other European nations in birth-rates (ibid 41).

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville predicted that America and Russia would “sway the destinies of half the globe”, looking only at their population. Russia was extremely backward at that time. But numbers would provide them a future. Growing populations have always stood for expanding national strength: for the Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Norse, Mongols; for Portugal in the 14th cent, the Netherlands 16th, Russia 17th, Great Britain 18th, Germany 19th, America 20th..  William McNeill says that a growing population manifests itself in amazing self-confidence, takes risks, ventures out, explores, discovers. It was under population pressure that Japan modernized.

The Land of “Great Grandparents”

In 2006 ‘La Stampa’ referred to Italy as the land of ‘great grandparents’. Anxieties were expressed about the future of native Italian communities; fear about their decline in numbers, about the growth of immigrants in cities, about the closure of schools and emigration of youth from rural areas, and about the difficulty of assimilating foreigners. Today it is no more an issue of mere lamentations, but of aggressive nationalism in many countries of Europe. George Weigel describes the situation as the ‘demographic suicide’ of Europe. In some of the southern states in India too, many Primary Schools have been closed. The same threat is in our land. Wait a while.

Some books have created a sensation with titles like Can Germany be saved? (Sinn 2007), The Last Days of Europe (Laquer 2007), Demographic Winter (2008) (ibid 34). Several decades earlier, Oswald Spengler and P.A.Sorokin had attributed falling numbers to civilizational exhaustion (ibid 42). Economists suggest immigration as a solution. “Cultural nationalists” everywhere express a fear of being swamped by foreigners and the nation’s collective identity being destroyed. While economy will benefit from immigration, cultural identities of the western nations would greatly suffer. America is worried about Latino migrants, Europe about Asian and African, India about Bangladeshi and Rohingya.

Timely Assistance Changes Anxieties into Assets

Internal migrations too are on the increase in countries like India, China (120 million) and Indonesia in search of jobs. Cities like Mumbai, Cairo, Kolkata, Shanghai, Jakarta, Lagos, and Manila are continuously growing. And this gives rise to a youth-dense street culture and gang formation. Youth tend to be idealistic, under pressure from changing peer influences, ready for risk-taking and naïve in accepting ideological explanations (ibid 102). The promoters of violence and revolutions of all shapes and colours (Arab Spring or Pink Revolution) take advantage of these youths in a helpless situation. In India cow-vigilantes, religious warriors, and political criminal increase. Irresponsible political leaders take advantage of hapless youth.

But these very youth can be assisted, guided, trained, and motivated to serve the nation and humanity. Amidst extremely diverse demographic realities in the world today, this reflection is an invitation to develop a sense of responsibility in whatever situation one finds oneself and one’s community finds itself. It is a gentle reminder that there are greater realities than one’s own personal interest. There is need to harmonize one’s personal interest with that of the family, of the community, of the nation and the welfare of humanity. Some communities have decided to use their growth as a weapon against others. Others have opted to become a force for good amidst humanity’s diverse woes.

Dying Minorities Call for Care

On the other hand, there are small communities that are rapidly on the decline with the possibility of their disappearance. So, we hear of the demographic vulnerability of weaker communities in multi-cultural states like Lebanon, India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh . Majority communities have a great responsibility towards weaker minorities in their country. The indifference of the members of minority communities themselves to the fate of their own vanishing community manifests a lack of concern for one’s own people.

In India, if some of the minorities stand in danger of decline, the reason may not be pressure from others as deliberate choice of their own members. The most basic instinct of every ancient tradition was pro-life. Today that instinct has been greatly weakened. True success comes when under far-sighted leadership a community finds ways of encouraging families, respecting motherhood, valuing life, making space for siblings, caring for the aged, handling social problems associated with growth. Those who love life, will live. Those who promote it in others, will contribute to the Human Future.

“Life in its Fullness” (Jn 10:10) Points to Quality of Life

Referring to the politics of defections for money, Mamata said, “Money will come and go, people will remain.” People count. If numbers are important, their quality is equally important. Today’s economists are sure that what really matter are not territories, natural resources or cash deposits; what matter are ‘quality and quantity’ of the “Human Capital” : education, health; motivation, solidarity; an ethos of trust and of ease in relationships.  

In usual language, those below working age and senior citizens belong to the category of the “dependent.” Add to that list in India OBCs, SCs, STs, and women who have not been given a chance to train and equip themselves to contribute to the national economy in the full measure of their natural gifts. Add to that list the physically or mentally ailing and those seriously sick, those in prison, or in conditions that limit their possibilities. Then we suddenly realize that we have not put the 1.3 billion citizens in the field for a $5 trillion cause. We fall behind even far smaller countries in our neighbourhood which in our nationalistic arrogance we call “small potatoes.” Yes, there is a lot to learn from others in realistic humility. Balakot boasts or Kargil crowings alone will not make us great.

Richard Thaler, Nobel Laureate from the Chicago University, has argued that Economy depends on “values” proposed by behavioural sciences: being rational in decision making, not being misguided by emotion, and nudging each other in the way of maximising value. In our self-criticism in this article, we do not wish to reduce the glory of the launching of Chandrayaan-2 which has won the admiration of China. They have offered to collaborate “for the benefit of mankind.” Certain admissions of Imran Khan in the US too seem to offer new openings in neighbourhood dialogue.

We believe that goodness generates goodness, Dharma Dharma…until righteousness prevails, and Life in its the Fullness emerges.

(Published on 05th August 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 32)