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Our politicians are more to be pitied than censured. Lesser mortals would cringe at the kind of multi-tasking they have to do.

The hapless persons cannot sleep easy, since they have to keep their ear to the ground and make the right noises at the right time in the public sphere. They have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them.

Some of you may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist. Think of such eminent personalities as the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, who have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

They have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state.

Here are some cartoons from the stable of R K Laxman and Sudhir Dar which capture the perils of a political career.

A career in politics is invariably a high-risk one. However, one cannot complain about the returns on investment being low.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/psmith-and-mike-discuss-politics

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/this-is-it-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/this-is-it-part-2)

 

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Psmith put his smart phone away. A sigh escaped him.

“Nothing makes sense”, he muttered.

For the space of about twenty-five seconds, Mike, sitting across a small table on a sunlit balcony in Mumbai, India, sat in silence.

“What is wrong with you?” asked Mike, with a concerned look on his face.

Some time back, Psmith and Mike had returned to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank for a short audit spree. It had again taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the metropolis, which they found much noisier than during their last stay, what with elections in India just round the corner.

They were put up in a guest house of the bank located at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“It is a pity to see the hapless denizens of most countries getting bombarded with all kinds of inane propaganda around election time. The level of allegations and counter-allegations leave them totally aghast, wondering if there is any sense of decency left in the world. I am sure they are clueless about being able to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it comes to deciding who to vote for”, said Psmith, looking somber and grave.

“Yes. Perhaps, they would end up voting for those who have greater lung power, both in the physical and in the virtual world!” said Mike.

“Elections will come and go. But, frankly, I do not really see any hope for the millions who have put their faith in the concept of democracy without realizing the kind of chaos and confusion it so very often amounts to.”

Mike eyed Psmith with grave concern.

“What gives? I have never seen you so very pessimistic about things.”

“In general, I feel that politicians of all hues have failed the public at large. People should start using the None Of The Above option more aggressively!” said Psmith ruefully.

“Why do you think so?” asked Mike, picking up his cup of tea from the table separating the two.

“One, I do not see any party speaking of issues which really matter. Talk of global warming and the threat people face from rising sea levels is nowhere to be heard. We have come to a stage where we need kids like Greta Thunberg to remind us of our obligations to Mother Earth. World over, use of land is a question which never gets raised, even though instances of urban flooding keep popping up every once in a while. Another crisis which looms large is that of the acute shortage of potable water, but our politicos appear to be behaving like well-fed ostriches on all these counts.

“Two, the basic needs, like providing for affordable healthcare, an education which makes the young employable, and an ecosystem which enables the people to make a decent living, are only touched upon obliquely and never addressed in a meaningful way. We are already well into Industrial Revolution 4.0. Requirement of skill-sets is changing rapidly, creating a new set of haves and have-nots. But I do not see any politician talking about this grave challenge.

”Three, many of the founders of modern democracies had vowed to create a just society. They seem to be nowhere near the goal that their founding fathers had set. Not to talk of either Millennium Development Goals or a gradual shift to Gross National Happiness Index for measuring progress.”

Psmith paused and looked at the seagulls flapping their wings over the Arabian Sea.

“Yes, I understand your anguish”, said Mike. “But this is true for many of our politicians in many countries. They are essentially dream merchants, with an eye on their own seat of power. Lofty promises get made at election time, mostly to be forgotten thereafter. The execution part is left to poor mandarins who sit in their ivory towers and keep swaying like wild grass on a sea coast to the likes and dislikes of different political masters from time to time.

“We live in times of volatile politics and general insecurity. We are just getting used to some stunning and illogical triumphs. Over the past few years, we have seen it in France, Italy, USA, India and elsewhere. A wave of isolationism appears to be washing down upon us. So is a phase of de-globalization.”

“Let us not lose heart, Comrade Jackson. The world follows its own cycles. Pretty soon, the tide could turn again. The omissions and commissions of those who look invincible today may soon return to haunt them. But what amuses me is that rather than focusing on long term key issues, our politicians just keep goading the ordinary person into making a choice between a brand of hyper-nationalism and a secular and liberal outlook. They sound much like our corporate honchos who live from one quarter to the next, dishing out guideline values!”

“We are lucky that elections keep popping up every once in a while. Some work gets done, at least!” quipped Mike, a chuckle adorning his visage. “Also, you ignore the fact that poor politicians have a tough job on hand”, he added.

“Oh, and what makes you say that?” asked Psmith.

“You see, they have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them. You may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist!

“Much like the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, they have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

“At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

“They even have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state. Surely, they are more to be pitied than to be censured, don’t you think?”

“Well, all professions come with their own perks and perils” remarked Psmith philosophically. “And what about political funding, Comrade Jackson, what do you think of it? Would that not be effective in reining in corruption and in keeping the parallel economy in better check?” enquired Psmith.

“Well, some countries have given it a respectable name like lobbying. But the fact remains that a quid pro quo exists between private players and politicos. Surely, private players know how to extract their pound of flesh from whosoever makes it to the seat of power.”

“Hmm. But if political funding is made transparent, the voters would know exactly who stands to eventually benefit from their votes, even if these be such obnoxious businesses as those dealing in arms.”

Mike frowned.

“Yes, but there are so many other subterfuges a government in power can resort to, so as to quietly favour the businesses of their choice!” he added.

“Such as….?” Psmith enquired, raising an eyebrow a fraction of an inch.

“A pliant central bank can come in handy and get treated like a cash cow. In emerging economies, it can simply tinker with the way Non Performing Assets get classified. It can use forward swaps to enable private players to dip into the forex reserves. May be, there are several other ways which lesser mortals like us would be blissfully unaware of!” said Mike.

“Spoken like a true banker, Comrade Jackson! And the tab gets picked up by the common man!!”

“But if the businesses are worried about adverse reprisals when and if the opposite party makes it to the seat of power, and if the politicos do not wish to go to the public in a transparent manner, what do you think can be done?”

“I think power has to be truly secured back by the people!”

“Oh, so you mean riots, civil disobedience and all that stuff? Or, are you saying people should return to a dictatorship model?” Mike said in a surprised tone.

“No, no. I am not a social scientist. I can’t say if the democratic model is at fault here. It fails when those in power do not engage with the dissenters. Dictatorship is not necessarily a solution. God forbid if someone like Roderick Spode ends up controlling the affairs of a nation!”

“On the contrary, he could be very popular with the masses. If he announces plans of giving each citizen at birth a bicycle and an umbrella, a swanky tablet to all students who enter an institution of higher learning, a cooking stove, a pressure cooker and a kitchen cabinet to all those getting married, building world-class infrastructure, and even compulsory, scientific measurement of all male knees, he would romp home with a thumping majority. People just love elections for the kind of freebies these bestow upon an otherwise deprived population.”

“Yes, I have vaguely heard of some politicians from the southern parts of India who have perfected this art”, said Psmith.

“Not to forget the hard cash, occasional meals and a sumptuous supply of tissue restoratives during elections. But we digress. You were mentioning civil disobedience.”

“In fact, days when most Indians were starving and could register their protest by resorting to civil disobedience are long since past. Hunger inevitably leads to a seething anger within, and someone like Mahatma Gandhi who is smart enough to channelize it properly brings home the bacon, so to say. This tactic can now only be used by those at the bottom of the pyramid.

“As to all the others, it might only yield results if the delicately nurtured in their families follow the example of Wilmot Mulliner and go on a crash slimming spree by shifting to a diet based only on the juice of an orange. Pretty soon, their natures would become warped, and they will start spewing off the resultant venom on the men around them. Gradually, the men would undergo a transformation in their characters. From being ewe lambs, they would become crouching tigers, ready to pounce upon anyone who they believe is dishing out injustice to them and their families.

“Or, something more imaginative has to be done in the case of the well-endowed classes.”

“Like what?” asked Mike.

“For one, I think we need professionals from the fine arts side to come up with a sustained campaign to keep the key issues alive and kicking. Not-For-Profit entities can pitch in and so can intellectuals. Above all, we need a band of committed comedians, the stand-up kind or otherwise, who can churn out shows over social media to convey the importance of such issues which are critical to the survival of our race. A silence would willy-nilly imply either a state of resignation and disinterest, or quiet acquiescence. The coming generations would never forgive us otherwise.”

“Interesting” said Mike. “Perhaps you take a leaf out of Ukraine where Vlodymyr Selenskiy, an anti-establishment comedian, has played a role in elections! But who will fund the kind of activities mentioned by you? One would not like this to remain an open-ended challenge,” said Mike.

“Crowd-funding could work. Also, there is no shortage of well meaning people who wish to do something good. But the real challenge is to identify a leader who would be committed to a cause of this nature and magnitude, despite opposition.”

“Opposition will of course be there. I read somewhere recently that eminent lion-tamers like Rev Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Mapleton and Miss Tomlinson have appealed to students the world over to give up their tirade regarding global warming and instead focus on their studies. On the contrary, I thought they would be feeling proud that they have tutored their pupils rather well.”

“Oh. One person who could possibly be consulted on the issue is Jacinda Ardern, the present Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities recently.”

“Perhaps you should then seek an audience with her. But wait, this merely goes on to show that a situation produces a leader. So, if the steps outlined by you are taken and sustained for a long time, one can hope for an enigmatic leader to emerge from such peaceful protests, right?”

“I do believe so.”

Mike rose from his chair and stretched his arms. His gaze drifted off to a couple of fishing boats bouncing up and down on the bluish-green waters of the Arabian Sea. The rays of a setting sun were waltzing over the waves.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday evening! I rather think I’ll nip down to the beach at Santa Cruz and take some fresh air into my lungs,” said he. “You couldn’t come too, I suppose?”

“On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could, and will. A stroll will just restore those tissues which our intense discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this political quagmire. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque beach of yours of which I have heard so much.”

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/politicos-in-plumsville-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism)

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the world,

Allow me to lodge a protest.

The derogatory manner in which I am generally referred to by the Homo sapiens is a matter of sincere regret. I wish to ass-everate that I have sterling qualities of head and heart. Even though a vast majority of you copy me ass-iduously in your day-to-day lives, you hold the member of my species in a low esteem. This is patently unfair. Permit me to set the record straight and ass-ert myself.

Members of your species have always given me a raw deal. You wilfully neglect some of my great contributions in diverse fields of life. Prohibition, literature, health, discipline, education, free speech, human values, law and order, science, politics, management, architecture, adventure and logistics are some of the fields where I have enabled your civilization to scale great heights.

Here is a quick recapitulation of some of my contributions to your so-called civilized society.

The fine art of advocating prohibition  

When I use my vocal chords to articulate my feelings, you make fun of me. You hold me to be mentally deficient. You do not realize that those of you who have had an excess dose of tissue restoratives sound much similar in their mindless laughter. When I bray, I merely advocate prohibition. Mahatma Gandhi would have been so very proud of me.

On the literary high table

Frequent references to me in the kind of literature many of you devour and admire goes on to establish my superiority in more ways than one.

In ‘Oliver Twist’, penned by Charles Dickens, law is held to be an ass. You may disagree with the proposition, but you cannot deny the honour conferred on me thus.

In ‘The Mating Season’, dished out by P. G. Wodehouse, even such an illustrious figure as Marcus Aurelius is alluded to as an ass.

“I wonder if I might call your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He said: ‘Does aught befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the Universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web’.”
I breathed a bit stertorously.
“He said that, did he?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.”

When I find a place at the literary high table, I do not see any reason for you to refer to me in a condescending manner.

Promoting good health

A part of your anatomy (that you mistakenly hold to be superior to that of me) is known after me. You use it to sit comfortably, thereby warming up the chair endlessly and missing your daily set of exercises.

The smart ones amongst you never remain seated for long and follow a physical fitness regime. They use this very part of their body in quite a few postures and thereby maintain good health.

Discipline and Education

While recollecting his late night encounters with the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, Bertie Wooster, in his delectable memoirs, often shudders to think of the juicy ones he used to get on the soft spots. He obviously alludes to the very part of your anatomy referred to above. This shows the important role I play in shaping the character of your coming generations.

Hapless students try to ass-imilate the heaps of knowledge that gets dumped on to them by means of listless lectures delivered in dinghy classrooms. Even kids ass-ume the role of beasts of burden while lugging their extra-heavy school bags under the adoring eyes of their indulgent parents.

Free speech

When an ass-emblage of a group of students chagrined with crude attempts of authority figures to curb their right to free speech, they often make me an icon of their peaceful protests. Candlelight vigils do not deliver the kind of strong message that my presence, with a poster shaming the authority looped around my slender neck, does.

Some protestors learn the tricks of the trade from such non-profit groups as the ASS – Advisory Services for Squatters, based in London, UK.

Law and order, human values

Ask any rozzer. When not in the presence of a human rights enthusiast, he is likely to confess the utility of the part of your anatomy named after me to make even a law-abiding citizen admit to a crime he never committed.

I confess that, when provoked, I am wont to deliver strong punches, using my hind legs. Despite the training you receive in martial arts, you can never really copy me on that account. The criminally inclined amongst you keep ass-aulting innocent citizens without any care in the world. My punches are designed to deliver a message of respecting human values and civic sense which many amongst you do not follow.

Science

Those of you who win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry keep ass-aying metals at periodic intervals, never ass-igning any credit to me in their much-applauded research papers.

Chemists can be forgiven to refer to me as AsS, a formula for Arsenic Sulfide. Likewise, I do not mind mathematicians referring to me as an ass-ociated collection of prime numbers of module M, Ass (M).

When a student of geometry conveys the lack of congruence of triangles by using the term ‘Angle-Side-Side’, I do not object. When a genetic expert tries to describe a human gene which encodes the enzyme Arginino-Succinate-Synthetase, I feel flattered.

When it comes to advancements in science or technology, I follow the Jeeves dictum – of never raising a bushy eyebrow even for the smallest fraction of an inch, except when I am sad at being summarily ignored in all such references.

Politics

Unwittingly, whenever there are elections around, I get dragged into political controversies. If there are malpractices in the conduct of academic examinations, the top politician of the region runs the risk of his name being paraded on a member of my species. When a region showcases the wilder ones amongst us in a tourism promotional video, we get dragged into an unseemly political controversy.

Such ass-ociations merely reveal the shallow intellectual abilities of the Homo Sapiens. The hard work put in by me in any endeavour thrust onto me does not get due recognition. The simplicity with which I handle the burdens so very gleefully heaped on to me gets neglected. The soulful eyes with which I view my human masters never get appreciated.

Many politicians who happen to be ass-ociated with dynastically run outfits shamelessly copy me in their subservience to their political masters, but fail to acknowledge my contribution.

The manner in which your elected representatives often behave in your ass-emblies leaves me deeply disappointed in your race. When a favoured legislation has no chance of making it through the normal process, your politicians know how to rush it through as an ordinance and seek the ass-ent of the First Citizen of your country

Management

Excellent traits of followership that I possess could provide invaluable clues to leaders of all hues, sizes and shapes who aspire to achieve loftier goals in their chosen profession. Leading management institutes ought to be doing a detailed study on this aspect of my behaviour. Alas, they keep churning out inane stuff on leadership traits alone.

Unimaginative incentive schemes get launched, killing productivity and proving my superiority over some of your over-zealous but short-sighted production chiefs.

Finance honchos amongst you keep twiddling their thumbs to project the correct ass-ets of their companies in their books of accounts. Whenever a catastrophe strikes a business, insurance surveyors are called in to ass-ess the extent of damage.

When a manager has goofed up on a critical ass-ignment, he is referred to as a Jackass, thereby establishing my supremacy in all matters managerial.

Top bosses cannot function in the absence of their Executive Ass-istants.

In an annual ritual called Appraisals, human resources honchos routinely ass-uage the feelings of those who are left out in the latest round of promotions or increments. They are routinely ass-ured of a brighter future in the days to come, and advised to follow the path espoused by Bhagavad Gita – that of performing their duty without any expectation of rewards.

When a new boss ass-umes charge after a much-delayed promotion, the Yes-Men in his team quickly change their affiliations and try to ass-ert their importance in the scheme of things.

Architecture

Well-designed civil structures cannot come up unless I have carried some of the building materials on my sturdy back. While carrying heavy loads, I am invariably obedient and docile. No member of my species has ever entertained the idea of floating a trade union to ass-ert its labour rights.

Adventure and logistics

When it comes to your adventures in a rough terrain, there is no better provider of logistics services than yours truly. World over, for millennia, my services have been there at the man-not-so-kind’s disposal. Alas, these get taken for granted. I am yet to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in logistics.

Accord me the respect I deserve

I hereby urge upon you to look deep within and start treating me with the respect I deserve.

I might be perceived as being stubborn at times. But I am also companionable. My bite might be worse than my bray, but I am a friendly creature. You may find it difficult to frighten me. But you know that I am a dependable chap.

While almost all of you are still trying to conquer your ego, as advocated by some of your scriptures, I have already achieved that feat millennia ago. You are still trying to eliminate racial and gender discrimination. By following the principle of peaceful co-existence amongst all other species, I have been promoting racial harmony for centuries already. When it comes to chivalry, I am way ahead of many of you. Bertie Wooster would surely approve.

You think the members of the species of Equus africanus asinus possess a poor Intelligence Quotient. I beg to differ. As you can see for yourself, even our Spiritual Quotient is higher than that of the Homo sapiens.

Thank you for your time and attention.

An ass-ertive ass

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