We, the Citizens
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
We have been writing opinion pieces for almost five decades.
We started writing our weekly piece for the Garhwal Post to keep our fellow citizens informed. We reasoned that if they knew what was happening around them, they would be empowered to change the course of local events, to expose the self-enriching puffery of wily netas. So we confined ourselves to matters directly impacting on the citizens of our state, district and town. This was our way of paying our social debt to Uttarakhand, Dehradun district, and Mussoorie.
Today, however, we face an existential dilemma.
So much has happened recently that we can no longer distinguish between global events and local ones. The virus has hit us all and continues to adapt to meet every ingenious weapon we throw at it. This has led to a growing trust deficit between the rulers and the ruled, globally. Leaders, who convinced themselves that they were the beloved paterfamilias of their people, are bewildered, cringing in their luxurious hidey-holes!
We have used the word paterfamilias deliberately. It is an ancient Roman term meaning the head of a family. His power over his family was unlimited including the power to sell a disliked child into slavery! Slavery gives the right to one person to treat another human being as a marketable commodity. Don’t fathers still sell their sons to buy high-value sons-in-law? Haven’t some states made laws to stop daughters from destroying this lucrative human-commodity market? But we don’t see many Parties opposing this trade in human beings.
Clearly the Parties are the problem. Democracy started in the Greek city-states in which every citizen had a say in governance. When this system grew so successful that it spread to cover the whole country, and elections became too expensive for a single individual to afford, Political Parties were born. Politics had morphed into Big Business and the Board of Directors called itself the ‘High Command’, or something similar. If you did not obey the whip of those Grand Panjandrums you could be thrown out!
This is why Donald Trump began to believe in his delusionary god-like powers. He tapped into the red-neck, blue-collar, American’s fear of change as other demagogues have done elsewhere. But Trump’s shenanigans are so much larger than life, and the US media machine is so powerful, that his acts become models for lesser despots, globally. This copy-cat behaviour is self-destructive because it covers the reality of the leader’s achievements with the ugly self-distortion of his image.
Trump’s deliberate projection of his image, as that of a superman immune to Covid-19, was responsible for the devastation that the pandemic has caused in the US. Other despots also patronise extreme right-wing groups because those half-educated people believe in superstitions and conspiracy theories and can be easily whipped into frenzied revolts against imagined wrongs. The Hitler Youth burnt books because they despised intellectuals (does that sound familiar?) and they claimed that they “thought with their blood”
US legislators now claim that they never imagined that their Capitol would be besieged by other Americans. We can’t blame them. Did any of our MPs ever anticipate the wrath of our farmers against the three farm laws? Their prolonged protests, along with the pandemic, Chinese aggression and Bird Flu have occupied so much of the public discourse that we have failed to appreciate the likely far-reaching and positive effects of Yogi Adityanath’s One District One Product (ODOP) as an add-on to the PM’s Aatmanirbhar. If this scheme is extended to the 688 Districts in 38 states and Union Territories it could not only change the creative and entrepreneurial image of India, but it would also unlock the potential of our greatest, but most threatened, resource: our incredible Diversity.
But the unyielding images of the authors of these schemes evoke an equally stubborn refusal to even consider them!
Most people can’t separate the image of the creator from his creation. Enraged agitators see only the neta’s, ego-inflated, image. We live in an intricately inter-dependant world. No single nation can progress alone. That can happen only when netas shed their self-inflated omnipotent image and come down to earth.
This is why agitators ensure that The Image is their Target.
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)