We, the Government
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
Behind us lies the world’s Greatest Political Theatre: the Indian Elections.
Perhaps it’s because of our elevation, and the fact that ‘Dilli door ast’, that conversations between many of Mussoorie’s permanent citizens seem rather cynical. When asked about his views on the future of our land, one of them shrugged and said “The more things change, the more they remain the same!” Another, who is more erudite than most of us, said “If I lived in a barrel I might have had the answer!” He was referring to the Greek Philosopher Diogenes: a famous Cynic who chose to live in an empty wine barrel. Legend has it that when ‘world-conqueror’ Alexander the Great told Diogenes that he would give him whatever the philosopher wanted, Diogenes replied, “Get out of my light!” It must be cold living in a barrel and when a human shadow cuts off the warmth of the sun, that’s disagreeable.
But beyond that simple image lies a far more significant question. Can a self-involved hyper-achiever really appreciate the needs of the have-nots? Can such a person, who has the resources of a nation at his beck and call, relate to the crying needs of a small farmer with a parched land-holding, or that of a laid–off factory worker, or an impoverished student scrambling for a job, or a terrified refugee from an embattled nation? He may have been through some of that, himself, but that’s in the past. Now he mixes on equal terms with the high and mighty, jets across the world and addresses heads of state by their first names. Why would he even want to recall his humble beginnings? “It’s the Superman syndrome” said our Philosopher-in-Residence.
That is an excellent analogy. It explains the rise of Donald Trump and many of his fellow dictators today.
Self-proclaimed super-achiever Trump lives in the unreal world of international billionaires. He once claimed that he is a success in his own right, exclusive of his inherited wealth, because he hosted a popular reality TV show called ‘The Apprentice’. The highlight of that show was Trump’s petulant words “You’re Fired!” thrown at any competitor who did not meet his whimsical standards. He has tried to replicate that arbitrariness in the White House and is on the verge of falling flat on his face.
In writing this column we were inspired by Trump’s midnight profundities as well as by our experiences while travelling in seven totalitarian countries, and in our own land during the Emergency declared by Mrs Indira Gandhi.
Mrs Gandhi was unable see her own faults because she was shielded from reality by a fawning inner circle. Such self-serving coteries encourage their supremo to suspect anything that challenges their dictator’s self-image. Scapegoats must be found. Mrs Gandhi’s Kitchen Cabinet created ‘The Foreign Hand’.
Trump, besieged by reportedly massive losses in his private commercial dealings, blames it on Mexicans, Hispanics and other immigrants. He teams up with the far right including the demented fringe of the Ku Klux Klan.
The link between dictators and racism has always been very strong. To survive, autocrats have to keep stoking public fears of the terrifying Other. If facts do not fit their scenario, they use a captive media to predict Dystopias. Their single-minded agenda is to pin the blame for all their nation’s ills onto the Other. It diverts attention from their own inadequacies and blackens the image of the Other.
This guilt-allocating system was codified by the ancient Israelites. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, instead of introspecting about their own faults and short-comings, a priest would recite the sins that the entire community had committed during the year. This ritual was performed over a goat. The poor bleating animal was thereby deemed to have accepted all these sins as his own. The hapless goat was then released into the wilderness of the desert, to fend for itself, and the sinning people felt that they had been cleansed of their faults. The pathetic creature was called a Scapegoat.
It is up to We, the Government, to reject this diversionary buck-passing and hold our netas and babus responsible for not doing the job entrusted to them. We don’t need Scapegoats.