Democracy: The way ahead


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore
Gitanjali, 1912

 

I sit comfortably ensconced, watching disparate events in News Top 20.

From Arab spring incidents to the Euro zone crisis. From dissent against health care reforms in the USto sit-in dharnas against nuclear power plants inIndia. From strident social activism against corruption by Anna Hazare and his citizen group to Wall Street protests.

The kaleidoscope and colour of humanity, its endeavours and its challenges are so very dynamic, it never ceases to fascinate. But could there be a common thread through all this? Are these seemingly unconnected events but symptoms of some deeper unified malaise?

As I set about making sense of it all, I am confronted with myriad aspects. Those that range from democratic yearnings of the disenfranchised. To anger against increasing disparity.  To democracy itself struggling to sustain itself in the face of a fast changing twenty first century world.

But is Democracy the ultimate panacea to deliver quickly on all things desired for the new aspirants in the Arab world? And as the  fiscal deficits start biting, would the much vaunted democratic freedom of the  developed world  in fact allow it to climb down to the economic and social levels of the developing world? Or would democracy be hijacked by activist groups to further fuel unrests and force Governments to hold onto status quo which they can ill afford? Are we not seeing this happening in the recent political developments inGreece,Italyand elsewhere? I reflect on all such and other questions.

Thoughts flit through my mind. Could our challenges be stemming from a democratic deficit? The issues are many. First and foremost, is Democracy in a position to cope with technology empowered individualism of this century? How do we sustain democracy when people lose contact with their elected representatives? What can make-up for Governments’ loss of control and decision making in the face of Globalisation? And how can Governments come to terms with the increasingly powerful role that media can play?

I am no political pundit but nonetheless would risk offering the following “helicopter view” recipe.

  • Get back to the roots of Governance and face to face      interactions with people. Be it through panchayat empowerment, community      hall meetings or tribal jirgas.      We need to recognize one size or shape does not fit all.

 

  • Foster values to re-connect people to Democracy and      the political process. And how does one do that? By giving equal standing      to Citizen groups for proposing policy options and shaping dialogue. We      need to create those spaces which would allow people to get fearlessly involved      and know that their thoughts are respected.

 

  • Shift our perspective of Media from its perceived      “Government challenge” role to that of a democracy enabler facilitating      information availability and public involvement in policy making.

 

  • Inculcate attitude in the Government to actively      listen to and acknowledge the individual. The challenge is huge but encouraging      online communities may be a way forward.

 

At this point in History, a millennium beyond the Magna Carta, can we provide the next scallop by accepting the paradigm that Democracy continues to be a work in process?  Until we are able to awaken ourselves in Tagore’s “heaven of freedom… where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”?

 

 

 

 

 

On Underlying Beliefs


 

 My instructor remarked in class that this was one aspect of learning that can be barely scratched on the surface through class work. It’s something one needs to continue to experience and explore.

Beliefs are like gnomes. They guard and control our thoughts and behaviour (like the ones in mythology which guarded  underground treasures). So we end up having the good gnomes which support our conscious behaviours to achieve set goals as opposed to the bad ones which skulk under the surface, unknown to us but ever ready to frustrate our well meaning thoughts and plans. These in fact constitute the major part of our underlying beliefs (UBs) – collected from our past, ingrained into our sub-conscious world, colouring our perceptions and driving many of our behaviours up the wrong street.

So how do we recognise these underlying beliefs and what do we do after that?

It stands to reason that if we are unable to control our behaviour, we would not achieve what we would like to do. This mostly happens when our behaviour, unknown to us, are moored to deep seated UBs. So however hard we try, we fail.  And we end up getting frustrated and giving up, without even realising what really happened.

The way forward is to become more aware of oneself. As we start doing this and consciously observe the way we think and act, we start understanding what drives our behaviours. What do we notice? Do we see gaps between what we “say” we believe in and what we really end up doing? If our answer is yes, than it’s time to identify and take stock of our underlying beliefs, determine which of them are preventing us from moving forward and then act to uproot them from our system.

And how does one do that? Which brings us to possibly the most critical step. Once we have identified our UBs, we need to bring them out into our conscious thoughts. As we examine our UBs consciously, we are more likely to find answers to, “Why we act the way we do?” With this we would be able to start to unlock the truths of what we truly believe in.

So every time we are faced with a challenging situation, we need to take a helicopter view from above to find out whether there are some underlying beliefs lurking beneath our behaviour and actions. Once we see the connections, we would be in a position to choose- what to retain and what to let go.