This winter, don't forget the skull cap

THE CYNICJan 13, 2017 | 16:54

This winter, don't forget the skull cap

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)." — Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904

Is there something worrying about this winter? Is not the chill more pronounced because the warmth of bon viveur is missing? But that was the whole idea to begin with — why should some people live well and others not. The irony of the ideology behind the current dispensation, ruling India, is apparent to one who might want to apply one's mind. At the core of this thinking lies the promise of bon viveur as an achievable goal for all, yet ironically it paints those who have achieved it — as social leeches, as parasites who have fed off the national pie or more simply as criminals.


The masses are ready to undertake hardships so that their perceived enemy — the elite may suffer. Elitism, in the mind of the mass being defined as economic worthiness beyond the earning capacity of the masses and not incumbent on those who set up the conflict however much their stature may resemble the elite. The emotion of the masses is being constantly churned to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and uneasiness, a state of disquiet that is then addressed firmly and with much fanfare as steps are taken to mitigate the situation. An urgency of action that is perceived by the majority as a positive move for the welfare of the nation.

India, as well as parts of the world, is in the throes of an upheaval where hyper-nationalism is sweeping democracies, where societies are being confronted with choices between right and wrong based on majoritarianism and the outcome of those choices are being judged in terms of allegiance to religio-ethnic political national identities.

In India it is not just about standing for the national anthem, it is not just about re-evaluating history, it is not just about not eating beef, it is not just about having to say "Bharat Mata ki Jai" to prove loyalty towards the country because it is also about replacing the "good morning" greetings in English-medium schools with "Namaste". It is about replacing Christmas with Good Governance Day; it is about wearing every other type of headgear but not the Muslim skull cap; it is about public shaming anybody who speaks out against anything that goes against the majority definition of what is acceptable and what is not.

The masses are ready to undertake hardships so that their perceived enemy — the elite may suffer. (Credit: PTI)

Again an irony — what is majority but a larger part of any fixed set and by that classification it proves not to be the best or for the sake of argument not to be the worst of any set.

If all the people who studied economics in India were taken and the economic policies of the country were based on the majority views would that be a good thing? If all the people who studied science were taken and one looked for innovations and discoveries based on the average output would that be science? If everybody who know the game of cricket is taken as a whole and the team selection is done based on the majority view — would that be practical?

Then how and why is it that in the name of majority the very concept of India is being confined to parochialism. Where is the search for excellence? Where is the tireless striving towards perfection? Where is the desire to be bigger than the sum average of the mass?

The leaders of India have fallen into the trap of needing history to judge them in glowing terms even before it is made; they stoke the sentiments of the masses to evoke instant gratification; they feed on mass mediocrity as proof of their ability to lead. They forget that the role of a leader is not to conform but to deviate, not to agitate but to motivate, not to lower the bar but to raise it.


"When you set aside mere names and come down to realities, you find that we are ruled by a king just as other absolute monarchies are. His name is The Majority. He is mighty in bulk and strength... He rules by the right of possessing less money and less brains and more ignorance than the other competitor for the throne, The Minority. Ours is an Absolute Monarchy." — Mark Twain's unsent letter to Bayard Taylor, June 10, 1878. Published in Mark Twain at Large by Arthur L Scott.

Last updated: January 14, 2017 | 18:57
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