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Democracy @ the Psychiatrist’s Door

Democracy @ the Psychiatrist’s Door

By Vatsal Khandelwal

Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

These days, opinions are not judged on the basis of their content value. They are subject to indiscriminate dissent, much of which arises out of half baked knowledge and political paranoia. They are bought and sold in the ‘free market’ (like fruits sold by the vendor on the street and customers judging their quality on face value). Difference being, the customer is rational, but the ‘politically aware’ citizen of India is biased, prejudiced and highly judgmental. In such a scenario, giving a disclaimer is necessary. This article is not pro any political party or any particular ideology.

Richard Hofstadter mentions, “The idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad than good.” The Indian Democracy has moved way past its nascent stage but still carries with it the characteristics that make it immature, pessimistic and more so, paranoid. This paranoid style of running the country is problematic. We are politically active. We find out problems in the system, we don’t know how to solve them and even if we do know, we don’t want to.

There is a growing lack of tolerance towards a multiplicity of opinions co-existing peacefully. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stem only from the political superstructure, but has crippled the base, made it susceptible to conflict and constant upheaval. We need to understand the idea of conflict in a broader context, as opposed to the cliché communal-secular or a capitalist-communist tiff we usually think of. Every opinion leads to a conflict and is tagged with stereotypes, prejudices, ridiculous analogies and presumptuous assertions. If you talk pro-tribals, you’re a Naxalite Sympathizer or a narrow minded, obnoxious Luddite. If you object to a hydropower plant being built in your vicinity, you are anti development. If you give subsidies to the farmers, you are appeasing them. If you don’t give them subsidies, you don’t care about them. If you talk against a particular dynastic political party, you are communal. If you talk pro the former, you are corrupt. Worse, if you don’t talk, you are an ignorant citizen of the world’s largest democracy. (Or maybe a staunch critic of one of the excessively voluble journalists arguing on television these days). We need debate, dissent and arguments but we also need them to be sensible. We need a collusion of multiple opinions to form an effective policy, not ridiculous segments of irrational arguments to break one.

We all have a constant urge to criticize the government or any particular political party, ridicule its leaders or its policy measures and pessimistically comment on every possible political scenario. It is imperative to do so, but equally imperative to have a holistic perspective before doing so. Every policy has its own weaknesses and an amalgamation of appreciation and criticism combined with a lot of political participation can help us, as citizens, improve the implementation of the policy. In fact, a closer look towards World Bank Data showing the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment shows that India has a better IDA Resource Allocation Index score (approximately 3.7/6) when compared to other SAARC nations (except Bhutan). The inter-country comparison is shown in graph below. It doesn’t intend to paint a larger than life, rosy picture of our country’s situation but aims to reiterate the fact that we are working well and we just need to substitute paranoia with participation.


Source– World Bank Data “The CPIA is a diagnostic tool that intends to capture the quality of a country’s policies and institutional arrangements using various criteria.The World Bank’s IDA Resource Allocation Index (IRAI) is based on the results of the annual CPIA exercise that covers the IDA eligible countries”

Political Awareness and Political Participation are two different concepts and any one, existing in complete absence of the other, is a symptom of the disease our democracy faces. We will not leave any opportunity to demean the government and then we will not go to vote. Or maybe, we would be too eager to join a feminist rally protesting against a particular cause in the neighboring street but be chauvinistic nonetheless. This way, we might qualify to be a hypocritical, stereotypical, judgmental and paranoid set of people. We will certainly not qualify to be a virtuous, rational, participative and politically aware set of citizens. Our democracy is ailing; it is mentally ill and is knocking at the psychiatrist’s door. We need to be politically agile and get rid of this political paranoia by being our own psychiatrists, democracy’s psychiatrists. It shouldn’t die in its adolescence. Let’s not convert a diverse, multi-cultural, vibrant society into a lackluster mental asylum. Let’s not transform our beloved political system into our Facebook Newsfeed- like/comment/ignore or worse, unfollow/not get notified.

This article was just an opinion, one out of the thousands that freely roam around in the political market. If you want to simplify your life and that of your country men, think of buying it. The returns shall be far more than the tolerance you needed to purchase it with.

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