Total Pageviews

Follow by Email

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't mess with the middle class

By Swapan Dasgupta

Intellectuals are easily distinguishable from ‘normal’ people on two counts: first, by their rigid certitudes, their monopoly of the truth and, second, by their susceptibility to allergies—of the aesthetic, not medical variety. "When I hear the word culture", the corpulent Nazi leader Hermann Goering is (wrongly) reported to have said, "I reach for my gun." In a similar vein, today’s intellectuals, particularly the Left-liberal variety that dominate India’s cerebral landscape, are inclined to curl their lips, raise their eyebrows and sneer at the mention of two dreaded words: middle class.

The disdain for the middle class may seem an exercise in self-flagellation. However, ever since the iconic Italian communist Antonio Gramsci conferred social autonomy on them, intellectuals have conveniently ceased to regard themselves as middle class. They may be from the class—or a community—but see themselves as being above it.

This detachment from social moorings has its advantages: it allows intellectuals to flit expediently from correctness to correctness. In the 1930s and 1940s, it was the undying faith in Uncle Jo and the ‘anti-fascist’ struggles; from the 1950s to the 1970s, it was the endorsement of, first, Jawaharlal Nehru and then Indira Gandhi’s elusive search for socialism; and after the 1990s, it was a series of leftover ‘anti’ causes that drove the social conscience of India’s intellectuals—anti-communalism, anti-fascism, anti-globalization and anti-Americanism. In his "Autobiography", Nirad Chaudhuri detected a common thread running through the changes of fashion: "The intelligentsia of my country have always had the faith… that they are indispensable as mercenaries to everybody who rules India."

Nirad Babu was always prone to over-statement but the past week has seen India’s intellectual elite taking up cudgels for a beleaguered government and a failing system. In the face of some of the most amazing assertions of people’s power throughout urban India, the intellectuals have reached for their guns screaming, ‘middle class’ and, therefore, regressive and potentially fascist. The flag-waving enthusiasm of young people and retired policewomen have been equated with World Cup boisterousness and chants of "Vande Mataram", "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and the singing of "Ram Dhun" mocked as exclusionary Hindu symbolism. The heartfelt indignation of a people angry and exasperated by the venality of national life has been painted as assaults on Parliament, the Constitution and democracy. Yesterday’s argumentative Indian, we are now told, has been transformed into demented followers of Hitler. The starry-eyed romanticism that greeted Maoist insurgents in Bastar has abruptly become poison darts directed at a largely spontaneous but non-violent upsurge.

For decades, the middle classes have been pilloried for their lack of participation in India’s civic life. Their voting record was dismal and they have been charged with being preoccupied with their own families, their jobs, their consumerist excesses, Bollywood and cricket. Their rage at an unresponsive political class, an inefficient and leaky state and thwarted aspirations have been brushed aside contemptuously because they lacked collective clout. Now, when they have come out on the streets to challenge one of the foremost impediments to India’s emergence as a global economic power, they are being charged with impetuosity and impatience.

"They have no respect for procedures," we are told by the clever upholders of a rotten status quo; and "they are engaging in blackmail", say others. Both assertions are correct. At the heart of the recklessness, however, is the government’s penchant for subterfuge and low cunning. The regime had to be coerced by the Supreme Court into acknowledging the 2G scandal. There is unending foot-dragging over the scandalous mismanagement of the Commonwealth Games. Was there any show of contrition by the duly-elected government? Did we hear one word of apology to the nation by the Prime Minister? Instead, India was told there is no "magic wand" to fight corruption. Worse, the movement was sought to be derailed by stoking largely imaginary fears among Muslims, OBCs and dalits—the old divide-and-rule formula which has paid such rich dividends.

There is one inescapable conclusion: the regime has no real interest in disturbing a cosy, self-serving arrangement. We have a right to be angry, even a right to be calculatedly reckless. And we have a duty to ignore the bad ideas of mercenary intellectuals.

Sunday Times of India, August 28, 2011

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"..the regime has no real interest in disturbing a cosy, self-serving arrangement".

You said it.

Recall what happened to Rajesh Pilot the day he mustered up his courage to decry lack of democracy & imperiousness within Congress party. Anna Hazares also can be mollified by throwing some sops.

Jayalalitha the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is a highly capable person far far better than the rest. But gets thwarted at every step by Congress. This so called " defeat" of DMK fills me with despair. As they are busy plotting regrowing their claws to come back and wreak vengeance.

Both of them should be discredited. Good governance cannot be ensured when all these political parties are only interested in oneupmanship & settling of scores.

Anonymous said...

"..the regime has no real interest in disturbing a cosy, self-serving arrangement".

You said it.

Recall what happened to Rajesh Pilot the day he mustered up his courage to decry lack of democracy & imperiousness within Congress party. Anna Hazares also can be mollified by throwing some sops.

Jayalalitha the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is a highly capable person far far better than the rest. But gets thwarted at every step by Congress. This so called " defeat" of DMK fills me with despair. As they are busy plotting regrowing their claws to come back and wreak vengeance.

Both of them should be discredited. Good governance cannot be ensured when all these political parties are only interested in oneupmanship & settling of scores.

Talking Skull said...

Can't agree more with your pointed article. The so-called intellectual brigade is largely composed of failed career-ists and politically-aligned NGOs. This jholawaala gang has been a continual nuisance to India's crave for development, infrastructure etc. Earlier, they were tolerated just as a necessary noise. Now, they have become serious impediments, not commensurate with the 'voice of people' that they claim to represent.

seadog4227 said...

See how easily the attention has been deflected from the relentless campaign started by Swami Ramdev. We have a "half-victory"proclaimed by Anna and a full victory proclaimed by the ELM , which cleverly edged into the picture. In the meantime, all the scams have been forgotten. Like the pathetic scenario of Indian cricket, everything is out of sight and ,therefore, out of mind.

Anonymous said...

Sri.Swapan Dasgupta deserves special credit for using the most appropriate word - " the regime ".

Now the politicians are after certain people like Om Puri & Kiran Bedi for " contempt of Parliament". For using "defamatory language".

When passions run high one cannot be obsessed with political correctness. The same political class does not hesitate to deride Sri Ram by questioning the very existence of Him enshrined in many devotees' hearts. Our feelings of shock & contempt at their unholy sacriligeous "opening & photographing of treasures" of Thiru AnanathaPadmanabhaSwamy Temple are of no consequence to anyone including this Anna Hazare.

Whereas even burning of effigies of politicians would be met with baton blows. Such grossly obese ego endowed political poltroons can never command people's respect leave alone international awe & admiration.

Anonymous said...

Jagjivan Ram's daughter played caste card to the hilt tilting at windmills to usurp power. Predictably the kursi cast its spell on her & she concludes like her fraternity that they are mightier & holier than the people governed.

Ex President KR.Narayanan also played the dalit card effectively. On one of his visits to an Indian airport for welcoming his relative he found the airconditioner had not been turned on by a laid back employee. Emboldened by kursi power he had that employee sacked.

Janata Dal's Chandrashekar with socialistic pretensions on becoming the Prime Minister did not hesitate to step out of his car & slap one of the aam janata who had mistakenly strayed into the road meant for his protected ride.

Compare these people with Sri. Ramakrishna Paramahamsar's response who was tested by Swami Vivekananda by burying a coin under His mattress.

Anonymous said...

Jagjivan Ram's daughter played caste card to the hilt tilting at windmills to usurp power. Predictably the kursi cast its spell on her & she concludes like her fraternity that they are mightier & holier than the people governed.

Ex President KR.Narayanan also played the dalit card effectively. On one of his visits to an Indian airport for welcoming his relative he found the airconditioner had not been turned on by a laid back employee. Emboldened by kursi power he had that employee sacked.

Janata Dal's Chandrashekar with socialistic pretensions on becoming the Prime Minister did not hesitate to step out of his car & slap one of the aam janata who had mistakenly strayed into the road meant for his protected ride.

Compare these people with Sri. Ramakrishna Paramahamsar's response who was tested by Swami Vivekananda by burying a coin under His mattress.

bharat said...

you are just thought provoking, I see knack in you you see the thing how they look and comment.

satyam said...

hmm... right said...
just one law cant eradicate corruption...but who says dont even make a START....
i guess india has entered an era like the 80s soviet union which lasted a lot longer bcoz of the rampant corruption.. that oiled the creaking system...and circumvented an obstinate bureaucracy that was worse than ours...