Monday, January 23, 2012

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls...

It's that time of the year again. The time when people who have way too much Gucci in their wardrobe meet in a little place called Jaipur. They discuss the wretchedness of the human condition using words containing too many syllables in books containing characters with too many daddy issues.
Made conspicuous by his absence from this left wing paradise is Salman Rushdie. If you're unaware, this is one person who's had considerably more luck with members of the opposite sex than you or I (This is to be expected because I haven't been to the gym lately and you... well, you're reading this). He's also written an angry book or two.
What is especially important about the absence said person of alopecic fame is the reason behind it. Were we so lucky that he would be spotted buying a special scalp shine formula and refuse to blind people by stepping out in public again.
Unfortunately, the reason is far more serious; and speaks much more vehemently of the world we live in. A world that speaks only of intolerance and mindless hate. Where criticism is heresy and heresy is death. And the difference between liberators and oppressors is only one of time.
Basically it's the 1500s all over again, but with more bandwidth and much better treatment for head lice.
However, addressing the etiopathogenesis of all of humanity's miscellaneous vices is beyond the scope of this post.
What I do want to talk about is just how fucked we all are; specifically by way of putting faith in the institutions that govern us.

Disenfranchisement

Maybe you know the word; or maybe you didn't have a massive crush on your English teacher and never saw the need to. I digress. The concept is relatively straightforward... Disenfranchisement is the devaluation of a vote; for any reason.
It may be specific, as is the case with certain countries not allowing people convicted of serious crimes to be part of the electoral process, or more general, as is usually the case when your favourite flavour of liberator/dictator takes over and suspends elections as well as the soap opera you were currently crying over.

A much more applicable corollary of this is disenfranchisement by numbers. When India gained independence, her population stood at ~350 million, give or take a few miscalculated periods. Currently, there are about 1.2 billion of us. And while this sounds great for any circumstance involving hand-to-hand combat with the enemy; take a look at what it does to our Democratic structure:
There were 530 something representatives in the Lok Sabha at the time of independence. There are 545 representatives in the Lok Sabha right now. What this means that one of them is now responsible for representing 2.2 million of us up from 660 thousand.
Now I assuming you're a relatively “normal” kind of person. The operative definition of “normal” being that you like a certain kind of food, have porn stored in places with imaginative names like 'New Folder' and that you have an average of 13 differences of opinion with your fellow man per day.
Therefore, all other factors remaining constant, this means that your opinion, however profound and relevant, retains about a third of the importance of what it did when the structure of Parliament was envisioned.
And here's the kicker... all other factors didn't remain constant. While you were adding more and more stuff to New Folder, people on the other end of the socio-economic spectrum were punching out babies while the Rocky soundtrack was playing in the background.
Let's take your example. You, lean mean sex machine that you were in the 1950s, had 2 kids. They had 2 kids each in turn. Assuming everyone survived the 1970s and those horrible hairstyles, this gives you a total of 6 people of direct descent.
Now how about someone who had just one more kid per generation? This gives a total of 12 people of direct descent. Yes, exactly double. With just one more child.
You, my friend, with you excellent genes and awesome taste in vintage rock, have been outbred. Rather badly too. Have you been taking all those vitamins your doctor recommended? Maybe you need more well aerated underwear.

Of course, this doesn't even begin to describe other real world scenarios. Like the fact that you can't be bothered to participate in the process of government because:
  1. You don't have the time
  2. New Folder is increasing in size every day.
  3. “The system is corrupt, I must stay away.”
  4. New Folder!
This is why you can't get the government to care less about your opinion about an issue. You don't own a major corporation. You can't get people squatting on train tracks for purposes other than intestinal emancipation. Or perhaps, even allege that your “religious sentiments” got hurt.
The truth is, you just don't matter mathematically.
Democracy? Lolwut?
I think it's adorable how all those idealistic people sit down with Arnab Goswami and try to advertise the inherent superiority of Democracy, tell the world that it's the other guy's fault 400 million people in the country are hungry and depending upon the extent of their delusions, try to complete a sentence every now and then.

But are we really, truly choosing a representative Government? Hell, is there even any real choice?
Think about it. The general elections are about a year or so away. Who do you want to vote for? You choices are a. The Gandhi fiefdom, b. The Saffron genocide party or c. The Mayawati theocracy.
This is an a especially tough one considering you may have some remnant memory of the times we've tried the first two; and that you're scared shitless like me anytime someone mentions the phrase “Mayawati's foreign policy”.

Maybe you'd like to vote for Anna et al. Possibly the Left. Or maybe you want to come off the pixie dust and try to understand the fact that these suggestions are here just to make sure I wasn't 'Arnab-ed' (yes, this is a real verb).
Yours could be the only vote in the country, and you'd still fuck it up royally for the rest of us. Congratulations.
So, as things stand, none of these factions will listen to you unless you represent a significant vote bank. And you really can't go to another guy, because, well, there really isn't another guy.
Of course, you could get into the system and change it from the inside. Since it worked metaphorically in Die Hard 2, it can work in real life. But then, this won't happen. Scroll up and you'll see why.
We're screwed. Every single one of us. The educated electorate because nobody will listen to it, and the unkempt masses because a vote is just a piece of paper to someone who hasn't had a meal in 24 hours.
What will we do about it? I haven't the slightest idea. This when I'm usually very good at letting Twitter hashtags form my opinion for me. As you realize, this doesn't bode well.