Vote, you fools!

A government that can’t protect us from rainwater can’t protect us from terrorists

What can ordinary citizens do? Well, go out and vote. Salil Tripathi on the attack on Bombay:

New York has been attacked, London has faced – and avoided – attacks. Israelis are used to dealing with terror. And yet, the perception about India is that it takes these attacks in, as if nothing has happened. Returning to normalcy is an important part of dealing with terror. Preventing terror, and making people feel secured without imposing arbitrary restrictions on their lives, without suspecting individuals because of the collective they may belong to – religion, caste, language – and inspiring a sense of security among those who want to trust the law: these are the things a government must do. And it is in that area that the state has failed its people.

Fixing that also requires greater political participation. South Bombay, the epicenter of the attacks, is among the wealthiest parts of the country. And yet, that parliamentary constituency routinely has low turnout during elections. Voters don’t turn out for municipal elections as well. They must register their voice, they must protest, through the power the Indian constitution gives them, and elect a government that delivers, and not one that gets in through default, due to overall apathy. India has a phrase – chalta hai – this will go on. That must not do. Bombay’s citizens cannot, and should not, go about being vigilantes. But they can be vigilant about their rights, through their right to vote. [FEER]

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30 Responses to Vote, you fools!

  1. Sabarish Sasidharan 28th November 2008 at 18:11 #

    Vote? Hahaha, a great response, and a long wait of 5 yrs in which we have no way of ensuring what we voted for gets implemented. Then vote again, wait another 5 yrs, then vote again…. Wait, we might be all dead meat by then, no problem, the nation will bereave our deaths, what more do we want, lets just forget what our families go through… Many more martyrs will be lost while we keep on voting frenetically… sounds very enthusiastic. There’s got to be some better way (in addition to voting of course) (and in no way violent).

  2. NotReallyAnonymous 28th November 2008 at 18:45 #

    @Sabarish: Head down to the PMO or the nearest assembly, use a painted sign-board with your message-of-choice, stand there day after day, take enough water and food along, Dont forget the risk of getting taken to the local thana but thats ok.

    Protestathon!

  3. Udayan 28th November 2008 at 19:02 #

    @sabarish,

    Dude. Now I understand why Nitin says “you fools”.

  4. Sabarish Sasidharan 28th November 2008 at 19:20 #

    Please enlighten this self-admitted fool as well please, please, please.

  5. sai 28th November 2008 at 19:30 #

    Agree about the voting part. But what we also really need is space for new politcal thought – not the same old tired slogans of the parasites which go by the name of political parties. And the promising aspect is that the educated, professional, urban group (the middle and upper class) actually have the critical mass in the large cities to make it happen. Even a few smart and effcient MPs/MLAs who are independent of the current political set up can make a difference, I believe. We currently have a few such experiments (like Lok Paritran etc) – but for some reason they dont seem to be gaining momentum.

  6. Sabarish Sasidharan 28th November 2008 at 19:38 #

    @sai: Space for new political thought? yes. But then is Democracy in the current form the best we can have when it comes to participatory governance? Why can’t we redefine participatory governance so that people have more control over the fate of the state?

    @udayan: waiting for your illuminating thoughts

  7. Sabarish Sasidharan 28th November 2008 at 19:43 #

    >>India has a phrase – chalta hai – this will go on. That must not do. Bombay’s citizens cannot, and should not, go about being vigilantes. But they can be vigilant about their rights, through their right to vote.

    Not being pessimistic, for every thoughtful vote that goes into the election process, there is one idiot casting his vote because the candidate either belongs to his caste, or has promised a television or even worse has promised a bottle cheap liquor from the nearby liquor shop run by the candidate’s own brother. Right to vote, oh yeah.

  8. NotReallyAnonymous 28th November 2008 at 19:49 #

    @sabarish:Not being pessimistic, for every thoughtful vote that goes into the election process, there is one idiot casting his vote because the candidate either belongs to his caste, or has promised a television or even worse has promised a bottle cheap liquor from the nearby liquor shop run by the candidate’s own brother. Right to vote, oh yeah.

    Thats why we need an increased breadth and depth in our education system, which can be used for improving the number of aware and informed voters.

  9. NotReallyAnonymous 28th November 2008 at 19:56 #

    @sabarish:Why can’t we redefine participatory governance so that people have more control over the fate of the state?</i?

    That is a good question, because I’ve at times wondered whether having smaller states or smaller population per constituency, would help in taking the local representatives more accessible.

  10. Sabarish Sasidharan 28th November 2008 at 20:03 #

    @NotReallyAnonymous: And we are going to expect this same political system that thrives on this very same lack of awareness to usher in an era of enlightening education ? Though they are stupid, i don’t think they are as foolish as Kalidasa before his enlightenment (branch, chopping)

    What kind of an education system are you talking about btw?

  11. Nitin 28th November 2008 at 20:24 #

    Sabarish & Co,

    Here’s an earlier post where voting is discussed. I do not have much to add beyond what I’ve said there.

    The whole point here is that voting is both a least “cost” way for citizens to act (whether against terrorism or for better roads), and it is also the most powerful way to do it. Of course, it is not a sufficient condition, but I argue that it is a necessary condition for good governance.

    It’s all so very nice of so many of us to complain that this politician messed up, that department screwed up, etc. But we need to ask ourselves what have we done to improve matters? Voting, and ensuring that elected representatives do their job properly is a responsibility that needs to be discharged properly.

    Also, I think stunts like dharnas, protests etc are to be eschewed in favour of constitutional process. For those who claim this kind of activism works better, I’d say let’s see the proof. Things have some to this pass because it’s quite easy to complain, criticise, light candles or take out processions. Few try the harder way—of being responsible citizens. And then, there are others, who can only offer a cynical smirk, and say why voting wont work. As if whatever alternative they have has somehow worked.

    @Udayan, the “you fools!” is a reference to LOTR, where Gandalf says “Fly, you fools!”

  12. NotReallyAnonymous 28th November 2008 at 20:26 #

    @Sabarish:And we are going to expect this same political system that thrives on this very same lack of awareness to usher in an era of enlightening education?

    Yes.
    They’ll do it either because the current state of affairs has the potential of leading to or leads to a collapse of the economy due to lack of quality manpower, which could hurt their own votes.
    (Remember how our economy started to get liberalized, because of a point of collapse.)

    or,

    That one sane guy gets put in charge, one who understands the importance of an informed voter. One who knows whats good for the country. Remember how telecom sector was opened up?

    What kind of an education system are you talking about btw?

    The same kind where civics lectures in school bombard us with the virtues of UN and NAM. The same kind which made a Secy, Shipping, instead of taking a national-interest oriented approach, suggested UN lead an international maritime force to protect *our* national-interests. The same kind that makes almost everyone think that the war against Indian state started in 1989, or 1999 or in the last few years. The kind of education system, which made me personally feel like being pushed through a process of regimentation(I use that particular word because I’ve observed how an army style of regiment-oriented structure works.).

  13. Sabarish Sasidharan 28th November 2008 at 20:42 #

    @Nitin

    I agree with what you are saying, especially

    >>ensuring that elected representatives do their job properly is a responsibility that needs to be discharged properly

    >>”Few try the harder way—of being responsible citizens”

    So how can we as citizens, ensure that they discharge their responsibilities properly? This is a great wake up call for all of us, i hope we make use of this opportunity the right way. Voting is ofcourse essential, but what else.

  14. Kedar 28th November 2008 at 21:10 #

    The current political system makes it almost impossible to get the govt. to do the people’s bidding AFTER it is elected.

    Vote, then what?

    There must be a feedback mechanism (is mid-term elections a solution? I dont know) that sensitizes and steers the polity towards the will of the majority from time to time even within those 5 years.

    We the people cannot let those in power run away with 5 possible years of mayhem.

  15. The Rational Fool 29th November 2008 at 01:05 #

    A society that stands as a mute spectator to the suppression of the voices of reason, be it in the name of religion, culture, tradition, or patriotism, is destined to succumb to the forces of of darkness. This may sound pompous and unrelated to the topic on hand, but without freedom of expression, democracy is meaningless.

  16. Vivek 29th November 2008 at 02:09 #

    Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. – George Bernard Shaw

    A friend of mind send me this a few days back; now the full force of this statement and its implications are weighing on my mind.

    52 hours, and counting… ?

  17. Vishal Singh 29th November 2008 at 12:27 #

    I do not know how much voting will help to change things.
    There are simply no choices.
    I think there is a need for highly credible people to come in political space. They also need to come not through our regular parties. There are many credible smart people who would want to influence Indian political system but will not do so because of the complete collapse in the working style of political parties. The pendulum of inefficiencies of political parties shifts from each another. A congress will go and a BJP will come and the nation keeps on deteriorating at the same or faster pace.
    As I said before regular Indian political parties have become morally bankrupt and expecting anything from them is like expecting a drug addict to come and treat people on how to keep away from drugs. There needs to be a new political party.

  18. Raag 29th November 2008 at 13:26 #

    I am not sure voting will anyway help the indian citizenry. The problem is with lack of real alternatives. In the last assembly elections for Karnataka, a lot of well-meaning people voted for the BJP to oust JDS and Congress. Now, the BJP government doesn’t seem to anyway different from the ones that would have been installed had JDS or congress won. Tell me, if a election happens in Maharashtra today, who should the common man vote for? and why?

  19. AG 29th November 2008 at 19:03 #

    Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

    We’ve been voting for 60 years and with few exceptions, all our pols have taken us further down the drain.

  20. YB 29th November 2008 at 20:20 #

    @acorn

    “India has a phrase – chalta hai – this will go on”

    Why do Indians say Chalta hai to events like these? Its because we do not know how to have the correct response to these attacks. And that is because we do not have “DISCIPLINE and MILITARY LIKE PROFESSIONALISM” in our genes. The qualities that would enable us to give the right repose to these events. We don’t have it in our genes so we will need to ACQUIRE IT.

    Just the way discipline and military like professionalism comes naturally to Americans (and most of the western nations), but they had to struggle to ACQUIRE the sense of ‘EQUALITY TO ALL’ through civil rights moment and it took them a lot of internal struggle to finally get a black president elected. Similarly ‘EQUALITY TO ALL’ comes naturally to Indians, but now we will have to struggle to acquire the quality of ‘DISCIPLINE AND MILITARY LIKE PROFESSIONALISM’ to make India safe and prosperous.

  21. Narayan 30th November 2008 at 02:44 #

    The only solution is voter-turnout above 80% everywhere in all the elections, for a decade or two, which will automatically clean all of today’s mess.

    To put it bluntly, when all of anti-nationals gang-up armed with their all-powerful tool of “tactical bulk-voting” as finalized by their local Churches or Mosques, there are not many options left to save any semblance of vegetation left.

  22. Nilu 30th November 2008 at 10:20 #

    Yes, vote and everything will be alright. In fact we should have voted our way out of debacles in the World Cup too.

  23. reason 8th December 2008 at 14:03 #

    the people of delhi voted apparently in good numbers, some 60%, and congress is back in power. There are good chances the citizens of mumbai, to whom this sermon has been directed to, may do the same thing gladly.

    Does that mean we just need to keep lighting candles to fight terrorism?

    elections are taken as a winner-take-all thing in India, even at 1% margins. We forget there is such a thing as the constitution.

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