The Politics of Populism

The Oxford dictionary defines Populism as the quality of being aimed at or appealing to the ordinary man. Populism in any society would dictate that policies benefit a normal person belonging to that society- not someone who is endowed with an extremely high or low quantum of resources and opportunities to create those resources as compared to the average person of that particular society.
Today’s world has come a long way ahead of the one we had years earlier, where there were aristocratic states, dictatorships, slavery and various other glaring evidences of economic and social inequality. A majority of the world’s countries today are governed by democratically elected representatives, reflecting the will of the people who have elected them. The people supposedly choose their representatives based on their policies, their track record of governance, opinions on important issues etc. 

Or do they?

A class in primary school has a leader to monitor the students during break time or between class hours, with the primary purpose of checking bad behavior and implementing discipline. Such a leader has to be capable of handling the students, and might either function by instilling fear or explaining to the students that unruly behavior is truly against their best interests.

There are multiple ways a leader can be chosen in this scenario: the teacher makes the choice herself, or there can be a vote.

All of us would agree that the first system would be more effective- because the teacher has an incentive to ensure discipline, she is more likely to choose someone who will do the job well. In contrast, if there is a vote, the most popular person gets elected though he may not be the best at the job. In fact it is quite possible the students elect a very lenient representative so they can have a good time.

The basic issue here is that the people you need to govern may want something different from what is actually good for them in the long run- students want a lenient leader so they can play and fight, rather than have someone who will enforce the discipline that will actually help them develop character and discipline.

And if you’re wondering how this is related to politics or populism, you just need to understand that these kids were the ones that grew up to be citizens. Their behavior and psychology just never changed in this aspect. And they again found themselves to be in a position where they had to choose their leader- only that the stakes were much higher now.

It has become common practice these days to throw blame on the politicians for the state of affairs in any democracy. Politics is considered a dirty game, to an extent that a lot of people discourage their kids from pursuing a career there. And who decides which politician comes to power? Us, collectively. All of us.

Why will a politician take a step in the right direction if people are going to vote him out of power for it? And why won’t a politician take a very aggressive and hate-filled rhetoric, if people will vote him to power for it? We are all to blame for the actions of our government.

It is worth remembering that it wasn’t Hitler that called for mass massacre of Jews- it was the majority in Germany that did, capitalizing on which he rose to power.

As Jospeh De Maistre, the famous diplomat and writer put it: In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.

The populist sentiment always wins in the real world, if not the ideal one. So if you think there’s bad governance and decision making doing the rounds, here’s the good news: We don’t really have to change the politicians; we just need to change ourselves. We need to be those idealistic students who look at the long term picture, and understand that maybe, just maybe, it’s worth getting over the temptation of wanting to fight, and electing a good leader that helps us build discipline and grow in a constructive fashion.

But hey, here’s the bad news: Those kids don’t realize the importance of discipline until they’re much older- by which time it’s too late. Much like the citizens of today.

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Volunteering for a cause

I wonder what it is that makes us want to volunteer… a chance to engage ourself, a chance to feel good about ourself… or maybe it’s just about helping people. It’s about change, maybe. Or maybe it’s about doing something good for someone that we weren’t obligated to do… some positive effect we hope to leverage with our inner self, as we try to convince ourself at night that we are a human being worth loving.Yes- everyone deserves to feel loved… and definitely by themselves, no matter who they are.

Giving back to society is important. Of course you can choose your ways of doing it- you can volunteer your time, skills or even money; but give something you feel like giving from within- give your skills if you feel you want to use something you’ve developed to enable change. Give money if you feel you’ve earned a lot and want to fund change.

The point is, giving what is most productive is useful- but giving what you want to from within is fulfilling. And fulfilment is the goal of a volunteering endeavour- what volunteering achieves for you as a person is as important as what it achieves for the world. Because if it doesn’t do much for you, you don’t have incentive. And if you don’t have incentive, it takes the back seat.

By incentive I don’t mean a material one- a lot of people do it just because it keeps them humble, for example. It helps them appreciate and be thankful for what they have in life, and that’s quite important- because happiness might just be a state of mind, but it’s a pretty good one to be in.

So yes- volunteer, do it with joy, look forward to it; and you’ll see how much it enriches your life- spiritually, mentally and emotionally.


The Script that wasn’t

Strolling down the memory lane

between those slippery lines

a million pains for every laurel

but words are all ye see.

 

Blessed is this colossal book

with a plethora of stories-

be it a legend scrawled in blood and sweat,

or a calligraphic fable for the unborn future.

Or a fantasy scribbled by the wanderer,

and a neat victory for the ambitious!

A snapshot of abounding moments,

all here readers espy.

 

Beyond all the contrast howbeit,

One thing alike in the gloomiest of ‘em all-

The author wondered in regret – what if;

What if he produced the strokes he didn’t;

and filled the pages he didn’t;

with the freedom that came at a price,

but as hindsight would sadly reveal-

came always, nonetheless.

 

 


‘Thank God’

I was meeting a friend from college for coffee last weekend. It had been about a year since we last met, so there was a lot of catching up to do. After a long conversation, we left the shop.

A minute after we got out of the shop, she realized she was missing her phone. After the momentary panic followed by the pragmatic calm, we went back to the shop to look for it. Luckily, the waiter had noticed the phone lying on our table after we left, and had taken it to keep it safe.

My friend heaved a sigh of relief, turned to me and said “Thank God. That was a damn expensive phone.” We thanked the waiter, took the phone and left.

As I was going back home I was just wondering about the first words my friend had uttered as we found the phone.

“Thank God.”

There was nothing unusual about it. In fact, we all have heard and said it a lot all our lives.

But a very strange question struck me.

Had this phrase evolved from being genuine gratitude that was heartfelt in earnest, to a meaningless expression repeated out of habit ? 

If one were to really feel that way, it would mean one resigns to the fact that good things that happen despite human error are the action of God- or as some like me would believe, some supernatural force that ensures a balance in this universe. And this by extension, would mean that this force is the same that makes things go wrong despite our careful and well executed efforts.

So everyone who uses the phrase “Thank God”, ideally should believe that results are more than just about actions. And almost everyone uses it.

But do we really understand it ? Does each one of us truly understand what it means to accept circumstantial intervention and its power over our efforts ? 

In short, do we accept that while it is our duty to perform our actions to the best of our abilities with the most sincere of efforts, there is something else going on that can actually turn our world upside down ? 

Because if we do, disappointments fade and lives are more complete- with less regrets. We learn to take everything in our stride. We learn to understand that rewards are blessings, and problems an opportunity to grow. 

Make no mistake- I’m not saying it’s great to develop a very lethargic attitude in life. It’s important to give everything and fight to the end for a cause you believe in- else you have nothing to live for.But evaluation purely on results alone, could burn you out so soon that you miss out on experiencing the truly blissful journey that is life.

As someone rightly put it, goals aren’t about doing things, but becoming the kind of person who can do them. 

I’m reminded of something Harvey tells Mike in Suits

“Mike, you’re in the major leagues, and you get to go toe-to-toe with the best there is. And I can’t tell you if that’s enough for a lifetime, but if you want to stay, there’s nothing more you can do. My advice is hold on tight and enjoy the ride.”

I guess that’s true for all of us that want more to life than a grind that makes you want to kill yourself every single day.

So much for a coffee reunion, huh ? 😛

 

 


Custody of the Past

Remembered amidst a moment’s bliss,

or across a lifetime of agony,

Where art thou, rarely missed one ?

a thought of power;

a source of strength.

or the scare of demise;

a harbinger of horror ?

Every true man’s identity,

and a false one’s dread.

A shadow in the land of no suns,

or a candle in fading moonlight ?

Abandoned lay all your slaves,

in a quest to exhume the within.

Impartial yet unsparing;

feared and awed in measure,

Why art thou so, my dear one ?

Always ringing in earshot,

the ghost of your laugh.

Always playing woo and pursue,

catching up with your victim

or Hero, as hopes the delusional dreamer.

To each his own, say the unaware-

while owned is the soul, you the liege.

 

 


Thus spake the wizard… and I heard him!

Hi Guys!

I know its been a really long time since I wrote, but in my defence I had a lot of things on my plate. I tried many a time to force myself to put down something, but then I didn’t want to push myself too hard. I needed to know if life was possible forever without writing, and the fact that I’ve come here without meaning to tells me I can’t- and that bit of self-discovery is probably worth the time I took off.

Well so what pushed me here ? It’s as usual, a few thoughts inside me that needed to be let out, so they don’t engulf and consume me!

I was talking to a friend, who recently told me a story of a man who was in search of the meaning of life. He wanted to know what life was about- and why so many of us face problems and suffering in life. Since I’m a big fan of Lord of the Rings, I’m just going to spice this up using character names from there 😛 Lets call this guy Frodo.

So Frodo went in search of answers, and after travelling far and wide, one day landed at the home of an aged man who was said to be wise. His name was (as you might’ve guessed) Gandalf. Frodo said to Gandalf  “Sir, I have travelled far and wide in search of the answers to the puzzle that is life. I was told you are a very wise and experienced man in these matters. Can you give me the answer ?”

To this, Gandalf replied “Son, what is the specific question you seek to answer ?”

“Sir, I would like to understand why we suffer and struggle in life, and what is to be achieved by this.”

“Son, I will give you the answer, but I need you to do a task for me. There is this door that leads to the backyard of my house, and I need you to open it for me.”
Frodo tried his best to open the door, and upon finding it hard, gave up. The old man said “Son, this is very essential. Stay with me for a year, and keep trying. The day you open it you will find your answer”

Frodo then dutifully tried opening the door for the whole year, day in and day out, but of no avail. At the end, he went and told Gandalf  “Sorry Sir. I couldn’t do it”

To this, Gandalf said “No problem son, come with me.” He took Frodo to the other side of the door through another narrow pathway. On the other side was a huge hillock, which was blocking the door.

Frodo said, with anger “Sir, with all due respect, I think you have wasted a year of my life. There was no way I could have opened the door. I am deeply disappointed”

Gandalf said “Yes son. It was surely impossible to open the door. But if you take a look at your hands, you can see they have become a lot stronger due to all the effort and exercise. It is very similar in life- Many people struggle with problems and are disappointed if they do not achieve what they think is success. The point of the problem was never to solve it, but to transform yourself into someone better in the process of struggling with it. This is what life is about- continuously becoming a better individual by making use of what your pain, suffering and struggles teach you.”

Frodo stood transfixed, and thanked his old friend.

He was immensely overjoyed upon his experience, and turned to leave.

As he was leaving, the wise old man said “And one last thing son. In life, Success brings happiness, and conversely, happiness brings success. But one important thing to remember is that the success brought about by happiness stays for way longer than the happiness brought about by your success, simply because you don’t know what success is.”

“Remember, Life is a race, and you don’t know how many laps you run. So instead of worrying too much about who wins every lap, spend your time enjoying the run.”

I know this was a bit heavy and intense, but this made my day- it made me see so many things I did not earlier, and I thought it was only fair I put it by you.

 


Faith exists. But God?

 

I have guestblogged on the Alchemist’s blog (http://myworldrevolvesaroundyou.wordpress.com) .It is an overview of my way of looking at life, faith, philosophy, atheism…whatever you may call it. To know what I call it, click the link and read on 🙂

Faith exists. But God?.