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Doublespeak & double standards

Doublespeak & double standards

Author: Hari Jaisingh
Publication: The Tribune
Date: May 3, 2002

Intellectual dishonesty and the silent majority

How come unscrupulous politicians, wayward bureaucrats and operators manage to thrive? This question was put to me by a professor friend of mine the other day. My instant reaction was one of helplessness and disgust but soon I collected myself and gave him three reasons for this sickening state of affairs.

One, the growing ranks of dishonest intellectuals who see selectively, think selectively and draw attention of the powers that be on the strength of their sycophancy power rather than on the basis of the quality of opinions and logical assessment as to what is right and what is wrong. Doublespeak. Double standards. These two elements sum up the neo-feudal class character.

The Indian intelligentsia has been politicised. It has also been selectively communalised. It plays an increasingly partisan role in which truth is the first casualty.

This is not the role expected of the thinking class. It is supposed to guide the people correctly so that they acquire the ability to sift the right from the wrong and the brutal from the humane.

Two, increasingly subjective and selective role played by the media and its godfathers. Market-driven quickies and sponsored opinions have captured some critical areas of the Fourth Estate. To say this is not to deny that a large number of journalists are public-spirited persons. They conduct themselves freely and fearlessly and keep the media world afloat not standing certain serious functional distortions.

These distortions often emanate from the new class of owner-editors who have sidelined professional editors. The owner-editors generally pay lip sympathy to ethics while they use newspapers as crass commerce. The professional voice is stilled in these circumstances and newspapers start playing a cash-for-news role.

All that glitters in the electronic media is not "gold". The Gujarat coverage is one such latest example. Professional ethics and values are no longer taken seriously. Everything is market-driven, including fleeting images which may dazzle but may not reflect the truth. There is considerable mismatch between promise and performance.

Still, we have a very bright set of journalists, both in the print and electronic media. They have a professional attitude and know their job. The failure, if any, is of the seniors at the helm who are supposed to set the standards.

Most news persons these days have become part of the floating political culture. They hardly care for fair and clean journalism. Objectivity and credibility suffer in the process.

Despite communication gaps, India is experiencing a quiet information revolution. The process of politicisation has triggered demands for instant revolutions at the doorstep. This is understandable as a new wave of human consciousness sweeps over the hitherto untouched segments of society.

I believe that the media will come out of this glitter business sooner or later. The people have common sense as well as the ability to discriminate between good and bad. They will finally accept or reject newspapers or TV channels on the basis of how credible they are in the dissemination of news and views. Objectivity is the key. Facts have to be told truthfully in a larger perspective.

The people have the right to information and it is the duty of the media to give them a fairly accurate package without bias or prejudices. Every piece of disinformation needs to be owned and corrected. For, democratic institutions thrive best when we provide a helping hand for building an informed society.

Ours is still an ill-informed polity. An air of secrecy prevails in official functioning both at the Centre and in the states. Transparency is hardly visible in the working of our politico-bureaucratic establishment. Everything is labelled "secret". This is the main reason why the country has been periodically seeing major scams and scandals in different segments of public life.

What make things difficult are the cumbersome legal provisions and procedures. Guilty persons hardly get convicted as facts are twisted to the advantage of powerful manipulators. We run the system on antiquated rules.

The country's ruling class has found these colonial rules convenient to promote their interests. Who cares if people are restive and angry and the custodians of law and order are tilted in favour of the wealthy and the mighty?

How can we evolve a just system in the circumstances? A lot depends on the quality of leadership. The country's political leadership lacks vision, drive, dynamism and right perspective on problems. Even the system of decision-making and decision-enforcement is faulty. Most leaders become prisoners of their own indecisions.

They have also come to be branded as "self-seekers". They are concerned primarily with the pursuit of their self-interest for which they may not even hesitate to break the harmony of community life. Any number of examples can be cited to prove this.

Since politics has become business, the lust for money has brought into play crooks and scoundrels in every segment of life.

A third major reason for corrupt and unscrupulous elements to thrive is the silent majority. We, as a people, all the while seem to follow the famous "monkey rule" of not seeing an evil, of not hearing an evil and of not speaking an evil. How can things improve if we prefer not to speak out and assert ourselves?

Perhaps, the fear of witch hunting forces people to digest insults quietly rather than speak out against erring officials and publicmen. However, we cannot improve the system unless people pick up courage to question wrong acts and demand a fair deal. This is the crux of the problem.

Erring politicians, guilty bureaucrats and their collaborators can be put on the mat if people question their wrong moves while appreciating the good deeds.

Democracy cannot thrive in a state of vacuum. Nor can improvement in the system be brought about if people rationalise their sufferings as part of their luck (kismet). God helps those who help themselves. The world belongs to the brave and the wise. The country can be shaped and reshaped as a land of opportunities with the right vision and concerted efforts for the good of society.

The nation's destiny must not be entrusted to the timid and the opportunist. They have to be sidelined. This is the only way we can throw up the right leadership. Nothing is impossible. India can be governed competently provided we learn to be at least 25 per cent more honest to ourselves as well as to fellow citizens and the country at large. A corrupt society can only provide a decadent system to the delight of manipulators, operators, musclemen, criminals, crooks and scoundrels.

The people deserve the best. They have to be given the best. This is possible if they learn to assert themselves instead of resigning themselves to fate. I may sound an idealist. Well, I am an incorrigible optimist. I believe in the principle of "never say die".

The country's young generation is very good stuff. They can make any country proud. All that we have to do is to create a proper atmosphere so that they can take initiatives and function professionally with a degree of freedom and commitment to liberal values.

Democracy is a live system founded on morality. It cannot be made a plaything of crooks, scoundrels and operators. The intelligentsia and the media must not be indifferent to the ugly facets of modern India.

Looking ahead, the present contradictions and conflicting trends need to be viewed in a larger perspective of change and the compulsions of the times. However, as long as the intelligentsia and the media conduct themselves objectively and justly and the public is exposed to new ideas, the modernisation process and consequential adjustment, there should be no cause for concern.

Indian thinkers, however, should be worried if these "contradictions" and "conflicts" are allowed to get "institutionalised". This is where the thinking persons have a role to play, not as passive onlookers but as active catalytic agents to bring about the desired changes in the right direction.

With known and unknown scams in the PPSC and other critical areas of public life, the time has come for a massive "operation clean-up".

It is going to be a long and painful process. Sleepy indifference can be disastrous. The danger of being caught unawares and giving in is to crumble as everything crumbles around us. An honest approach to men, matters and issues can make a difference to the quality of the democratic polity.

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