The latest addition to endangered species list: Leaders?

Where have you all disappeared, leaders? We look to you for guidance. Why have you abandoned us and left when we need you most? We are beset by issues. We don’t know what is right and what is wrong. We look to you for strength and wisdom and vision.

Let me reflect over some of the recent issues – genetically modified crops, nuclear technology, FDI in retail and Lokpal Bill for instance. I have read a lot on each of these issues. I could not reach a conclusive opinion on any of these. The tradeoff in each case seems a difficult one. On one side, GM crops seems like a solution to all the problems of human nutrition needs. On the other hand, there is the risk to our health and putting our food security into the hands of greedy multinational corporations. On one side nuclear technology seems to be the answer to pollution free energy needs. On the other hand, there is the risk of health hazards of radiation to the people in the vicinity and major loss of life if an explosion were to occur. On one side, FDI in retail offers to make distribution of goods efficient, eliminating the leaches in the middle, ensuring both producers and consumers benefit. On the other hand, there is fear that all local production will be destroyed by Chinese goods and both producers and consumers will be left at mercy of foreign corporations. On one side, Jan Lok Pal seems to be the solution to the problem of corruption of bureaucracy. On the other hand, it seems to be just another layer of bureaucracy to slow down the country’s progress.

The devil I would say, in all these issues, lies in the details. And most of us have our own professions and lives and do not have the time and resources to dwell into the details of all these issues. That’s why we need leaders who spend their full time dwelling into the details and taking the decisions that best satisfy the aspirations of the entire nation. No decision will result in a win win situation for all the 1 billion people. Definitely there will be some who lose out. But a good leader can inspire his men to even willingly throw himself off a cliff for the greater good. Thousands of people boldly came out and bore the lathi charge when Mahatma Gandhi gave his call. Didn’t they?

A nation is a too abstract a concept. It is the leaders who present the concrete face to the concept of nation. When leaders do not inspire awe, patriotism cannot be anything beyond frenzied excitement over a cricket match or a Bollywood film. It would be unreasonable to expect a citizen to put his neck on the line for something as flimsy as that. So every decision is going to be resented by the affected people and policy has to come to a standstill. So decisions will get taken only on a reactive basis at the times of crisis and at the bidding of vested interests who can manipulate public opinion using the 3 Ms of money, muscle and media. If this state of affairs continue, I can only see the country and the world in general running like a headless chicken and plunging down a spiral.

An astute observer can notice lot of signs of people’s longing for a leader – a true hero. Idolization of film stars and sport persons is one such sign. Holding on to icons from the past such as Ashoka and Akbar is another sign. Unfortunately, despots and corrupt military leaders capitalize on this situation and come to power. That is like replacing king log with king stork – a cure worse that the disease. Lot of blood has to be shed before democracy is restored. Democracy again brings back the state of pervasive rot and coma causing people to start longing for some vitality and action again. Is there any end to this?


Shanthala Damle said...

Leaders have always been in short-supply anywhere in the world. Indians tend to hang on to long-lost (past) leaders - even from 10 centuries ago!! But in a more matured society, leadership generally should be quite mundane. In India, we are far away from reaching such levels - but we ought to try. Rather than waiting for another Mahatma, you, I - and several people around us, especially those of us who are educated and have decent household incomes, should try to fill in the leadership vacuum.

At present, leadership requires a lot of personal and family sacrifice. Unfortunately, there is no short cut. Some of us in our generation ought to make personal sacrifices so that our next generation will see leadership being truly mundane.

The Fool said...

Thanks for your comments, Shantala. I agree with you.

But then each one has his or her own vocation in life. Not everyone is born to be a leader. But I have complete respect and whole hearted support for those who beleive they have it in them to be a leader.

I have just taken the case of India. But I actually beleive except for a few minor countries such as the Scandanavian countries and Switzerland, the whole world in general is in a bad shape due to lack of leadership. Would take centuries for 6 billion people to mature. Easy if there are only 5-6 million people in the country.

zephyr said...

That was a cry from the soul if I have heard one and as a fellow citizen I share the anguish. But when good people shy away from joining the big bad world of politics because it is muck, how can we hope for better leaders? When a lot of young and idealistic people join mainstream politics we can hope for a change. Not otherwise. Unfortunately we only have children of politicians, who are furthering the 'family business' like any progeny of big industrial houses.

I am sharing this.

The Fool said...

Thanks, zephyr. I am a bit sceptical though what exactly can any one achieve in the current system of parliamentary democaracy. I am hoping for a solution to emerge outside of this system.

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