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An Ode to Democracy in India

Democracies give way to tyrannies when mob passion overwhelms political wisdom and a populist autocrat seizes the masses. - Plato

Prime Minister Modi makes Donald Trump look like a wimp. Openly ridiculed and abused by its mainstream media, America’s system has way too many checks and balances for DJT’s liking.

In India’s democracy its leader may act unilaterally with impunity, shielded from criticism by the overwhelming passion of his worshipping mob.

Whether his policies succeed or fail, an adoring public delights in his decisiveness. And unlike Trump, Modi delivers on his promises. The political platform that won him a rock-solid mandate has sprung into policy and action with - if not efficiency - then certainly with great aplomb.

There is much that is defensible in this democratic expression. A classical notion of Bharat has been reborn by it, proudly pounding its chest in a show of dominance. The ancient underpinnings of this civilization is indisputable - arising from the world’s oldest societal system, predating the west by thousands of years.

It can even be said that the very wealth of India is its spiritual tradition which has produced an abundance of elevated souls through the millennia. No other cultural framework has designed a mechanism as effective for the development of human consciousness.

Indians revel in the joyful exuberance of seeking while the rest of the world must content itself with stern rule books that govern ritual and custom. Ancient wisdom may have been buried under the sands elsewhere, but here one may still immerse the eternal soul in the infinite wellspring of divine inspiration.

Yet the corruption of this highly engineered system into a uniformly organized religion is as lamentable as it is hopeless. Indeed it is only Modi’s indomitable political will that could even attempt such a conceptual overhaul of what it means to be an Indian. The reality, though, is that contemporary India is no more a reflection of Aryana than Iran is of Persia or America of the Incas.

The irony of any attempt to impose a uniform ideology based upon doctrinal hegemony is that the eventual effect is the exact opposite. It fractures the collective identity so that it increasingly relates to that which it is not. Put another way, the more you define acceptable parameters, the more you exclude those that do not conform. It starts with religion, but accelerates to intolerance based on race, community, language, cast, and so on. The club members get more and more exclusive.

The very notion of India as a common nation-state is borne of the unlikeliest of circumstances; its success at achieving a shared identity is a modern miracle, unifying a thousand faces, tongues, and creeds. The days of such plurality are numbered under Modi, more so because this objective is presented not as a bug but a feature - a desire devoutly to be consummated.

Without offering any criticism of what has been done to bring us to where we are now - and even acknowledging it as the will of the people - it is nonetheless worth a moment’s reflection that the destination of the path we are being taken on in the name of democracy is the death of democracy itself.

As Plato himself concluded, “the tyrant is not quite a tyrant at first. On the contrary, in a democracy the would-be tyrant offers himself as the people’s champion. He’s the ultimate simplifier, the one man who can make everything whole again.” And if this doesn’t sound familiar to you and you say you didn’t know, then, in the prescient words of the Notorious B.I.G., “Now you know”.

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