Can I be part of Collective blame for the Crisis??
A hopeful entry for participatory models
Two related questions can start this analysis of the Indian scenario. Who is responsible for nearly 25% of the population in the urban areas and 13 % of the population in the rural areas living below the poverty line? And the second question is, who was/is responsible for the plight of migrants in the country especially during the lockdown. We see similar questions explicitly or implicitly being raised in the social media. I would classify some of the significant responses as follows: 1) the poor or the migrants themselves 2) the governments 3) the governments and civil society. The response of the supporters of the current administration includes the denial of such a responsibility and some even start with the stories of failures of past governments. The opponents of the current administration blame the government. Surely, there is also a small percentage of the population who blame the poor or migrants. Very rarely do we place the blame on the government and the society, which is a collective blame.
Why my preference for the collective blame?
“Responsibility comes with power” — this is an oft-repeated quote in leadership courses. How much of it is practiced depends on the governance structures. Lord Acton says “the power corrupts and the absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How will the scenario be at the time of absolute power — Absolute responsibility or abuse of power? World history has constantly shown that Lord Acton was more right i.e. absolute power leads to an abuse of power with negligible responsibility. Historians may seldom find some examples of responsible dictators — probably the word itself is an oxymoron. Thus, starting from an absolute power, we mostly follow Lord Acton.
But what happens, if we start from the other side, which is absolute responsibility. To what kind of power, does it lead to? When a government is held absolutely responsible for the development or progress in a country, it normally leads to the increase in power and/or continued existence of the government in power. But what can absolute responsibility in the scenario of crisis lead to? The propaganda machinery can turn facts to fake news and vice-versa, thus making the handling of absolute responsibility much easier. Thus, one of the landing pits of absolute responsibility for governments in crisis times is an absolute form of power or dictatorial government, either by the party in power or a new one. Most people in good sense won’t prefer such an option. Before we go into further possible options, we could question one of the earlier assumptions.
So, the question is, are the governments absolutely responsible for the crisis? My answer would be ‘No’. The current governments are highly responsible and they have to be held accountable. Various protests and actions by people of goodwill, which may or may not include opposition parties, are justified and extremely critical in a democracy. As it may be, we as a human society should take the remaining part of the responsibility. This is a stand I take and I am sure everyone won’t agree to it. The following question is, what is this entity called human (civil) society. It is always easy to frame an answer excluding myself as a responsible actor in that society or to exclude ‘my blame in that collective blame’. An acceptance of my blame may lead to a response, which may be critical towards the actions of power, but will also include affirmative actions. What could be these affirmative actions?
A few lines from the recent Commencement address of Obama gives a clue, “No one does big things by themselves. Right now, when people are scared, it’s easy to be cynical and say let me just look out for myself, or my family, or people who look or think or pray like me. But if we’re going to get through these difficult times; if we’re going to create a world where everybody has the opportunity to find a job, and afford college; if we’re going to save the environment and defeat future pandemics, then we’re going to have to do it together. So be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights. Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path.”
There was an interesting WhatsApp forward, which says that WhatsApp, Slack, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Uber were some of the brands that started during the recession in 2008–09. It ends with a hope that some of the iconic brands of the next decade will be launched during the present crisis. But the greater hope is that these brands will not be limited to technological giants of the future, but to economic models which will be responsible for growth and development, that are inclusive and sustainable.
Participatory models must emerge which are equally or more important than the development of brands that do enjoy a monopoly in their respective domains. These models needn’t, and preferably not, emerge from the top of the bureaucracy or governmental structures, but from various layers and strata of society.
Just by accepting collective blame, will it happen?? It is one of my hopes… Accepting the blame along with the hope that things can be better… and the new directions and new models need to be discovered by us….
I would be happy to listen to your comments and thoughts…