What seems to be happening in India today

Democracy needs elections. But, elections are expensive. Someone has to fund them.

Who is doing that?

Citizens don’t. Corporates do.

Once elected, governments have to payback their corporate investors.

They do this on several fronts. Opening up new markets. Forgiving debt. Allowing uncontrolled access to resources.

This is a happy affair. Elected governments and some, large corporations.

The NGO sector could have spoilt this party. It is being pushed into a corner. The government is the biggest NGO drawing money for its own schemes.

And while political parties can be anonymously funded and foreign capital is welcome in companies, we want no foreign money funding social change. No dissent.

Meanwhile, the fourth estate (press), is already corporate controlled. It is also in a mess. It is so much noise and such little content.

The information ecology is polluted.

Social media has hijacked our limbic system. It draws our attention to short term matters. We crave the dopamine hit.

We, the citizens could have prevented this. But, civic engagement has become expensive.

You need a lot of effort to move the government machinery to do even the smallest things (like control noise pollution or set up speed breakers). Laws are so complex that who has the time to bother with them?

We could have had specialized NGOs doing this on behalf of citizens (there are a few) but a lot of our funding tends to go to religious institutions and bleeding-heart causes.

Meanwhile, capital markets are pumping increasing amount of money into large corporations and cheering them on. A small slice of the middle class gets to participate through mutual funds. Shareholder activism is impossible when you own shares through mutual funds. So that avenue is closed as well.

Because making sense of things has become so difficult, it is hard to trust one’s own opinions about issues. And before we learn and deeply understand what is going on, the latest issue has shifted.

All this makes me very uncomfortable. It feels like the world is screeching out of control and becoming increasingly incomprehensible.

The ostrich response to this is to put your head in the ground, to focus on your own life. There, a mental health epidemic is underway, among other things.

We have to reverse this and the start will HAVE to be from citizens. Because they are supposed to be the real power holders in a democracy.

And civic engagement is much more than voting 3 times every 5 years.

It will take much more. We owe it both to our founding figures and our future generations.

P.s : This is broad and low resolution sweep, so I am happy if any comments illuminate or challenge any part of this narrative.



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