Left Of Center

July 18, 2008


Heya People,

I’ve heard a long wazzup takes away the attention from the material, so well, I’ll begin with a tame “Heya”… After all, I’m meeting you guys in as many as two days, and well, I know for a fact that other than me, nothing very “wazzzzupppppping” has happened in your lives… So here we go again…

The title is ripped off (that’s a first) from a VH1 commercial for Alternative music. What I liked about that commercial is the voice-over which says how Alternative music is seen as an answer to Mainstream, how it tries to be different and not popular, and how it ends up being Mainstream and Popular… And that’s so very true! The British punk-rock underground started as an answer to the heavily-operatic, highly-arena like, larger-than-life heavy metal and hard rock that were ruling the roost in those days. And then the punk bands themselves became mainstream. The most famous example of Alternative music going Mainstream is Nirvana, and how Kurt Cobain couldn’t handle the pressure of the huge popularity that came when Nirvana’s brand of alternative suddenly became the flavor of the time.

But the Left has another, perhaps more relevant and rather sinister meaning. It has officially come to represent the Left-wingers, the Communists, The Comrades, The Socialists, The Men in Red. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it (and I consider it the source of my immense knowledge and wisdom):

In politics, left-wing, the political left, or the Left are terms that refer to politics that seek to reform or abolish existing social hierarchies and promote a more equal distribution of wealth and privilege. In general, the left advocates for a society where all people have an equal opportunity, which they often describe as a “level playing field”.

Sorta having the same tenets as alternative music. Mainstream is too crowded, too opulent, is not what real music is all about and all that. And its good. Because alternative keeps the mainstream in check. It keeps mainstream from becoming a self-obsessed giant that in its greed will eat itself up. It brings perspective, keeps it rooted, and at the same time, promotes progress and creativity by playing to the music and not playing to the audience. And this is also what Left-Wingers aim to do. Abolish tenets of society that establish class, see that the powers that be do not cross their limits, provide a reality check by being the face of the working class, etc.

But then again, where the Left fails is in its attempts to become the new Mainstream, the new Right. Because I believe, and from here on whatever you’ll read unless explicitly stated, is my and only my sole belief, that the Left ideology is just that – an ideology. It has no place in a practical world, Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’, God bless their souls, protests notwithstanding. According to political observer and writer Barry Clark,

Leftists… claim that human development flourishes when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations that can thrive only when excessive differences in status, power, and wealth are eliminated. According to leftists, a society without substantial equality will distort the development of not only deprived persons, but also those whose privileges undermine their motivation and sense of social responsibility. This suppression of human development, together with the resentment and conflict engendered by sharp class distinctions, will ultimately reduce the efficiency of the economy

Pay attention closely to the first line. “… when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations…”. And herein lies the sole catch of the Left ideology. It focuses on the human as the sole center of the universe, the only being that can determine its future and undo its past. Which is most of the times not so. Left to themselves, humans are by nature highly uncooperative, and not mutually respectful. From childhood, the human mind is conditioned to battle the environment, be it physical or mental and that life is one long arduous journey where the obstacles can come as events, circumstances, and more often than not, other humans. In such an environment, to expect that humans shall behave in a manner that is entirely human, is only possible if the entire populace is made up of Mahatma Gandhis, Jesus Christs and Mother Teresas.

As an ideology, the Socialist ideology is perhaps the biggest idea, after religion, to catch the fascination of humanity. Imagine this, after seeing poverty and crime and hunger everywhere, wouldn’t you just wish for some way that all of this is removed, abolished, where it would be OK if you weren’t super-rich, but everyone at least got to eat three meals a day, had a roof above their heads, and a job to go to. And for countries like India, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, the erstwhile USSR, China, Chile, Libya, and many such impoverished nations, the idea seems heavenly. A sure-shot answer to all our woes. Riches will not be hoarded, but distributed evenly among all. What is not important is that there will be no longer any rich, what is important is that there will be no longer any poor. A heaven where we all live by sharing, caring and loving. A world where all are friends, all are “Comrades”.

It was deemed to be the answer to the grievances of the worker class, against the atrocities committed by the fattened industrialists. In a time when industrial labor was cheap, regulations were few, and industries were the personal fiefdoms of a blessed few, the working conditions of the workers were inhuman, to say the least. The Communist punch, immortalized as the sickle logo and/or the pumping fist, was seen as a fightback to these oppressive forces, to secure the just rights of the workers.

But then why did Socialism fail, importantly in the country that adopted it as its religion – the USSR? Except for China, a few Arab nations and a pocketful of South American nations, the Socialist ideology is dead and buried. Why is that so, if it was viewed as the panacea to all our illnesses and misdeeds? Because the ideology was flawed from the beginning. Because it laid stress on the human qualities of understanding, generosity, sharing and caring. The qualities which make us human, but which each one of us lacks. As long as it remained as a fight for the poor and oppressed, it had the power, the force, the respect. But the moment it became the power, it got corrupted, as everything that comes in touch with power gets corrupted. In fact, the decline to corruption and greed was far more prominent among the Communist leaders, because after having robbed the people of their worthy or unworthy gains, they understood that it wouldn’t be enough to make every poor man happy. So let’s keep everyone poor, and fill our coffers with the cash. A win-win situation for all. We get the money, the people get the level-playing field they wanted. And in the end, all falls down.

But in some pockets, the Left still thrives. And sucks on the blood of gullible workers with its promises of heaven. And in cases where it comes to power or shares power, it sees to it that any development of the nation that isn’t in line with its policies will have to be stalled, stopped and shelved in the cold store. Currently, India is under the hold of such a Left death grip. Having decisively provided outside support to the Congress-led UPA, the Left ensured that though it won’t take part in any administrative sphere of the government by asking for ministerial berths, it will perform the job of a watchdog and a king-maker. Ready to pull the carpet from under the incumbent if the line isn’t toed. But this decision was also taken in the interest of the nation and the Socialist ideology in general, by the then Social stalwarts Jyoti Basu and Harkishen Singh Surjeet, who believed in the power of the Socialist ideology, but not in its practicality. But with the advent of Mr. Prakash Karat, practicality has been thrown out of the window to uphold textbook ideals of long-dead Communism. Or rather Stalinism. And at every stage, the government has been held to ransom, be it foreign investment, social reforms, or the recent nuclear deal.

At a point when the falling Indian economy needs a stable government to stop it from falling further, nuclear power present or absent, the Left has gone out and removed the support, thereby triggering a no-confidence motion and a trust vote being passed. Wherein the fate of India hangs in the balance. If the UPA wins, good for the economy and good for the nuclear deal. If it loses, we’ll be thrown into another political turmoil, over who forms the government, early elections, extra expenditure, and we’ll be left with an economy in shambles, much like a bastard child whom nobody wants. India has reeled for a good part of its independent existence under the Socialist shadow. With Mr. Manmohan Singh’s liberalization plans of the economy did we see the total facelift that is current India. Faster technology, faster cars, faster roads, better infrastructure, higher pay-packets, has all been the result of India shaking its Socialist past and striding into a Democratic, Economy-oriented future. The fact that Socialism hasn’t done much in India is from the state of its two Left-dominated states, Kerala & West Bengal. Both the states pose awesome literacy rate figures, but dismal growth rates and lowly contributors to the country’s GDP. And it is a well-known, though not stated fact, that there are more Malayalis in Dubai than in Kerala.

When I was in school, I was a firm believer in the Socialist ideology. An ideology based on the principle of justice and equality. So was Che Guevara. It fired my imagination and sense of justice like nothing else. But as I grew up, I understood its fallacies. Because the fallacies weren’t in the ideology, they were in me. And the ideology required me to be perfect for it to work. Che died because he saw that capitalism had ruined his nation and communism wasn’t going to save it. If used as a force, to keep the secular, democratic powers in check so that they don’t turn capitalist, the Left will succeed and in fact, be an important part in developing India as a human-centric, sensitive, yet aggressive economy. We do not want a whole nation to die when it is on the throes of entering freedom from repressive economic practices and trying to gain its place in the sun. After all, a social capitalist is a lesser evil than a capital socialist.

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