THOUGHT POURRI

Smell of Change…

Demonetization and Post-truth politics

 

“Somewhere ages and ages hence,

Two roads diverged in a wood, 

and I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference”

Robert Frost, by his above couplets, tried to assure the world that a road, not taken by anyone, might make all the difference when taken by someone. The key lies in being different, and of course, bold. Demonetization is one such road never taken by anywhere else in the world though on the first anniversary of Demonetization, we can see it has certainly made a lot of difference.

Has it? Well, beware! You’re in the era of post-truth.

Post-truth politics – a phenomenon where public opinions are mobilized on the basis of emotional appeals rather than hard facts and where factual rebuttals find no takers – has played its full inning during the historic act of demonetization in India. In today’s world, truth is like a desperate man – mauled, distraught and down to his knees – pleading before one and all to be heard, believed and sympathized. But, it’s lie – smarter, trickier and satanic – that rules the roost. No facts, no stats, no data is of help to the truth. Ravished from the reality, the fact has been engineered, cloned and mutated into suave set of arguments, ready to take on the truth.

In modern world, it’s ‘truth’ versus the ‘mutant truth’; there’s nothing in between called a ‘lie’, which eventually is a dirty word. Riding on the brawny wave of the Internet, the ‘mutant’ truth goes far and wide to convince the world that truth is nothing but a humungous lie. Reality is complicated.

Demonetization is one such reality, which is complicated by the conundrum of the post-truth politics. With ‘mutants’ flying thick and fast, you’ll never come to know what is ‘real’. So, does taking the road less travelled-by make a difference?

The economists, the political class, the intellectuals and the aam aadmi, all remained sharply divided over the need, efficacy and outcome of demonetization over the past one year since it was announced on November 8th last year. Even global economists remained sharply divided with some hailing the decision as historic while others running it down as a “despotic act causing misery to the people”.

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So, from delight to disaster, from relief to pain, from hope to misery, from probity to loot, demonetization has bore the brunt of arguments laden with pride, prejudices, optimism and opprobrium. However, most of the analysis coming out from the experts suffered from the post-truth phenomenon where truth remained a victim of perception and where prejudices became a means to mobilize public opinion. 

However, this article is not about what are the advantages or disadvantages of demonetization. You’ve heard enough of it and, maybe, have grown wary of it. This article is about action performed in the face of difficult choices, about decisions in a dead-end situation and about showing courage in face of daunting challenges. Corruption and black economy need a long-term solution and the nation voted the BJP for this task. The BJP did something to this end. It definitely was a painful action but who says surgeries are not painful?

In Demonetization, the government risked immense dangers – people’s anger, unpopularity, criticism, economic collapse, mass discontent, political upheavals, street protests and so on. Modi risked his political future. He, like his predecessors, had a safer option – give up this bizarre idea and, instead, set off few cosmetic actions that would satisfy many constituencies. But, he embarked upon what was the toughest one. He tried, fought odds and didn’t blink, no matter how it meandered.

All throughout this, the opposition did what it was best at – spreading misinformation and canards. It ran down demonetization as a monumental failure before setting off a massive disinformation campaign, exploiting emotions. It left no stone unturned to disconnect the masses with facts and realities.

Interestingly, no one from the opposition camp had any clue on the alternatives. If Demonetization were bad, what would be a better idea to combat corruption and the black economy? Silence! Running down a great idea is easier but suggesting alternatives that couldn’t be faulted by others is difficult. So, the opposition chose what was easier.

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character” – Margaret Chase Smith, the US politician had aptly said and Modi stood to this test in best of his moral character.

Modi pulled it off not only by the courage of his conviction alone but also by his determination and a sincere desire to do something for the country. Providence had given him a chance and he made the most of it. Criticism doesn’t matter so long you’re driven by the idea of collective good of society. Modi did what Bhagvat Geeta taught him – perform your honest duties without attaching to its effects and that’s the meaning of a true yogi, which he eventually comes up to be:

“Yoga-sthah kuru karmani

Sangam tyaktava Dhananjaya

Siddhi asiddhyoh samo bhutva

Samatvam yoga uchhayte”

                                                           (Bhagvat Geeta 2.48)

(Perform your duties equipoised, O Arjun, abandoning all attachment to success and failures. Such equanimity of mind is known as yoga) 

Only a yogic determination could have pulled off such a brilliant coup against the menace of black money and corruption. As Shakespeare rued in his Dark lady Sonnets, “in the old age, black was not counted fair, or if it were, it bore no beauty’s name”, so it happened in post-Demonetization era also: Black looked no longer beautiful.

The road less travelled-by shall make the difference if you’re willing to apply elements of patience in your expectations. And yes, you’d be required to shed some of that ugly flab of your balky prejudices.

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Well, for a moment, let’s assume Demonetization failed. Let’s gloss over all the benefits it threw to the society. So what even if it failed? It still stands out as an honest attempt by a committed government to do something against the biggest scourge facing our nation and society; it was an act of moral courage taken up with unparalleled conviction for bringing collective betterment. Those never fail who fail in a good cause.

It’s time to see through the ‘mutant truth’. Demonetization was a moment to stand up and be counted and Modi made the most of it. To the extent he failed, isn’t it better to do something and fail than to do nothing and keep cribbing about?

The verdict is yours.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2017

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