We should all be political!
If you discuss politics with any young working professional, their standard go to response is — please don’t discuss politics, we don’t want to be involved in such discussions. And this is so, in real life, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Twitter, any social media platform. People claim to and want to stay away from politics, as it does not concern them. Even in family gatherings and friend gatherings, people want to stay away from politics, as it brings acrimony and destroys peace. In the better interest of the gathering and relations people avoid talking politics.
They are wrong, and if you think the same way, you are wrong.
Politics in our country and in our world impacts our lives more than we care to think, acknowledge or know. It affects our lives more than any other factor in the world, including climate change. While people and media claims that politics is all about Bijli, Sadak and Paani (Electricity, Roads and Water), but it is not so, middle class Indians have more or less solved this problem themselves, they have all bought inverters or solar panels to get uninterrupted power, built large water tanks to store water to get water on demand and learnt the art of zig zag driving to avoid potholes and bad roads. For them politics is not about Bijli Sadak Paani. For the poor Bijli, Sadak, Paani are all irrelevant as they fight for survival, trying to get three square meals a day for the whole family. For them even education is a gateway to food.
Politics of your country and the world affects your basic well being, and may threaten your very existence and freedom. Politics of your country affects your:
Economic well being: Bad economic policies of Government of India since 2014, the likes of demonetization and GST has pushed the Indian growth to levels not seen in decades, with an unprecedented unforeseen disaster like Corona, this growth has gone even further down. This lack of economic growth affects your growth in an organization, affects your salary growth and even affects your ability to buy a new car and new house as you become uncertain about your own future, from a dreamer you become a saver. If the economy was growing at 8–10% in the past few years most of you would have upgraded your car or bought a house or taken an overseas vacation. Think, what is the reason for you not being able to do that — you refuse to talk and participate in politics.
Safety & Freedom: Threat to the disadvantaged and women’s safety has increased in the recent times in our country as Hindu nationalists and upper caste occupy positions of power. The disadvantaged and women are being threatened online and offline, threatened because they want to be independent, to have their say, have views of their own, speak their own mind and do as they please, something that is guaranteed by the constitution and the job of government. They are constantly attacked online and offline by people who feel threatened by women and the disadvantaged. These people posting vile comments against strong independent women and the disadvantaged, and keep getting away with it. As police refuse to confront them and the social media platforms fail to enforce strict standards of conduct against hate speech, they keep getting emboldened which sometimes results in physical violence and deaths. Why is this happening — you refuse to talk and participate in politics.
Education: Government affects your education even if you don’t study in the government school, the government influences what you study and how you study. If the government fills your textbooks with their interpretation of how events occurred in history you would believe that the event did occur ass government is telling you and that a certain person was great, when this may not be true. With the recent National Education Policy mandate / suggestions of primary school children studying in their mother tongues yet another disadvantage is being foisted on you or your children and future generations, something that will affect learning and employability in the years to come. The fees at the higher education colleges are increasing every year burdening the students with student loans and effectively locking out students with limited means from courses that can improve their lot. A B.Tech from IIT now costs Rs. 10 lakhs in just tuition fees when these same courses were being taught at less than 1/3rd the current fees just a few years back and that same course was being taught 25 years back at Rs. 2500. How did we reach here — you refuse to talk and participate in politics.
Health: Even after so many years, India does not have a reliable healthcare system which can be accessed by all at a reasonable cost or free. We have not been able to build a system like NHS which provides free healthcare to all, funded by the tax payers or develop a insurance based healthcare system, where healthcare is delivered by private sector. Whether you are middle class or poor, you are sure to spend a lot of money from your own pocket to stay alive. God forbid if any of your near and dear ones contracts a serious disease, the money that you saved for a car or house will evaporate faster than you can say car. Why are we not getting healthcare even after paying hefty taxes — you refuse to talk and participate in politics.
Politics is now more driven by you than ever before
In the past 10 years the world has changed dramatically because of the advent of social media. Earlier the narrative of the world was controlled by the few elite sitting in the editorial rooms of national TVs and national newspapers. They set the agenda of what the people of the world should know and what they should not know. They set the narrative about the set of issues that the world should worry about and the leaders it should follow. While the world thought that this elite served the interests of the people, they were biased and served the interests of the chosen ones. Media could take any issue and make it paramount, even if that issue affected only a handful of people.
Obama changed all this, faced with a lukewarm media he nurtured his own constituency of people on social media who became his warriors, people who championed his cause and amplified his voice. He won hands down both his elections without much help from mainstream media. Politicians world over started taking notice and realized that mainstream media did not matter if they could mobilize the social media. Social media was setting the agenda for the mainstream media, the more support an issue got on social media the more it was covered by mainstream media. Instead of deep analysis, 140 characters was enough to amplify an issue. Crooked Hillary was enough to rally supporters who didn’t care much about the details.
Modi in India, Trump in US, Johnson in UK, were all able to leverage the social media to their advantage, by rallying their supporters and fence sitters. Their social media campaigns sold half truths as gospel truths, leading to a steamrolling of the elite liberal mainstream media. The agenda of the nation is now being set by the half literate and the conservatives who believe in all the jingoism and amplify the hate propagated by these leaders. The half truth going unchecked and unchallenged on social media is enough to win the elections, and truth, agenda, policies, future of the country does not matter any more.
The results — all these countries whose leaders have occupied social media are saddled with ineffective leadership, clueless on how to govern a country and take the nation forward. For the developed nations ineffective leadership does not matter as they would continue to grow regardless, at a slower rate, because of the institutions already established. For nation like India, the slow growth rate is a death knell, a slow growth rate means, more and more people being pushed into poverty, young adults not finding jobs after graduating from colleges, middle aged and mid career unable to move upwards into bigger cars and bigger houses, the stalling of growth means lost income and lost opportunities.
So before you say I don’t want to be political, think — how politics affects you and your life, you can no longer sit on the sidelines and ignore, your future, your prosperity, even your very freedom is under threat. Politics affects YOU, take charge, get involved, raise your voice, make the change.
You can find me on Twitter at Manish Sharma .