Aristocracy & Patronisation - Telegram Debate - 13/01/17
Appandairaj: Perhaps, Aristotle was right about democracy.
Jeykumaran: Your reasons to support Aristotle's view?
Appandairaj: By seeing increasing patronage for Jallikattu. Democracy gets reduced to Mob Rule sometimes where the voices of intellectuals are echoed down by the majority who decide things based on emotion. Vote-bank politics reins over progress. Patronage for populism maims the Govt not to take necessary tough measure lest seen authoritarian. My dad quotes democracy is nothing but 7 fools choosing a 8th biggest fool to be their leader. Global events such as Brexit and US election validate that view.
I feel the liberal views are becoming more complex for common man to comprehend and understand. I don't think he is able to appreciate liberal views of plurality and tolerance due to lack of tangible economic relief in his life.We expect reasonable discourse, but have we empowered him to do so? I feel it is no point in blaming the common man for not able to have a meaningful debate which on the first hand he is not aware of.
And I don't uphold Aristotle's view of democracy because though it may seem that discourse around jallikattu is taking wilder courses, but still I feel many are feeling empowered to speak. No other system of govt would have let the common man to do so.
Appandairaj: Their empowerment to speak threatens and belittles the empowerment of others to speak up. If one doesn't follow the view of majority, they're prone to ridicule. One can't deny the fact that democracy entails majoritarianism.
Jeykumaran: It is perceived to be threatening because we are discussing assuming they are aware of the liberal ideas. I feel many aren't. Many are still exposed to the primitive definition of identity, nationalism and hence the discourse seems unequal. Yeah, democracy entails majoritarianism, but relatively it is better than many prevailing political systems. Finding flaws in the system must be accompanied by suggesting an alternative. Until then thoughts must be channeled to seek solution within the existing system. Both sides blaming each don't lead us anywhere.
Appandairaj: If they aren't aware of liberal values, why they should take part in the discourse in the first place? Meritocracy is better than democracy IMHO.
Jeykumaran: World is not for educational elites alone bro. Also when education itself is not merely based on merit alone, democracy for the 'people' is totally justified.
Appandairaj: But the policies are.
Jeykumaran: Policy makers must do it as a duty because of their relatively better position and it must not be blind to the problems of the common man; like trusteeship of M.K.Gandhi.
Appandairaj: Brexit is nothing but stupid and narrow majoritarianism. If the people's representatives chose to vote rather than the people, the outcome would have been radically different.
Jeykumaran: How can you call Brexit as 'stupid and narrow majoritarianism'? It may be your individual opinion, but when libertarians aren't addressing the concerns of a vulnerable common man, these things bound to occur. It's relatively easy to keep on praising plurality, tolerance, but you should prove the common man that issues arising out of it will also be addressed. When the latter is missing, people will also have their say. This is by no means to debate if brexit, or for that matter Trump's victory was good or bad. These are some instances which allows the other sides to relook on their ideologies rather than just pouncing that people have become lunatic.
Appandairaj: The common man that you're passionately supporting was googling what EU is after Brexit results were out. The common man that you keep at the crux doesn't know the difference between Obamacare and Affordable Care Act. Common man is so engrossed in his own reality of marriage, kids & family politics. They don't know the merits and demerits of being in EU. Regarding your point on lunatics, all people are indeed lunatics. As joker says, it only takes a slight push.
Jeykumaran: The common man doesn't have the luxury to know those stuffs which you have listed. His life isn't that simplistic for him to think of this. This is exactly what liberals are missing. Without thinking about enabling him to reach a position where he can do this, it is really a blunder to expect such things from him.
Bhuvanesh: Whose fault is it that he didn't know? Intellectuals failed. They couldn't create the necessary awareness. Looks like they're the ones engrossed in their own reality.
Appandairaj: There's no use of blaring drums at deaf. For the people who react to fake news in facebook memes, for the people who watch news for entertainment instead of news, it'll remain so. You just can't change them. They will be what they are. Right from the days of Ashoka, Akbar, Victoria to Modi, common men have remained the same. If history teaches us something, it's this.
Ezhil: Can you tell me how the voice of intellectuals got mowed down by mob rule in Jallikattu issue?
Appandairaj: I mean the media. Yesterday I watching Jallikattu debate in Puthiya Thalaimurai, Thanthi TV & News7, all were lopsided debates with panelists who are all pro-Jallikattu or anti-Peta. There was no place for alternate view.
Jeykumaran: Many aren't luxurious enough to know that it is 'fake'. They don't have the understanding of what is media, what is news etc. If liberals want to win a race without taking together the slow paced people for which polity is meant, then that is a divergence and fallacy on part of liberals. I still hold that common man has improved a lot when compared to the past. Intellects must continue to help him debate. If they don't want to bear the burden of restlessness in handling the common man's ignorance, there is no use of such utopian ideals.
Ezhil: Yeah. Actually, an intellectual is a intellectual because s/he was able to look past the fake news and provocations. I would say that the onus lies in the media to be more educational because, common man relies on local news channels and these news channels rely on sensationalism. This happened in countless scenarios such as cauvery issue, pongal holiday issue, etc.
Appandairaj: How the common man has improved from the past? Women still suffer domestic violence. Patriarchy still runs deep. Environment is still getting damaged. Cinema stars are celebrated instead of people who work for common men. There's more TV and internet than actual conversations. How has common men improved from the past. He has just replaced past prejudices with new prejudices.
Jeykumaran: So when India is 100% free from the issues, you will claim it 'success'? That would be the narrowest definition of success and history never views life in such a binary theme. No one claims we aren't without issues. Issues are a part of life. There is an increasing recognition of problems, voices are there, there is mechanisms to get justice. These are the metrics of progress.
No one is talking about success. I'm just saying the plight of the common men has remained the same throughout the ages with new forms of social evils replacing the old ones and that it's near impossible to make all common men take sensible decisions in crucial matters of polity such as Brexit.
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” - Thomas Jefferson. Now, Jefferson would be like 🤦
The problem with aristocracy is the tendency to assume the position of a shepherd and look down upon the common public as herds. It eliminates the mutual intellectual respect and cause for dialogue in the first level itself. It polarises intellectuals and common man against the fact that both are influenced by the social values, and assumes a higher moral ground by conjuring up an illusion of immunity from emotions and prejudices. It's main weakness is expectations, which results in a downward spiral of cynicism and despair when things doesn't move in the desired way.
While I am against Jallikattu, I can recognise that the current agitation against the ban is the effect of an unsuccessful attempt to curb a centuries old event from top alone, and not from the bottom. Many social customs were successfully criminalised by law from above because of the social movements that assisted from below. Law from above and civil societies/social movements from below work hand in hand.
A successful democracy tries to accommodate everyone's interests by considering moral and cultural relativism. The development graph need not always be positive. Nothing wrong of it being a sine wave. The progress will be slow and there will be occasional regression, but that's the point of Democracy. We all have a scale of what's better, we talk, and we arrive at a compromise, which will ultimately be better or worse, depending on the side which we are in, but it saves the day by not being ideally best, because another day, it can be disastrously worst. Ultimately, the government has to respect the emotions of the public and give in, and wait for the next opportunity when things start becoming 'better'(for me) from bottom up. Nothing can be successfully enforced from the top against a strong social movement and sustained without residual disappointments.
TRPs, emotional outbreaks, irrationalism, violence, everything are factors in this grand design. Existence of counter narratives at ground level can be one attempt to maintain a balance, and it takes generations. Again, I think that Brexit is a stupid decision, and have an opinion that referendum cannot be a substitute to indirect institutionalised Democracy. But Brexit is an effect. Its a downward curve within a design. Even without any optimism, I can say that the curve will change, because it will when things ultimately balance out each other again. The effects of Brexit isn't going to be better anytime soon, so mitigation and further prevention should be the concern. Cause and effect.
Appandairaj: Whatever you told for democracy holds true for benevolent despotism as well. For example, Kerala didn't achieve 100% literacy rate only due to efforts after independence. In reality, the sustained efforts were started since 19th century by the Maharajahs of Travancore which were only complemented by successive democratic governments after independence. Similarly, Ambedkar was able to rise up to prominence in spite of being a Dalit. It was because of Maharajah of Baroda who defied populist sentiments against Dalits during that time. The maharajah himself was quoted saying he created a mini revolution at that time. I don't agree with the view that nothing could be imposed from the top. It's difficult to change centuries-old tradition by bottom-up approach. Certain revolutionary things start from the top and trickle down to the bottom.
Benevolent despotisms have bests and worsts. Anything can be imposed from the top. I said nothing could be 'successfully' imposed from the top and 'sustained without residual disappointments'. The side effects will in time outweigh the benefits. Cynicism will rise. The thought that those in power is meddling with the individual's self-importance will be strengthened. Top down can work only when there is some bottom up work happening. Bottom up work will be unfinished without a top down support. In a state like TN where civil societies are very weak, bottom up work is nowhere near good.
It is indeed frustrating to see that people are easily misled and emotionally unstable. Many times we are emotionally upset that people choose emotion over reason. But condescension will only strike at their ego and nothing else. Change without social approval will be a tensed one. I think that while framing any policy or decision, people's weakness to fall to jingoism should be factored in, instead of expecting it to be shed.
Appandairaj: I've observed that. Why civil society is weak here?
Vishnu: When I was in SSN hostel, I assumed the management as the govt and students as citizens. I used to think why there isn't any call among students to have a student body(some kind of quasi-proper analogy for a civil society). I ended up concluding that suppressing grievances through unnecessary appeasement measures is a factor I didn't think about it further.
Appandairaj: Lol. I hear you.