(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Every time the new Aamir Khan teevee show comes on, it divides people on twitter into two bitter groups. Although, that is not saying much. People on twitter are usually waiting for an opportunity to chastise each other, with each trending topic being just a small, disposable cog in the wheel. Every issue is just another way to prove that you are right, and those people opposing you, those straw men and women with their stupid arguments, are nothing but the scum of the earth. On twitter as in real life, everything is defensible, even the ‘band’ Creed, which all sane people agree is worse than a hundred Hitlers. (For those not familiar with this unit of measurement, a hundred Hitlers are equal to one Akshay Kumar movie.)
One group wants to mock everybody for their naiveté and the other one wants everybody to shut up, leave their cynicism for once, and give the man a chance to heal the world and make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race. On one hand there are people who think that this is another publicity hound doing things to make himself feel better while hogging the limelight; on the other we have people who think he is finally highlighting issues we refuse to talk about and that he should be applauded for doing this instead of hosting yet another bollywood circle jerk.
One of the chief criticisms of the show is that the host takes a large amount of money to perform his duties. A lot of people seem to believe that a person with good intentions would do good things for free. However, anyone who has ever worked on even a small welfare project will tell you that volunteers who work for free are the most erratic.
When I was ‘studying’ in college, at the beginning of each one of my semesters, I used to promise myself that I would attend all the scheduled classes this time. I would even be seen attending a class on the first day of every semester. Thankfully, I would be back to my senses by the next day. For a teacher, spotting me in class used to be an event whose occurrence was rarer than the transit of a celestial body, and the next time they would be hearing from me would be either during the exams or after them, when I used to bribe them to give me more marks than I deserved.
Most people who like to ‘volunteer’ their time, do it with the same enthusiasm that I used to bring to rehabilitating my attendance record. When you’re doing something out of guilt or to make yourself feel better about yourself, your enthusiasm will wane as the going gets tough. Compensating people for their time, their hard work, their opportunity cost is one way of ensuring that their enthusiasm is maintained. A bribe to show up everyday, if you will. As I told one of my teachers when she chastised me for my not-so-exemplary attendance record, you get paid for this, I don’t. Even though she tried to get me suspended, she wasn’t successful because just like the majority of the people in this country, my college principal also needed a ‘small’ incentive to do the right thing. Or, to my benefit, to not do it.
Meanwhile, Aamir Khan has been turned into yet another saviour we were waiting for. The old ‘at least he is doing something!’ symptom of overcompensation for ignoring our problems. And that something instead of being a placeholder becomes a substitute for doing anything. You don’t actually have to do things anymore; the mere fact that something is being done is good enough.
Our whole culture is geared toward waiting for ‘the one.’ Our religions keep telling us that God is missing this crappy planet so much that he will be back one more time for shits, giggles and to use those fancy planning commission bathrooms everyone keeps raving about. A large amount of our movies which pretend to be about social causes are about how the lead protagonist was so burned by the system that he took revenge – by completely eradicating the systematic rot that has been gnawing away at the roots of this county for hundreds of years – and solved all our problems in three hours.
Last year, some well meaning folks in my neighbourhood were pulling a double whammy and going to hold a candelight march and ‘token hunger strike’ to support some vague campaign against black money. I asked them if they hated black money so much, why don’t they actually keep their accounts in order and pay tax on their real income? They looked at me with the bewilderment and disgust usually reserved for fiends who put a gun to a baby’s head and make it fingerbang a cute puppy. We have a system we don’t follow? Whose problem is it? Not mine! TELL SOME MAGSAYSAY AWARD WINNER TO RISE UP AND SAVE US!
There is going to be no messiah that is going to suddenly appear out of nowhere to save us. While we keep waiting for one, shit keeps hitting the fan. You don’t go to war with the weapons you want, you go to war with the weapons you have. The solutions to our problems do not lie with one person. They lie with all of us. A serious person willing to solve our problems will never get ahead in our polity. They will remain on the sideline, writing well researched articles for academic journals.
You can’t order “good leaders” on the internet. You have to make them. We have to use the cynical a**holes who currently lord over us and get away with bloody murder (because they can!). We have to hold their feet to the fire. These people have no core and will go anywhere the blowing wind takes them. If we want better governance, if we want better law & order, if we want better management of our national resources, then we need to make our so called leaders do that. There are no free lunches. You don’t get things because you are entitled to them. You get them only if you fight for them.
If you think I’m right, please join the fight against rabid tokenism by ‘liking’ the Facebook group created solely to stem the growth of this epidemic.