2011: History did not end – on the contrary… 

By TP Saran

In the Middle East the spark for revolution was set off, literally, when 26-year-old vegetable-fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest against the daily harassment he had to endure at the hands of the police as he tried to earn his living. The Tunisian President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia – always a convenient refuge for rogue leaders, such as late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda.

Hosni Mubarak was toppled in Egypt, and two days ago he presented in court on a stretcher. Bahrain’s President Saleh was forced to step down despite the Saudi tanks that rolled in to crush and kill many of his people. President Al Assad of Syria has finally agreed that the Arab League come inspecting the carnage in his country, especially in the worst affected city of Homs where the atrocious bloodbath has muffled so many innocent lives.

As for ‘Colonel’ Gaddafi and his liar mouthpiece Moussa Ibrahim, his blood-spattered face and body being dragged unceremoniously through the streets of ‘his’ village was the price that ‘my people love me’ made him pay for over 40 years of brutal dictatorship. Sad spectacle of utter disrespect for a fallen human being, but at the same time what a contrast to the rows of shining medals that he used to sport on his dandy-looking uniform! His corpse was as ignominiously disposed off in the desert. His family had already fled to Algeria.

In the US of A, Occupy Wall Street protesters who kicked off in Zucotti Park with the slogan ‘we are the 99%’ triggered similar camp-in movements across the country, as far west as Oakland in California. In the USSR, a second revolution is gaining momentum to contest what are considered to be election results rigged in favour of Putin, who wants to come back as President by ousting his former protégé Medvedev. Twelve years in power have not been enough: he needs the State to prop up his ambition of absolute control. His KGB instincts, it would seem, are still very much alive.

In Italy, playboy Silvio Berlusconi made a big show of self-sacrifice as he finally was forced to exit, but he still thinks he has lessons to give to his suave successor Monti!

In India, the Power of One, represented by a frail, 76-year old Gandhian Anna Hazare, has shaken the Congress-led dynasty they call democratic government. It is corrupted to the core, with prominent ministers involved in mega-crore scams that are known to be associated with the stashing away in Swiss banks and private vaults of astronomical sums of money and gold. These, maintain other Indians, could have been used to dramatically transform the country and the lives of their less fortunate countrymen.

Anna has embarked on another fast and called for a ‘jail-bharo’ (fill the jails) move that has already been signed up by 100 000 volunteers. He challenged the covert power behind the throne on which sits Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi of Italy, for a face-to-face on the Lokpal Bill. But the latter is too busy championing appeasement of minorities through a bill in Parliament and besides, will she dare face the truth that Anna symbolises?

In the US and Europe, the perversions possible under ultra-liberal democracy were exposed. Wall Street bankers laughed within their banks as they feted on mega-bonuses, and the nexus between some politicians and their corporate friends gave rise to the term crony-capitalism. Capitalists laughed their way to the banks, feasting on derivatives: the inflated, virtual products even as the wave of foreclosures led to families being thrown out of their homes. That included an elderly woman who was summarily evicted by a Sheriff, cowboy style no doubt, without any consideration of whether any arrangements were available to accommodate her!

What were the protesters up in arms against?

There is a common pattern: against money grabbers, corrupters and autocratic/dictatorial rulers sharing characteristics and/or conniving with the former two groups. What is clear is that it is people who are the root of the rot, not systems. Systems can be tweaked, as had been seen in the case of Bernard Madoff and others before him. But again, it is people who tweak systems. And where does this urge to tweak and rob others originate? In the mind of course. So any attempt to correct this tendency must start with addressing it there. How is another matter.

Let us see then who the protesters were angry against:

– In the US and Europe – against bankers and crony capitalists.

– In the USSR – against hanger-on Putin.

– In the Middle-East – against brutal autocrats and dictators.

– In India – against people in the corrupt government, and the government that tolerated them for too long.

Liberal democracy, had said Fukuyama in his 1989 essay The End of History, was the summum bonum of historical evolution, the Hegelian synthesis of mankind’s progress from primitive thinking to an ideological perfection where the final form of government is liberal (based on human freedom) and democratic (based on the governed’s consent).

But what we are seeing is that, irrespective of the system of government in place – liberal democracy, communism, dynastic rule or autocracy/dictatorship, the underlying driving force is the greed for more money and more control of resources to be diverted for the purpose of private enjoyment.

And the enjoyers and perpetrators premise their acts on three convictions:

  1. I am supreme.
  2. I alone exist.
  3. I am the doer.

The result is pride and vanity, and a superiority complex. The leader is supremo, everybody must sing his praise, his form and face must appear all over. He alone exists and feels all-important, becomes self-centred and all must cater to his needs and ambitions, to which they must implicitly and tacitly subscribe. He alone is doing things, and knows what should be done. He must not be contradicted.

We are also supposed to be a liberal democracy. In 2012, irrespective of the system of government, we can be sure that our dear leaders and their intimate friends will have strong convictions…

Let us, common citizens, pray ardently for protection in 2012 and the years to follow.

* Published in print edition on 31 December 2011

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