Raouf Rasool

When will our ruling class wake up?

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Alfred North Whitehead was an English mathematician who became a philosopher. Having written on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education, Whitehead also supervised the doctoral dissertations of Bertrand Russell and Willard Van Orman Quine, thus influencing logic and virtually all of analytic philosophy. In his ‘Adventures of Ideas’, Whitehead says “the enjoyment of power is fatal to the subtleties of life. Ruling classes degenerate by reason of their lazy indulgence in obvious gratifications”.  In such a state ‘people of power’ fall asleep, for it is in sleep that ‘we’ each turn away from the world about ‘us’ to ‘our’ private worlds. “The waking have one world in common; sleepers have each a private world of his (her) own.”

This is exactly how it is for most of the political and bureaucratic elite in Jammu and Kashmir. They are just too busy with their own private worlds that they hardly seem to be bothered by what the common, ordinary people have to endure day in and day out without any respite whatsoever. Kashmiri Haakh (collard greens) sells Rs 50-60 a kg, but who cares. Grocers, butchers, chicken-sellers – everybody is on a looting spree but the authorities vested with the responsibility remain unmoved. The reason being that a portion of the money that is cheated off the common people by the greedy traders makes it into the pockets of greedy officials manning various agencies which are supposed to keep markets under check.

Well, for the government, here is a little suggestion: why not let some chicken-seller or a butcher or a grocer formally take over as Director Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, or for that matter the Legal Metrology department as well. In any case these departments actually run on their dictations only and is oriented towards increasing their profits and securing their interests rather than fending for the needs and interests of the common people. So why waste bureaucrats for manning these departments when even a greedy baker would do as good as any ‘babu’.  The main aim is to safeguard the interests of the greedy businesses and common sense has it that they would themselves do it better than anybody else could do for them. The move would as least spare them the huge amounts government has to shell out for paying the officials of Consumer Affairs, Legal Metrology and Police departments.

There is every possibility that this might be good for the common people as well. If these departments are given into the hands of businesses, in such a situation the rates might actually come down a little bit for in such a proposition butchers and chicken-sellers or grocers and bakers will be spared of paying the people who otherwise act as their proxies in important government offices. And this percentage could easily compensate to bring down rates of essentials by a few rupees.

All this might seem too harsh, but this also explains the popular assertion, an expression of people’s cynicism and hopelessness with the ‘system’ and those comprising and running it. “Government is sleeping,” say some while others feel “authorities are in deep slumber …!” Even though these expressions, owing to their repeated usage, have become sort of clichés, but faced with ‘hopeless’ situations so frequently, people can’t help but blame the ruling classes for their ‘slumber’.

In ‘Alice in the Wonderland’, Tiger-Lily explains about the talking flowers to Alice. Tiger-Lily points out that the flowers that talk grow out of hard beds of ground. And “in most gardens”, Tiger-Lily says “they make the beds too soft – so the flowers are always asleep.” Isn’t it true that here too the rulers (and this includes bureaucracy too) have made their beds too soft – too soft – that they too are always asleep? When they wake up, they talk and talk nothing but lies, which only ensures more privileges and more perks – more soft beds for them and their ilk. Contrarily, the common people growing and living in the hard beds of ground talk of their hardship, their suffering and their misery. But nobody cares!

For the ordinary people here, it’s like the chore of the mythic Sisyphis. Their challenge is an endless pushing up of the boulder to the top of a hill, only to have it roll back; the chore to be repeated endlessly. Whitehead is right, in their enjoyment of power, our ruling classes have degenerated. And thanks to their lazy indulgence, they have perfected the art of pulling wool over the people’s eyes by repeatedly trumpeting ‘all is well’ when nothing actually is.

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