Regroup, Reassess, Resume

Hello World!

Over the past few months I have been wondering about why I have hit a writer’s block on my blog, and what I can do to overcome it.  And I’ve come to some interesting conclusions:

One, changing appearance, and other cosmetic changes can add only so much to the overall experience.  Ultimately, output matters.

Two, frequency of posts is important.  As is content.  And brevity.

Three, topics must cover a broad theme, an overarching message, and must deal with a few core ideas that the intended audience is interested in.

Three is what I set out to define in this post.  What shall I write about? Where shall I begin?

From what I’ve seen, there are three approaches that I can take:

One is to write about my life and my experiences.  Admittedly, this is an alluring approach to blogposts, one that my friend Sanjukta, avid blogger and social media guru, uses to brilliant effect.  I have lived on three continents over the last 3 years: two of these countries are diverse and waking up to the immense potential of equality and universal suffrage after years of crippling social segregation and discrimination (India, South Africa).  They are both members of the BRICS, and are both nations where in the past, institutional systems enforced a strict hierarchical order of individual destiny and prevented social mobility between classes.  This restrictive past has now given way to the present, with its chaotic democracy and attendant opportunities (and pitfalls).  The third country is the United States, sole superpower and global liberal hegemon, today going through a crisis of confidence that has resulted in serious soul-searching and introspection.  Arguably, social mobility in America is today the lowest it has been since the late 80’s, and in more real terms, represents a bottom-of-the-barrel picture not seen since the Great Depression.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is attempting to create a new national discourse about democratic capitalist states- one that is exciting and much-overdue, and has the potential to challenge the very foundations of this nation.  In 2011, popular protests have erupted in two of the world’s largest democracies this year in response to an unjust status quo.  Over North Africa and parts of the greater middle East, citizen-led revolts have challenged the will of despots, deposing some, beheading others.  In yet other countries, a raucous populace marches on, unwilling to be silenced.

This is my present, and it is a seminal moment: pregnant with possibility.  Is it not an exciting time to write about?  I think it is.

My second approach is to write about the issues I care about.  These are diverse, and range from the suppression of civil liberties in tribal India to the alarming effects of positive feedback loops on global warming.  Broadly speaking, these can be categorised as musings into the future, and they are an exploration of what our policies of today will mean for our tomorrow.  Climate change is of course the most pertinent of these issues, but they encompass geopolitical events today that I believe will have profound consequences for us into the future, such as the continued occupation of Palestine, or the collapse of the Eurozone.

This is my future, and it is an unpredictable and chaotic maelstrom.  Is it not worthwhile to mull about?  I think it is.

The third approach is to reflect on my past.  Having grown up in India in the eighties, immersed in the syrupy mediocrity of Bappi Lahiri’s plagiarism and Doordarshan’s parsimonious helpings of mass media, it is astonishing to see a country that currently eyeballs more than 500 TV channels.  For better or for worse, the last 20 years have created seismic shifts across India, and contrasted against the grimy steampunk of modern Bharat, my childhood seems starkly remote, almost idyllic.  Multiple writers have exploited this meme to the max, writing about every rich Indian’s deprived (yet happy) youth.  In the afterglow of success and prosperity, the exigencies of childhood can be rewritten as moral fables, the inadequacies papered over with a patina of quaintness.

This is my past, and it is the age when the elephant began to sprout tusks.  Is it not a fascinating era to recount?  I think it is.

So this is it, people.  In a nutshell, what I hope to write about eventually comes to this:

My past, this present, and our future.

Happy Reading!

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……. and back.

Its been more than a year.  Far too long.

Oceans rose, icebergs melted, and a few hundred polar bears drowned, their bellies churning fat blubber and polychlorinated biphenyl pesticides, their heavy fur dragging them down, the next ice floe too far, their flesh too weak, their spirit too crushed.  Then just for solidarity, the Greeks did a polar bear too.  As did a derrick named Deepwater, sinking more than a mile to the ocean bed, its ugly visage no longer blocking our Horizons.

The earth trembled, then shook, and giant ripples washed ashore: snapping bridges, crunching cars.  Rivers flooded, and torrential deluges washed away a people already embittered by hate and Hadith.  Afterwards, the sun shone, and then shone some more.  Parched leaves wilted and curled in the heat, then kindled and crackled in the shade.  The smoke was visible from the moon, they told us, as if that somehow were a matter of pride: even the Gods can witness our follies now.

Someone set fire to a fruit-seller, and the people – incensed, hungry and bitter, rose to rid themselves of their masters.  Scepter and crown came tumbling down, and in the shifting sands, were made equal.

Bombs went off in crowded markets, and near leaders’ houses.  In the mountains, not far from the roof of the world, tribal areas that were once federally administered were now listless and pockmarked – their  complexion blemished by big metal birds that prowled the sky.

A tall man with a long beard was dragged away from his home by soldiers.  His body was dropped into the ocean a few days later, sinking softly to the bottom of the sea: Deep Waters once again.

So much has changed, yet nothing has changed.  The more I run, the clearer it becomes to me that I am not going anywhere.  This is just a slow sort of place, where the eddies and whorls in the stream of time wash over the boulders every day: seething, smoothing.

The Red Queen would approve.

: 291 Vaswani Nagar, North Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune :

Pune was a quieter place then.  It was 1997, the year of the last great Pune Floods. M G Road was a one-way road, Deccan looked like a vast campus and Orient Express (since deceased) delivered pizzas to homes. Aundh was a forest, and NDA stood atop a dark and lonely hill in Khadakvasla.

There were birds in the lake beyond the NCL campus.

Laxmi Road was the artery that ran through the city. Camp was the green lung that breathed, its alveoli soaking the heat and the air. Sassoon stood stolid next to The Railway station, housing (among other things) 2000+ hospital beds and one appendix (belonging to one mr mohandas karamchand gandhi, preserved for posterity). Budhwar Peth was the red light district.

And Koregaon Park was the centre of the Universe.

Its own universe, alone and distinct. A mysterious world of brooding buildings and overgrown gardens, plaster seraphs and purple robes – roaming the streets during the day, their open hair catching the dappled sunlight.

As you passed over the bridge leaping across the railway lines from Camp to Koregaon, the Don Bosco centre would rise on your right, and the turn off to North Main Road soon after.  North Main Road snaked its way to Mundhwa, umbilically connected to South Main Road by a ladder-rung of gentility, seven in all: unobtrusive portals that would ferry you from bustling NMR to the leafy temple-strewn length of SMR. In between the two roads was a mystery land of crumbling old houses and mysterious manors, their facades fenced by ferns and foliage, set deep inside from the tree-lined lanes, in coccoons of sound-soaking eternity. “Old Parsi houses”, we would intone, part-admiration, part-awe, whole-envy. “Old Money”, we would add, throwing in a grimace with pursed upper lips pushing down the corners of our mouths- the ultimate Indian expression of begrudging appreciation.

And right there in the beginning of North Main Road, before the right turn to the Osho Ashram, opposite the yet-to-be-born Hot Breads, next door to Gourmet, home of mouth watering waffles with unlimited honey and butter (which has since been ambushed and swallowed by a bright young Cafe Coffee Day, swarming with peri-pubescent puppydom), was German Bakery, the cafe at the end of the Universe, where burnt-out souls came to rest and feed, to sleep, perchance to dream.

German Bakery was on the first corner, its mian entrance opening out to the main road: the itinerant visitor would step through the threshold into a large leafy courtyard, littered with low stools and short tables, and intellectuals contemplating the swirling grounds in their coffee dregs. The aisle along the side led to the Tibetan shops, presided over by slightly intimidating aunties selling smooth coral stones and necklaces. Between these and the Bakery was the exit to the side lane, leading off to the river and the cremation ghat – a bare clearing with rectangular depressions set into the concrete. The river was full, dark and sludgy, and an Aghori sat on the far side steps of the ghats, tending to the shrine, making conversations and fires, and smoking his butter-like charas in his chillum.

German Bakery itself was always abuzz, and yet untouched: a tiny oasis of Truthful Chocolate ecstasy in a harsh and cruel world. A large Masala chai cup and croissants were among things on offer, along with mashed potatoes, hummus, fruit salads and cream and scones and cakes, and a pick of delicious omelettes. A wide and eclectic menu stared the visitor in the face, neatly inscribed and hung above the smiling Nepali waiter’s head, his cheerful frame dwarfed by the counter, piled high with such suspicious events like Organic Muesli and Pekan Boe tea. The cafe itself wrapped around the kitchen and the manager’s room, and was lined with wooden benches and white-washed walls. The monotony of the walls was broken by random advertismenets for colon irrigation and tantra classes, an ironic speech bubble above the head of Nirvana in night-blue ensemble talking to Pretty Young (Confused) Thing in the corner. A list of rules for visitors on the wall offered pragmatic advice, such as to not offend the locals by kissing in public. A bulletin board advertised second-hand enfield bikes, houses for rent and eternal salvation in Hebrew.

An air of calm ran through German Bakery, with swirling cigarette smoke from tables mixing with the clouds from the coffee. Conversations ebbed, and flowed, and ebbed again, their lines looping and dipping and whorling through the hot summer air. Regulars dotted the tables, sitting beside newer wannabes, and pondered on the meanings of the universe, and on the vagaries of Kishan’s waiters.  As the cries of hawkers wafted across to the tables, somewhere a pair of flip-flops shuffled its way to the gate, its wearer drawn to the swelling tide of human consciousness outside – propelled forward by the purposefulness of the truly aimless. Ashram inmates walked in, their eyes scanning the cafe,  and their purple robes revealed shapely ankles beneath (as their erect nipples revealed sheer nakedness beneath, or so it seemed to our hormone-addled brains). Couples necked in the corner, and sometimes, a Warkari wandered in, lost on the way back from Pandharpur. Her Sari tucked in between her legs and folded neatly into her waist-fold, her forehead marked with a large vermillion circle of sometimes-purple red, she walked into German Bakery, her dish held out in front of her: battered, aluminium. 

And somewhere, another star-struck student would step through the threshold, his eyes drinking in the slice of peacefulness before him, his mind noting with sudden bemusement that time was treacly-thick here, the hours passed like days passed like minutes passed like the lifetimes that spent their years contemplating the slow settling of the black grounds into the murky depths of the Mint Ice Tea…

And history would play itself out again, a tired organ-grinder in the corner cranking up his instrument, preparing to play out the same tune again for the umpteenth time, as a new monkey prepared to dance.

                       – In Memory, German Bakery, No 291, Vaswani Nagar, North Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune.

 

*Author’s postcript

Like everything else in Pune, the German Bakery was also torn down by the assault of invading Megapolis-Pune. In 2002, Pecuniary Pune crept slowly into Koregaon Park, widening North Main Road and taking a great big slice of German Bakery’s facade with it. The slow decay of the Osho Ashram and the steady invasion of more upmarket coffee chains turned GB into a symbol of wannabe kitsch: frequented by itinerants, populated by infrequents.  As traffic and dust rose with equal ferocity through Pune’s roads, the calm around German Bakery was shattered: its unhurried pace lost, its extravagant space now a thing of the past. Its access to both the main road and the side alley- a metaphorical cul-de-sac linking the mainstream and the alternate, was taken over by an army of rude short-cutters, turning the aisle of wafting thoughts into a thoroughfare to somewhere else. In 2008, when I spoke to Kishan, he confessed that times were hard, and he was staring closure in the face if things didn’t pick up. Presumably they did, because he was open and active till the 13th of February, 2010, over 22 years after German Bakery’s inauguration.

On Saturday, February 13th, 2010, an Improvised Explosive Device ripped through German Bakery, killing 9, and injuring at least 45 persons. Random images of carnage greeted passers-by, in an attack believed to have been targeted at foreigners, or the Jewish Chabad house, located less than 400 metres away. Terrorist outfits are being implied darkly in discussions, impending bilateral talks are being touted as immediate provocations. Possible links to Mumbai are being investigated. Inevitably, a high-profile blame game will ensue, and outrageous statements will be made; ultimately, the powers-that-be will continue to fiddle as Home burns: their railings all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And yet another loud bang will rip through the sunny afternoons of our collective consciousness, tearing through the peace, severed limbs and shattered viscera piercing the bubble of calm around our most precious memories.

                           German Bakery is Dead! Long Live German Bakery!

Invictus in the land of the ‘Boks

Early on in the movie “Invictus”, there is a scene when Francois Pienaar’s father sits around and does a cassandra, while looking at the telly and talking generally, on The State of the Nation. His manner is disaparaging, his atitude pessimistic. As he rails and rants against what he sees as the inevitable collapse of the new dispensation in power, Pienaar (played brilliantly by a buffed-up matt damon) looks across at his mom, and they exchange The Glance.

Eyes rolling, and mouthing some inside joke, I imagine that this must have been a look in many households across SA, circa 1994. Mandela had been freed, and what the world saw as a moment of delirious celebration of victory for the forces against imperialism and racist bigotry was often seen very differently in South Africa, where the sudden appearance of black might and white fright turned the tables, and how!

And as older generations railed against the collapse of the world as they knew it, I imagine that younger people perhaps rolled their eyes at their mothers, and moved on with their lives.

In the evolving sensibility of Invictus, decades-old suspicion and mistrust is slowly replaced by interracial secret service camaraderie, hunger is replaced by a love for rugby by poor township boys, and eventually everyone (yes, yes! everyone, even the black xhosa maid!!) goes to see a rugby game where the national team grunts against oversize maori warriors. In a tensely fought final, the entire country stays indoors (white men in raucous pubs, black men in roadside shebeens), and a toothy boy from the townships shares the radio with on-tenterhooks Afrikaans policemen. The national team wins, people cheer madly, and a grinning Morgan Freeman- as- Madiba looks on at the tranformative power of sport.

If only life were so simple. Less than 15 years after the historic triumph, sitting in a darkened theatre in Gateway, Durban, I heard barely-suppressed snickers of derision when the scenes of reconciliation and repair flashed on the screen. The tragedy of South Africa today is that the bitterness is still very much in the air, and maybe as fathers rant, the glances are not even exchanged any more at breakfast tables.

The transforming power of sport is something that many hollywood movies have tried hard to exploit over the years (and succeeded admirably). The image of the last-minute touchdown with the orchestra crashing to a crescendo in the background, and the hero’s muddy face streaked with triumph, amid close up shots of the clock signalling timeout and a field invasion by fans, is legend. Invictus has all of that glory, and greatness.

The captain is a taciturn Afrikaans boy overwhlmed by the humility and greatness of the president. Madiba is a kindly old man : graceful, dignified and astute, charming supporters and critics alike with his simple and powerful philosophy. Even the rugby team, beefcake-bourgeoise before, are attentive anthem-singers after, all smiles and happy grins after Pienaar’s pep-talk. Heck, even the grubby kids from the townships, with the ragged trousers and no shoes, are a toothy crease of joy.

The reality, in today’s SA, is vastly different. In the year of World Cup SA 2010, it’s really pretty evident that sport, like everything else in south africa, has been carved up along racial lines, and distributed: the whites get rugby, the blacks get soccer and the indians get cricket , with the mandatory outliers all round. The coloreds, of course, are too busy hanging around Cape Town and being cool. Sports are only the tip of the iceberg: in a nation poisoned by years of institutional racial identification and prejudice, it takes more than a world cup win to bring the fractured pieces together. Depending on the color of their skins, foreigners will eventually get to be privy to the “South Africa is going to the dogs” dialogue. Everyone is a pocket anthropologist, and crude racial generalisations will be made over the poitjie pot, even as you stand around embarassed, and stammering thanks. Whites and Indians will be the first to moan and groan, even as they drive their fancy cars with super-sensitive alarm systems across the city to their fancy houses in the swankiest parts of town. Black moaning is different, and usually laments the fate that has befallen. And how powerless they are to stop it.

When Madiba talks in the movie of a “Rainbow nation”, and borrows Archbishop Tutu’s term to talk of the glorious multi-culturalism of South Africa, the whole world was charmed and touched. Today, the description seems eerily literal, of a prismatic country bent on splitting white light into its components. Maybe the great man was being  prescient, in his own ruined, tragic way.

Adapted from Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, by journalist John Carlin, Invictus is a portrayal of the intimate relationship between sports, pride, honour, and the inner core of decency and fairness that exist at the heart of every person. Some inconsistencies have been noted in the movie (Mandela quoting Invictus and not Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena  speech to Pienaar and the boys, the pile of stones on Robbyn Island that could not have existed in 1994), but the greatest inconsistency is the image of a united, cheering-as-one, proud and integrated South Africa. As we shuffled out of the movie hall, I could not but help noting with a sinking feeling that THAT particular cheer probably lasted barely as long as the credits.

things the indian people are doing – 2 :: the mumbai wall project, tulsi road ::

Letter to an ex- mumbaikar:

” see! brilliant idea of bee-emm-cee!
  see! hordes of dreamers descend on pipe road, tulsi!
( http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9822921861#/group.php?gid=9822921861 )
 
see! a row of dull gray transform into a wall of whimsy and wit!
see! lurid bollywood posters of “gair” & “aladin” plastered all over it!
 
(as amitabh glowers and snarls,  riteish plays the lover –
the ex- chief minister’s son, now returned to power)
 
see! righteous indignation galvanise sensitive bombay youth,
see  anger and disgust for publicity most uncouth.
( http://random.asfaq.com/less-than-24-hours-after-the-wallproject )
 
see striped-shirt man in far corner snigger,
(himself a much-maligned, cliched figure)
and whisper:
“yeh hai mumbai meri jaan!”
 
–     nirvana demon (2009)”

2nd october 2009 :: Happy Birthday ::

Barack Obama just increased his fan base by another 100 million or so. Amid widespread american disaffection with what they see as selling out to the devil (read republican profligacy and heavy-handedness), this man is looking at other, more friendly shores for his re-election bid.

He should come to India, really. Considering the country’s future options are between a scion of the Nehru Royal family, (whose most notable asset is to be described as  “well-meaning” and “sincere” by commentators getting their panties in a wad to give him a great review) and who-knows-whom from the beejaypee, the leader most likely to succeed advani’s inglorious and inevitable exit.

Anyway, Obama should know at least that this is one country where ure parents’ miscegenation is certainly something that qualifies you to aspire to the highest office in the country. Where else would he be able to find such an accomodating and broad-minded electorate?

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/world/us/America-has-its-roots-in-India-of-Mahatma-Gandhi-Obama/articleshow/5079579.cms

is what Obama said, and as the article points out, if he could have dinner with anyone in the world, alive or dead, it would be The Mahatma. A man who was the single most important person to cause the ultimate dismantling of the British Empire, admired by a man who has succeeded one of the most vilified neo-imperialists of recent times.

Its not ironic, just interesting. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

On to other things: I had the most amazing weekend away from cold, misty and freezing-at-times Hilton last week. Drove to Coffee Bay, a beach resort in the Eastern Cape, beyond Mthatha. Coffee Bay is called that because sometime n the late 1800-s, a ship carrying coffee beans washed ashore on the beach and for a brief, crazy while, coffee plants grew along the eastern cape’s coast. The plants died soon enough, and the bay never got back to its coffee-growing ways, but the name has stuck.

The eastern cape is among the poorest areas in SA, a former homeland where poverty and neglect were allowed to run riot, where successive legislations like the Bantu Education Act 1953 created a large population bereft of skills or knowledge in a part of the country not particularly blessed with arable land or large natural harbours. It is also home to Nelson Mandela, a Xhosa who was brought up in a village outside Mthatha.

Indeed, Port St. John, north of Coffee Bay, and about one hour from Mthata, is the site of some of the best cannabis grown in SA. This weed was shipped in large numbers by the government and surreptitiously supplied to the Black workers in the mines in Gauteng (thats Johannesburg and its surrounding areas) so as to keep them perpetually dull and simple, giggling and drooling, staring at random events by the wayside, and laughing.

Kept apathetic and moribund by a willing government, the mind boggles to even imagine the incredible amount of insult and injury that must have been perpetuated in the notorious ‘hostels’ outside Jo’Burg. It also makes so much more sinister reading when you think of the number of women who may have been consuming alcohol and cannabis and tobacco through their pregnancy, and to imagine the number of children born with deficiencies.

The blacks who lived in the homelands were used as cheap labour, in homes and on mines. The steady stream of migrant labour created parentless homes and unsupervised children in the villages, and rampant promiscuity and breakdown of family structures in the mines and at workplaces. Add to that the AIDS epidemic, and this potent brew of patriarchal african value systems, insiduous white oppression, systematic neglect and marginalisation, poor health outcomes and internecine rivalry, and this powder keg of conflicting interests is just about ready to go ka-boom, like noone else’s business.

Still, Coffee bay is a stunningly beautiful part of the country, and along with its beautiful and more famous neighbour, Hole-in-the-Wall, it forms among the most beautiful natural rock formation on the seas that i have ever seen. We stayed at a place called coffee shack, across the river, on the beach.

http://www.coffeeshack.co.za/

 

The weekend we went was that of the Worldwide Earth day celebrations, and in 200 sites across the world, a trance party was being held to herald the world’s imminent descent into destruction. As stoned presenters greeted their happy audiences with “got some spliffs on u?”, trance music throbbed in the background and psychedelic colours glowered from the walls. We were in a cottage nearby, and 72 hours of pulsating techno accompanied our vacation at coffee bay. Sometime during Day2, Mr DJ decided that he would use his strange machine-like grunts to fill up the space between spliff-breaks. Having realised that he was onto a good thing, (or passing out next to the munchies in the back kitchen), the machine-groans continued for the next 12 hours. As I woke up, disoriented, at 3 in the AM, a washing machine was making its bizarre mating call to another. Some serious discussions later, a refrigerator had joined in the chorus, and all three were engaged in loudly addressing each other across the bar mouth.

I turned over, muttering angrily in my sleep. Save the world with lousy trance and inebriation. May work. All I know is that I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.

All hail Jim Morrison, american poet, savant of the torpedoed masses!!!!!!!

22 july, 2009 :Global Warming and the Democratic Paradox:

Much of my attention of late has been directed towards the monumental waste of resources that I see around everyday, in Durban, with its first world cities (and third world villages – but thats the topc for another blog altogether), correlated with images from the US and the UK on my brief visits there in the past.

The amount of waste that is perpetrated by the developed world is staggering in the enormity of scale. Paper, electricity, water, petrol, diesel, edible food, the list is endless. It seems to me that being “developed” essentially means going to an incredible amount of discomfort in order to ensure comfort to yourself.

Maybe that is not exactly true, after all. The paradigms of reference vary, certainly. So while the discomfort is relative (the trouble of having to pay for purified drinking water- purified with an immense amount of energy expenditure and cost – just so that you can wash your clothes and flush it down ure drain), the comfort is a no-brainer, designed to make life simpler, easier, hassle-free, and predictable.

this perhaps explains why traffic rules work so well in the developed world, with drivers’ absolute willingness to stand in long queues behind capricious traffic lights just so that they may be able to travel at great speeds with the promise of increased safety.

This philosophy, however, does not seem to work for global warming. And herein lies the rub. the reality of our age is that global warming and large-scale environmental degradation are realities that are projected to take place in a foreseeable future, with largely uncertain effects. Yet, the irony is that their extent and actual impact are matters of projection, at best. The effects of environmental collapse can be only appreciated by a person who has spent sufficient time imagining the future, and who is able to have a very sophisticated understanding of the “if-then-else” loop of reasoning.

Simple though this reasoning may seem, it is sadly not very common.

Again, changes, if and when they come, would happen at a gradual pace – effecting a gradual erosion in our quality of life in a way and so as to allow for enough time for civilisation to adjust to it.

What this does mean is that in the case of environmental protection, people will very often be willing to disregard the long term deleterious effects of their actions if they imagine that the short term benefits are attractive enough.

It also makes the process of educating people difficult because all that you have by way of reasoning is the vague threat that things may slide into a dystopic future where matters will be out of hand, and that responsible behaviour will help you to live a vastly less profligate lifestyle for a longer time frame.

Maybe, if you’re lucky.

This is where systems of governments come into play. And where democracy tries so valiantly. And fails: so completely, so pathetically.

Democracy has the reputation of something of a sacred cow in the world we live in today. It is seen as the best system of governance, and countries have been invaded in its name. Regimes have been toppled, rulers deposed, and the will of many people squashed because of the modern  (essentially wetsern) belief that democracy will solve most of the nation’s worries.

I do not want to go into the relative merits or demerits of the system. That is the topic of another post.

But democracy, as we know it: a system of government consisting of proportional representation of the citizens of the country, who are assisted and guided by the executive and judiciary, is not a system that is known for its long-sightedness. One of the important aspects of democracy is the fact that governments have a finite lifetime, after which they have to seek the approval of the electorate again. It follows, therefore, that to retain the favour of the electorate, a government shall have to take popular decisions that shall ensure another term in office.

It is within the dictates of electoral compulsion, and onlycorrect within the mandates of a democratic election, that a group of elected representatives should strive to take the decisions that the majority would support.

Herein lies the rub. So while elected governments will see it as morally justified, even pertinent, that they safeguard the immediate interests of their citizens, the long-term decisions (that may be uncomfortable in the short term and may have questionable effects in the long term) may be put on the back burner.

And why not? Governments do not fret about the world that they are handing down to their successors, 20 years into the future. Hell, the incumbents don’t even bother about the poor gits who’re coming in after them in a month’s time! This is is entirely different from, say, a monarchy, where the king has a vested interest in preserving and nourishing the kingdom for future generations, since succession is most often lineal.

This does not in any way mean that I am suggesting that monarchy is better or worse than democracy.

In fact, it does not even mean that I am suggesting that democratically elected governments are incapable of saving the environment.

But it certainly means that there will need to be an incredible amount of vision and concerted effort, and a will to think beyond the next general elections, if a democratic government based on popular consensus is to have a realistic chance of making long-term decisions that improve conditions and forge a new way forward.

That takes courage, and maturity, and selflessness. Because after all the considered thought and concerted action, the opposition may just win at the hustings by trumpeting the obvious current shortcomings of the government. Charges which would be impossible to disown, without scare-mongering about a nebulous future.

This is the democratic paradox, and it will be interesting to see how we shall negotiate it in the years to come.

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