One of the seven deadly social sins – politics without principles – described by Mahatma Gandhi is at work full time in the Kerala (India) legislative assembly these days (the week of June 16- 22, 2013). The politicians who engage in unprincipled, destructive, and partisan fighting, violent posturing, vicious and obstructive tactics represent no one but their evil and self-seeking selves. The opposition leader who was the previous chief minister went so far as to say that he would give a slap to the home minister on his face if he were near to him and if he were not in the assembly. This is the kind of verbal violence and abuse no civilized society should tolerate. This kind of violent language and menacing threats goes against every canon of decency. The home minister responding to the verbal threat made also some provocative statements in the media. How can any person in one’s right mind believe that these legislators without a conscience can make laws for the state? How can these persons explain their unruly behavior to their children at home and to the millions of students in the schools of their state? How can they have any moral authority to model exemplary behaviors for the people of their state? Do these politicians believe that they can do anything they choose to with impunity and without censure? Are they so confident that they can mobilize their mercenary followers and goondas to shield them from the law? Interestingly, Kerala is a state with the highest literacy as well as the highest alcohol consumption in the country! It is also the country’s most crime prone state (National Crime Records Bureau, June 24, 2012)! It had India’s second highest rate of reported suicides in 2011. If the statement of Charlie Chaplain, a famous comedian: “A person’s true character comes out when he is drunk” is true, we have ample opportunity to know the true character of a Kerala person.
What happened to the other politicians in the assembly witnessing to these ugly scenes? Do they have no responsibility in voicing their protests in the assembly or in the public media against their errant colleagues? What about the prominent social, religious, moral, and spiritual leaders of the state who are the guardians of conscience, and who are supposed to rise up to the occasion when the state is going to hell in a hand basket? Have they lost their moral authority after years of kowtowing and pandering to these politicians for obtaining their favors and their piece of the pie? In the final analysis we are at fault. Nobody can do for us what we need to do for ourselves. We live in a democracy. We voted these hooligans and buffoons into power. We deserve them. They come from among us. They are our brothers, sisters, and relatives. They represent our greed, vested interests of our religion or community, and our desire for wealth with very little or no work. We scratch one another’s back. We are hypocrites as they are. We also want something for nothing. We put them in power because they articulate better with their clever and entertaining speech, humorous anecdotes and stories our un-principled life. I was reminded of a story that was mentioned in our satsang (spiritual sharing) recently. A man sat modeling as Christ for a painter. Years later, the same painter wanting to paint Judas looked for a model and came upon a man. During the painting the painter noticed tear drops falling from the eyes of the model. The painter asked the model as to what is happening. The model responded saying: “I am the same person who sat modeling Christ for you years ago”. Of course there are good and conscientious legislators. But they are not good enough to prevail over the bad ones.
We do not want a rigorous diagnosis of our society coming out of our spirit-life. Gandhi dared to diagnose the evils of our society. He came up with the seven deadly sins destroying the very fabric of society. What happened? He was assassinated. Before Gandhi, Socrates came with his solution for the society of his time. He was executed by the state by administering poison. Jesus Christ preached the Kingdom of God. He was crucified in the midst of two criminals, ironically by the religious leaders of his time. President Abraham Lincoln stated that we cannot have a country that is half free and half slave. He was murdered. In our own time Martin Luther King fought for a country where all could live in freedom. He was shot dead. Indira Gandhi took a clear stance when she sent troops into a holy place to flush out armed violators of the law of the land who took refuge there. She was murdered by her own body guards. Nelson Mandela lived 27 years in one of the most grueling prisons for wanting freedom that we all take for granted. With the way politicians and religious leaders are behaving in our land we are not going to have this freedom for too long. I am told that the Catholic Church and the Communist Party of India, Marxist, are similar in that they have the same kind of tight-knit, well-disciplined organizations in Kerala. In his day a man like Patrick Henry, a politician and a statesman, fighting for independence from the British said in a powerful speech in his assembly: “Give me liberty or give me death”.
Are we willing to drive our cars on our streets when politicians declare strikes at their whims and paralyze the state and take away our freedom? Are we willing to challenge the tyranny of a parish priest in Kerala when he uses his power to mobilize his parishioners to intimidate and hurt others behind a smoke-screen to hide in order to cover his own illegal and unethical behavior? What is the status of spiritual life when two Christian factions (Orthodox and Jacobite) in the name of Christ fight wanting the same church building to worship, and the building is locked up as a result? They disregard mediation efforts. Politicians disregard rulings of the courts for fear of losing votes. Is a marriage blessed by a bishop more blessed than the one blessed by an ordinary priest? Why are we wanting a burial presided over by a bishop paying a hefty fee? Does the soul go to heaven any faster? In the US prescribing medications by a psychiatrist without proper diagnosis of the mental disease is a crime. Asked, at my suggestion, a famous psychiatrist in a big city in Kerala for the diagnosis of his mental patient for whom four powerful psychotropic drugs including one for the side-effects, he is reported to have said: “Mental disorder”. What a revelation?! This is our God’s Own Country! We have created the monsters that gulp us down. We are willingly caught up in our own hypocrisy, double-talk, show, pomp, and vain glory. We are the dumb millions who blindly follow these un-principled and megalomaniac politicians of empty promises. On the other hand their megalomania is our megalomania. They are acting out our frustrations, repressed emotions, and primitive impulses. We are not willing to pay the price for a clean and corruption-free government. We are not willing to wait for our turn. We want those special favors and privileges that we are not legally entitled to at the expense of our fellow humans. Do we want to discontinue the present state of affairs? Do we want to stop from going over the precipice? Do we want to come out of the present morass? If the answers to these questions are yes, we urgently need a method of procedure (modus operandi) that respects a minimum standard dictated by laws, rules, and regulations. When the law-makers flout the laws they make, the result can only be anarchy and chaos. Let us awake from our deep slumber, become aware, and take the path back to compassion, freedom, and respect for others’ rights even as we pay the price for our own rights in terms of our own deep anguish and suffering.
On a lighter note: Let us get back our sanity somehow. Let us laugh more and get our politicians laughing. Then, perhaps, they will take themselves and their importance less seriously, laugh at themselves and others, and cooperate with others. Then they will be about people’s business. Charlie Chaplain, who made many laugh through his jokes coming out of keen observation, said: “A day without laughter is a day wasted”. He also said: “I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.”