Don’t be an Idiot. Vote!

Earth Day, Dilli

I am so proud of IIIT for participating in Earth Hour last week. What matters is that we tried, don’t care for arguments that the energy we saved was too little, or otherwise inconsequential. As any high school coach would say, it’s important that you try. It shows culture and character.

So, today I stand shoulder to shoulder, to join the chorus of hundreds of voices that descend your social network feeds in saying, please vote.

The Hindu presented a rather depressing account of the situation of election in our country (read here). It is but one example of how  the electorate has devalued the process of electing a leader. Depressing? yes! but..

Let me just say this though: We have always ridden on hope. A belief that at the very end of need, the machinery will come through to save us. While Dhoni batting at number six is one example, let us review this claim a bit more theoretically.

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty is a treatise written by Albert O. Hirschman in 1970 on a concept of the ultimatum that faces a person when (s)he no longer finds value of being in association or membership of an organization. Basically, there are two choices: either “exit” or “voice”.

A good explanation from Wikipedia that I directly quote:

The basic concept is as follows: members of an organization, whether a business, a nation or any other form of human grouping, have essentially two possible responses when they perceive that the organization is demonstrating a decrease in quality or benefit to the member: they can exit (withdraw from the relationship); or, they can voice (attempt to repair or improve the relationship through communication of the complaint, grievance or proposal for change).

Across our nation, political discourse has long shifted to “exit”. Consider a working middle class man, a father. He will invest with low risk (land or gold). He accounts for and is willing to pay bribe for any procedural activity. He wants his children to be educated and hopefully settle abroad. Wouldn’t like to talk openly of his political views .. I could go on, but I am sure this person sounds familiar. Hence, Exit, need not be physical option as much as a mental or an emotional one.

Diesel prices are subsidized in our country as it is important to keep the price of transportation of essential goods and food low. However, a large portion of this subsidized fuel is now used by diesel vehicles in urban India. The justification being, I get very little as it is, so let me grab what little I can.  Let, me, my family and my sub-society survive first, then I can worry about the good of the nation.

The past year is special in the history of India, where we begin to see the manifestation of the second form of ultimatum, the “voice” .  A counter-culture phenomenon, that has made it acceptable to be vocal of our anger, resentment and displeasure with the system. Hirschman makes an interesting point in  that the biggest threat to the “voice” is the “exit”. It may be sufficient to say however, that both forms to ultimatums can co-exist in a vast populace of our nation.

If we are absolutely honest with ourselves, it can be quite interesting to see how much of our thought is shaped by Voice and Exit. I know mine has, and perhaps there is value in being self-aware on this front.

Which brings me to the premise of this article. I believe, firmly and with vigor, that the “Loyalty” of the people of this country dwarfs any postulate Hirschman can make. For all said and done, we are so fundamentally rooted to a fuzzy concept of my India that transcends the displeasure of how poorly she is governed, or how unfulfilled is her potential.

So, I urge each and everyone of us, to look to this connection, to feel that we belong to something extraordinary and give us an opportunity to change ourselves.

Don’t be an Idiot. Vote!

 

 

 

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