21 July 2015

Dear Rebel, when you meet pomposity, flip the script

Pic courtesy www.teacupsandcouture.com
This is the thirty eighth in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

There’s often a mismatch between word and action.  This is why the Buddha advocated that it is best to follow deed with word and to be open about what one does.  The mismatch is more apparent among those engaged in, perhaps because they happen to be more visible than others.  More often than not their actions, behavior, lifestyles etc are in stark contrast to their rhetoric and the principles and values they champion.  

Long years ago, in one of the leading universities in the country, there was a group who advocated a wonderful society of fraternity and solidarity, equality and justice.  However, they seem to keep all that in some secret vault when they dealt with their political opponents who they would assault verbally and physically if ever they felt that a dissenting voice might challenge their hold in student politics.

On one occasion, against the general will of the student body, they organized a satyagraha.  A continuous one.  The protest dragged on. Days rolled into weeks.  The demands made were not met by the relevant authorities.  Enthusiasm dipped.  Money was running out.  In desperation the organizers called a meeting of all the students.  The chief spokesperson said his piece.  His usual arrogance was missing.  In contrast he actually solicited the support of all the students, opponents included.  Everyone’s contribution was necessary, he said.  He wanted them to come up with ideas.  

No one spoke.  Many may have thought to themselves, ‘you started this, you end it!’  Others may have derived pernicious pleasure at their detractors finding themselves in hot water.  

The plea was reiterated.  He almost begged the students to speak up.  Finally one young man got up.  The spokesperson was overjoyed.  Observing that at least one person had the courage to speak up, he asked the young man to share his thoughts with the rest of the group.

So he spoke.

‘We are in a crisis, are we not?’

‘Yes comrade!’

‘Money is an issue, right?’

‘Of course!  Comrade, you have understood the situation!’

‘I have an idea.’

‘Please share it with us!’ the spokesperson was hopeful.

There was a long pause.  Then he blurted out: ‘Since we don’t have money, we have to get it from somewhere.  Why don’t we ask the World Bank for a loan?’

Everyone burst out laughing.  And that was the end of the meeting.

It’s good to rehearse these things.  Look around you.  There are posters and cut-outs of political hopefuls.  Soon the newspapers will be full of election ads.  Television and radio channels will be blurting out the virtues of this or that candidate.  Websites too.  They are either young and vibrant or mature and wise.  They are all capable.  They have your best interests at heart.  They constitute your future, they will say.  They have energy and courage.  They are all statesmen.  Honest and decent.  

Now what if someone came up with a poster claiming the following?

‘I am incompetent, weak, lazy, cowardly, crooked, stupid, crude and belong to the past!’

If a poster carrying that claim is plastered all over immediately it would tell the voter one thing: don’t trust grand claims!  

There are many ways to flip the script.  It’s a useful strategy when you have to deal with liars and humbugs.

Other articles in this series