Trust deficit inspires blind faith
The disturbing levels to which disinterest/ fake pride has gripped the nation is evident in the docility with which the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj was accepted, or the disinterest with which a statue constructed at great cost, both financial and social, was celebrated without even a raised eyebrow towards the collateral damage, or how a group of Ronhigyas were deported to Myanmar which does not even recognize them as citizens or the ignoring of the frightening trend in which a rightwing students’ union browbeat an institution and a scholar away from the classroom.
Yes, the previous paragraph is recounting incidents from the previous fortnight alone. Push the timeline back a bit and more incidents of prejudice-driven shallow stereotypes and the worrying absence of disgust in the public domain tumble out. The trust deficit mentioned here is the now common attitude towards the established system – the same system which the country wanted upended when they handed a thumping victory to Narendra Modi in 2014. The same condition is what could have manifested in Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US. There may be several reasons why people across the world are behaving in ways which can only be called irrational, and one of the dominating reasons zeroed in on by analysts has been the near universal frustration with status quo.
While the frustration is real, the reasons are not always based on facts and almost always inject a deeper sense of being persecuted and ignored. As these feelings fester, there comes along a leader who manages to infuse pride where imagine and manufactured insecurities have been seeded and convince constituents of his disruptor abilities to deliver a fitting reply to everything that the people have an issue with.
The trust deficit, the distrust of the old order, is now so strong that when people are told that their government will take over control of their finances to fight the big, bad black money hoarders, everyone lines up meekly outside banks and ATMs, often fighting among themselves, but not asking how this will happen and how much black money the government will be able to “bring back” thanks to the privation that the people are embracing will. The trust deficit which we have allowed ourselves to get so deeply infected by, makes us blind adherents of the counter-narrative, and this is why we need to be able to do better.
We need to begin by accepting that there is a disturbing trust deficit in the society, and that this is essentially a community affliction even though the noises are mostly screamed individually and in private. Most people, for instance, have reservations about how the politicians function, seeing “hidden agendas” behind everything. We have arrived at a situation where people who are expected to decide policy matters, drawing their decisions from years spent honing statecraft in the public domain, are rarely taken at face value any more. Every decision, move and promise is slotted to fit an ulterior political motive, and because there is this staggering suspicion we have of the traditional models, we fall in line when that Order is challenged, even if the challenge is only in claims and not explained in any detail. Remain unquestioning, and we invite in more of the same Big Brother, but this time one which is jacked up on the steroids of complete public endorsement and a dangerous sense of righteousness.
The issues which we face are not just about corruption or poor service delivery, but more about our own incompetence as citizens. As a people, we have consistently failed to address issues in time and have noticed situations only after they have become so enmeshed, entangled and complicated that perspective and context have been lost. We get “inspired” by slogans when we should be looking for arguments that convince us. Instead of collaborating and building consensus, we look for leaders and then look away when the same leaders exploit the situation or compromise solutions with either their incompetence or, even more dangerously, their conspiracies. It is when we play into such cycles that we end up in easily irritable mind-spaces, applauding grotesque politicking as instances of nation-building, ignoring sellouts as inspired deal-making, ugly majoritarianism as reclaiming history and aspiring for privilege as a matter of right…