An ode to idealism in the context of the AAP drama

Typical of my generation, I live a dangerous paradox everyday. I’m wary of idealism and yet, I’m deeply idealistic. I refused to wear the famed ‘Anna topi’ and participate in what I considered empty gestures. I was faintly disgusted by the candle light marches in my housing complex held in the name of the fight against corruption with young children shouting stuff they didn’t understand. I did not make fun of them, though. I wondered about my position and my reluctance to embrace what seemed like a wave of idealism and change at the time. That was my wariness of idealism asserting itself.

More recently, even though I do not vote in Delhi, I was delighted to see the AAP come to power in such a conclusive manner. That was my idealism kicking in. I wish the government success in meeting the impossible (and in most part laudable) objectives they have set themselves. I hope to to play my own very little role in it too, to whatever extent possible.

However, the charges of “high command culture” leveled against CM Arvind Kejriwal disturb me immensely. Prashant Bhushan’s advice to the CM to read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ indicates in no mean terms the extreme dangers of a lack of consultation. Neither can I reconcile myself to the idea of condoning a little bit of evil for the greater common good, which is also what the CM is accused of resorting to in order to push through what he wants.

What is true and what is not, I cannot say. But the events as they are playing out strike deep and sharp nails into the coffin that idealism has climbed into and is lying, preparing to die a painful death. We may end up with a better Delhi but not, it seems, with better politicians.

Last Saturday, I watched middle school students at Pathways World School, Aravalli put together excerpts from three Shakespearean plays. They explored the idea of unbridled ambition with Macbeth and the idea of friendship with Merchant of Venice; and both of these apply to the AAP drama unfolding before us. But their perception of Julius Caesar is really applicable to the situation. Are the detractors (Cassius=Prashant Bhushan, etc) merely jealous of Caesar’s (Kejriwal’s) success? Or are they truly concerned with the values of democracy and equality? Does Rome (Delhi, India) really need a leader of Caesar’s (Kejriwal’s) appeal to stitch it together even if it means absolute power, the crowning of a King, the breaking of a tradition of democracy and replacing it with an authoritarian system? How justified are friends and supporters like Brutus (Yogendra Yadav?) in taking a stand against Caesar despite their deep sense of loyalty and friendship?

There are no clear answers, but we must think about what sort of future we envision. What have been the expectations of those who idealised/admired/supported the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement and later its conversion into AAP? Did they buy into it because they wanted better governance or because they wanted clean politics? I’d put my money on the latter, but unfortunately that doesn’t look like it is going to happen.

I’m left with many disturbing questions. I cannot answer them for you, but I must try to do so for myself. Politics is a game of compromises, but which of these is acceptable and where does it cross the line? Is one kind of dirtiness is politics better than another kind? Is the end more important than the means? How does my idealist self work with and contribute to systems that are dubious and dishonest? How does my non-idealist self stay motivated to contribute if the hope of better politics lies abandoned?

Even as I mull such questions, life goes on. I eat, sleep, play, laugh. Or crib, bitch, slander and cry. And every now and then, I wonder at my place in the scheme of things.

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on April 8, 2015, in Personal, Politics & Citizenship and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I feel you mulling…. I also ask, is there a value even higher than idealism?

    Sent from my iPhone


    • I don’t consider idealism to be high. Yes, we have been taught that it is desirable, but I question that as well. There are many values higher than idealism, but what are the values that motivate us to contribute and work towards a greater common good, a better future? Probably different for different people.

  2. We didn’t support the Anna movement because we believed that Anna, or Kejriwal or others among them were a great alternative to the then government. We supported them because we needed a movement against the government of that time. They played a great role in bringing down the Congress government. We should have thanked them and they should have gone home after their job was done. But they were human and their ambitions took over. They decided to encash on their popularity. Absolutely nothing wrong in being ambitious and grabbing opportunities. But the problem happened when those that supported them earlier forgot that they should employ someone for a difficult job after reading their CVs. Not because they resemble characters in a fairy tale. 55 percent of Delhi is now waiting eagerly for a fairy tale to come true. I hope for them that the ideal tale plays out. But we all know how it works.

    • Well, sometimes fairy tales do come true! Let me explain. Those who believe in fairy tales will also see things in black and white. So for those whose expectations are fulfilled, this will be the fairy tale with a happy ending. For others, it will be a disappointment. That’s how it is. Life goes on! I question the very business of making political decisions based on idealism

  3. Only that our wrong decisions cost us. That too is no big deal because sometimes we only learn after we pay a price. The world is in no hurry to sort itself out. It lets us mess up and correct. It’s going no where. But the problem is that we have limited life spans and can get impatient to experience a Utopian land. In our desperation to bypass the natural process of evolution and to address the misery around us we can let ourselves to be exploited by quacks.

  4. Why should anyone be in politics if they don’t have idealism? The greatest political movements have been based on core idealism always. While the reality of PRACTISING politics might be different, if idealism is not a corner stone of politics, then all politics is what it is today, with no hope for change.

    I find that while pragmatism and ground knowledge is core of running day to day democracy, it’s absolutely imperative that idealism is never a dispensing commodity.

    I followed this story with great interest. The local politicians I deal with here, right from the top, the mos successful of them have the right mix of core ideologies supported by immense knowledge of how to make things work at the ground garnering pluralistic support from different stakeholders. It’s no mean a task.

    AAP was thought of as an alternative to dirty politics. If they don’t deliver that essential, what’s the difference?

    • I totally agree. I’m willing to give the party time to figure out that balance between idealism and pragmatism. Partly, the expectations from a new outfit are unreal, so we must temper that. But also, the breach of faith will not be forgiven. So if AAP continues to pick unethical means to the end, they will be seen as ‘more of the same’, which means they will have to fight on a level playing field, not on the pedestal of idealism that propelled them to victory. I hope they realise what thin ice they are on. Interacting with them on the ground, Mono, I both admire their sincerity and abhor their sanctimonious attitude!

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