Angry Young Country

While the world and capital markets lament the slowing growth of China, it is easy to forget that – in the last 37 years – maybe from 1979-80 or so – China grew consistently at a rate of growth that got jobs for a significant proportion of their young labour force and pulled many families out of abject poverty. China is still not a developed country – and one can argue about the freedom of expression and all that. But one can’t argue with the fact that when you have well over a billion people, it is inevitable, and there may still be a lot to do. Nevertheless, the quality of life of their people has vastly changed.

The reasons for this transformation have been largely political and economic, driven by the large desire for a better life by the people themselves.

It has been the world’s hope that India is moving in that direction. The basis for that has been that the youth of this country – whether urban or rural, whether north or south Indian, whether Hindu, Muslim or whatever – is desperate for a better life. The hypothesis being that they no longer tolerate corrupt, slow movement, and that they have a desire for accountability. The youth of this country was apparently angry. This was a ‘angry young country’ that threw out a non-performing government lock, stock and barrel in 2014, and brought in place a leader whom they thought will deliver the goods.

What a waste that this ‘angry young country’ is now getting angry about none of those things like development, governance, inflation, jobs, corruption, and losing their head over useless things like caste, religion, intolerance, secularism, freedom of expression and nationalism!

With a desperate opposition, whose salaries and careers more or less depend on the youth thinking of themselves not as Indian, but as Yadav or a Muslim or a Dalit or a whatever, and even the party in government reminding them that they are nationalist Hindus or whatever, we seem to have lost our ability to get angry on the things that matter.

Why, of all things, should a youth get angry about secularism vs. nationalism and all these things? Wouldn’t it be better for the youngster to get angry with these political leaders if he is not a getting a decent job beyond agriculture to make a decent living?

Why, of all things, should a youth get angry about who their V-C or Dean is, and whether or not the flag is hoisted in his campus? Wouldn’t it be better if he asks these Deans and the ones who appoint them how he can start a company for his idea easily and get financed for it?

Why, of all things, should a youth get angry about issues like caste oppression and cuddle up to opposition leaders on campus? Wouldn’t it be better for him to tell those leaders to spend more time in parliament to get things done rather than on campus?

Why, of all things, should a youth get angry if the government doesn’t given him reservation? Wouldn’t it be better for him to ask the government where are the roads, power and railway stations that were promised in the name of development?

Why, of all things, should a youth get angry about this intolerance and cultural stuff? Wouldn’t it better if he gets a bit intolerant of the performance of the government and the opposition benches in parliament?

It is amusing, to say the best, and frustrating, to say the worst, to note that this ‘angry young country’ is getting angry for all these useless things leading to noise.

It is happening because it is easy to provoke – both for the opposition and the government. Politicians around the world are the same – they want only votes. If they can get the votes and get to power, and get away with doing nothing, they would be happy.

Some want to get votes in the name of caste, religion, secularism and tolerance; some want to grab votes in the name of nationalism, hindutva and development. Some others want them in the name of socialism and ideology. Eventually these are all good to provoke for votes and easy to escape from when in power. And the media is a happy partner in that – they get paid when there is noise – the more the better, whatever the issue.

What is tougher to be accountable for is real performance that matters.

If this angry young country starts getting angry with the political class – both with the government and the opposition and all others and at all levels – on the things that really matter and that they can’t escape from, by asking them both what they have done on those counts relentlessly, without these distractions – we have some hope of seeing transformation in this country over the next generation.

Else we keep doing this secular, intolerance, nationalist ideological nonsense. We keep getting angry over the wrong things and keep staying happy over the right things. And that would be quite a wasted opportunity.

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