Nov 262002

Gladstone and French Revolution

Hi all:

I just attended a talk by JP (of Loksatta and FDRI) and want to share some thoughts.

As a mathematician it is tempting me to understand the structure of the world. That lets me find the weak spots and make structural rearrangements. It is a bit like designing a system — what fundamental principles you consider as a foundation.

JP has a physician approach to the world. There are several weaknesses in the society: health care, education, casteism, factionism, need I enumerate more? The natural tendency is to build a hospital, a school, take out a rally, have more police etc. They are, no doubt needed, but at best an anodyne.

But, JP sees these as symptoms to a disease in the body politic. In his view, four structural weaknesses make any advances ineffective, difficult, or plain frustrating. The way out are the four key areas to focus:

  1. Electoral reforms
  2. Decentralization of government
  3. Speedy judicial system
  4. Accountability of public offices.

And, he makes his case well. Drawing from his experience as a public servant, and his study of world democracies, he shows that these efforts can make fundamental shifts in the process of governance. Show him a problem and solution, and he can trace why the solution can only effective with these structural adjustments.

There are a few other salient points of his speech: That seeking to eliminate or reduce government is not the right approach for India — again it ties to the point about decentralization and accountability. Blaming people or politicians is not the answers. They are us; our brothers and sisters; people with same moral code as you and I. mon semblable, mon frère.

[As an aside, I am struck by his references to Gladstone and Disraeli. I myself am a student of French Revolution; I seek constant inspiration from it. When life does not make sense to me, I go back to French revolution!]

I have been following his north American visits for a time. When I first saw him (in 1997 or so in long island), there was passion and anger in his speech. I still hear passion; More over, I hear surety in his voice, purpose in his message, and optimism in his tone.

Yes, I find him more optimistic than he was before. It is perhaps because he could translate an abstract agenda to concrete steps and achieve visible results.

What are my personal impressions? I like to think that we can make some systemic changes that will have a far reaching effects. I like to believe we can align all the nature’s forces to solve the problems at hand.

And, a few years back, I did.

Now, I have grown more cautious in my optimism. Perhaps I am not a structuralist any more. [Perhaps, it is the French revolution that is talking!] I am not sure that these efforts will make the impact that I want to see. In my own experience, I came to see that there are several parallel efforts that are needed to make these kind of changes. Anodyne has its place; Nutrition has its place; Surgery has its place.

Again, it is just my prejudiced view — I have not studied the system as well as JP did; so I cannot justify my scepticism expect for the vague appeal to my experiences in running companies. But, the premise of Loksatta is sufficiently intriguing that I will study the system.

In the final analysis, I am moved by the passion, commitment, focus, thought, and deliberation of the movement. To me the success of the movement is not change in the status; the success is that it exists at all. In my book, it is already a miracle to take a movement that appeals to arm-chair mathematicians like me and get it to people.

Of course, I am reminded the following:

Reporter: What do you think of (the impact of) French Revolution?
Mao: Too soon to tell.

Rama Kanneganti

The original message is here.

 Posted by at 7:32 pm