THE BLOG

Why India Is In Desperate Need Of A Bernie Sanders

02/08/2016 11:38 AM IST | Updated 02/08/2016 3:24 PM IST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter

While I write this, the democratic national convention held in Philadelphia has officially declared Hillary Clinton as the democratic candidate for the presidential elections in November. We also know that in spite of an unprecedented churning witnessed during the campaign for winning the delegates on his side, Bernard (Bernie) Sanders has not been able to win the democratic nomination. The big corporations, big banks and the ones who control the levers of the American arms and ammunition lobby, as well as the captains of the Wall Street, must have indeed heaved a big sigh of relief after months of anxiety on account of the wave that Bernie was creating in major parts of America where the working populace only manages to eke out a meagre living; where the "people of colour" are still made to feel the vestiges of white supremacist thinking; where the middle classes are forced to fall in the honey trap of big banks; and where immigrants hit a glass ceiling in spite of the promise of a liberal and accommodating America.

Bernie made America dream of the possibility of an egalitarian society.

In a context where economic and social inequality is rife, Bernie made America dream of the possibility of an egalitarian society. Bernie's dialogue with thousands of citizens across the width of the country made them aware that in all these years they had merely been reduced to being human robots, whose vocation was to consume both ideas and products that largely travelled down from above.

In the beginning of his campaign, he recounted that living in the richest country in the history of the world was only a sham because in reality this wealth was controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. And therefore a situation where the top 0.1% of Americans own as much as the bottom 90% could not remain a jigsaw puzzle under the predictable scrutiny of the economists whose very locus standii was being controlled by the same tiny percent of the haves.

Going further, he passionately appealed to Americans that this unimaginable wealth and income inequality needed to be contested not only as a political or economic concern, but -- more importantly -- as a moral imperative. Bernie went on to exhort the American people to share what they already knew: in order to live up to Abraham Lincoln's idea of democracy, they needed to guard the system against the unbelievable influence of big money and even bigger corporations. According to him, a vibrant democracy could not afford to watch the gradual rigging of its electoral process, resulting in almost predictable outcomes in the name of peoples' choice.

Bernie's progressive campaign included a focus on decent paying jobs, improvement in working conditions, fighting racial justice, a humane immigration policy, and strengthening and expanding social security, to name just a few. While he changed the way corporation-funded campaigns were used to create a spectacle in US elections, it was for the first time in recent decades that a White, male, old-time politician generated so much curiosity and interest in America among very diverse constituencies. The passion and commitment with which he highlighted the issues which affect an average American household across colour, class and sexual preference were as unprecedented as the issues themselves.

Sadly, in all likelihood, the same big money which he called a nuisance for American democracy has ensured that Bernie Sanders does not march ahead as the democratic claimant to the White House. Even as he departs from the scene, he has left certain vital ideas for democracies everywhere, including India. It is certain that if the points and concerns highlighted by him are released on the Indian streets, even without knowing that there is someone called Bernie Sanders, ordinary Indians shall not fail to be impacted by the resonance of his ideas. Needless to say that some of the images of the general and state elections in India in recent times have conveyed the same horrifying message -- that our democracy is rapidly moving into the custody of big money. This is a proposition which is much more horrifying than what America experiences, in view of the increasing evidence of absolute poverty and unparalleled level of structural inequality that India confronts.

The perpetuation of ideas like brand-making and brand-building and the "leader as a brand" in public memory is the unsavoury creation of a neo-liberal conglomeration of economics and politics which aspires to create an establishment which is only accountable to the market and not to the populace. Contrary to the widespread fear amongst the workforce, it wants the much-desired labour reforms to be perceived as being in the best interests of the state and the society. It wants the state to adhere to a premeditated location and operate within a limited sphere of influence, as far as the macroeconomic interventions and initiatives are concerned.

Suffice it to say that "growth story" is indeed a euphemism chosen to hide the larger reality which could have exposed the crude images of the marginalization of three-fourth of the population. The role of the media is as questionable as the issues that it chooses to obliterate. The well-designed blackout by the corporate-controlled media of that evidence and images that can disturb the conscience of the nation are no longer a secret. Questions and answers by devious anchors of news channels are carefully crafted in such a manner that the nation gets to know only what the medium desires the viewer-citizens to know.

Bernie Sanders [says] "Washington is dominated by big money." If one were to just replace Washington with Delhi, the canvas would largely remain unchanged.

Mainstream political parties tout growth and development almost in chorus, without ever bothering to unpack what they de facto contain for the people and communities on the lower rungs and on the margins. Even for the sake of rituals, they do not scrutinise what this growth really means to the peasants and labourers in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Bundelkhand! They do not even begin to fathom how this growth story has impacted the lives of the workers who find themselves placed within constricted spaces of negotiation under the MGNREGA. They do not enlighten as to how someone like Rohith Vemula can manage to cope with a brazenly discriminatory and omnipresent institutional mechanism or how the countless people at the bottom fail to align with this growth phenomenon when they find virtually no access to health, education, and employment.

If only we had our own homegrown Bernie Sanders! Not only for the millions of the subaltern for whom he could be an uncontested messiah, but even for the fictitious middle class in India -- they too need a Bernie Sanders to reveal to them the deep wounds inflicted by the fairy-tale neoliberal boom story. Which political party or media house has asked as to what happened to the Right to Food legislation?

Concerns such as these are not raised because neoliberal politics has an extraordinary capacity to produce the deafening consensus of silence across the political spectrum. However, if in the holiest of sanctuaries of neo-liberal economy and politics, Bernie Sanders, by his sheer grit, imagination and commitment to the ordinary Americans could show a full-size mirror to the big money and the big corporation to demonstrate that their success story is only at the cost of fundamental values cherished by the founding fathers, then one can only speculate about the sheer impact that the power of his ideas could create in a context like ours, where hope is rapidly dwindling.

The colossal absence of a resisting force in the form of a Bernie Sanders has led to the creation of a few islands of prosperity developed by the corporate giants, and these are sold to the people of this country as precursors to India's success story. These perpetuate as they remain largely uncontested. Listening carefully to the issues raised by Bernie, we find that much like the US, even in India important socio-economic concerns of the majority population are being pushed to the darkest corners of private spheres, far away from public consideration. Barring a few individuals who are openly and humiliatingly referred to as cynics, and a few civil society organizations, which are invariably dubbed as anti-development aka anti-national, political parties often choose not to speak up, and the media unsurprisingly follows the same route. The reasons are not very different from what Bernie Sanders diagnosed for America, and that is that "Washington is dominated by big money". If one were to just replace Washington with Delhi, the canvas would largely remain unchanged.

Such is the modus operandi of the neoliberal economy and politics that we have been made oblivious of the fact that politics essentially means to question the manner in which resources are allocated and to intervene and explicate that less than 10% of the people at the top shall not decide what the priorities of the bottom 90% percent shall be. This is essentially why, in these troubled times, we desperately need our own Bernie Sanders who would let people reckon that when politicians are navigated by big money and big corporate houses, democracy merely becomes a shield for Gaetano Mosca's "predictable circulation of familiar elites."

While I write this, the democratic national convention held in Philadelphia has officially declared Hillary Clinton as the democratic presidential candidate for the presidential elections in November. We also know that in spite of an unprecedented churning witnessed during the campaign for winning the delegates on his side, Bernard (Bernie) Sanders has not been able to win the democratic nomination. The big corporations, big banks and the ones who control the levers of the American arms and ammunition lobby as well as the captains of the Wall Street shall have indeed taken a big sigh of relief after months of anxiety on account of the wave that Bernie was creating in major parts of America where the working populace only manages to eke out a meagre living; where the 'people of colour' are still made to feel the vestiges of white supremacist thinking; where the middle classes are forced to fall in the honey trap of big banks; and where immigrants accost a glass ceiling in spite of the promise of a liberal and accommodative America.

Bernie made America dream of the possibility of an egalitarian society.

In a context where economic and social inequality is tending to overpower, Bernie made America dream of the possibility of an egalitarian society. Bernie's dialogue with thousands of citizens across the width of the country made them aware that in all these years they had merely been reduced to being human robots, whose vocation was to consume, both ideas and product, which largely travelled down from above.

In the beginning of his campaign, he recounted that living in the richest country in the history of the world was only a sham because in reality this wealth was controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. And therefore a situation where the top ten percent of Americans owned much more than what the bottom ninety per cent possess could not remain a jigsaw puzzle under the predictable scrutiny of the economists whose very locus standii was being controlled by the same ten percent of the haves.

Going further, he passionately appealed to the inscrutable Americans that this unimaginable wealth and income inequality needed to be contested not only as a political or economic concern but more importantly as a moral imperative. Bernie went on to exhort the American people to share what they already knew, and that was - in order to live up to Abraham Lincoln's idea of democracy, they needed to guard the system against the unbelievable influence of 'big' money and even 'bigger' corporations. According to him, a vibrant democracy could not afford to watch the gradual rigging of its electoral process, resulting in almost predictable outcomes in the name of peoples' choice.

Bernie's progressive campaign included - decent paying jobs, improvement in working conditions, fighting racial justice, a humane immigration policy, and strengthening and expanding social security, to name just a few. While he changed the way corporation funded campaigns were used to create a spectacle in US elections, it was for the first time in recent decades an American white, male, old-time politician generated so much curiosity and interest among very diverse constituencies. The passion and commitment with which he highlighted the issues which affect an average American household across colour, class and sexual preference were as unprecedented as the issues themselves.

Sad it is therefore that in all likelihood, the same big money which he called a nuisance for American democracy has ensured that Bernie Sanders does not march ahead as the democratic claimant to the White House. Even as he departs from the scene, he has left certain vital ideas for democracies everywhere, including India. It is certain that if the points and concerns highlighted by him are released on the Indian streets, even without knowing that there is someone called Bernie Sanders, ordinary Indians shall not fail to be impacted by the resonance of his ideas. Needless to say that some of the images of the general and state elections in India in recent times have conveyed the same horrifying message - that our democracy is rapidly moving into the custody of big money. This is a proposition which is much more horrifying than what America experiences, in view of the increasing evidence of absolute poverty and unparalleled level of structural inequality that India confronts.

The perpetuation of ideas like brand making and brand building and the leader as a brand in public memory is the unsavoury creation of a neo-liberal conglomeration of economics and politics which aspires to create an establishment which is only accountable to the market and not to the populace. Contrary to the widespread fear amongst the workforce, it wants the much-desired labour reforms to be perceived as being in the best interests of the state and the society. It wants the state to adhere to a premeditated location and operate within a limited sphere of influence, as far as the macroeconomic interventions and initiatives are concerned.

Suffice it to say that the mystique of the well-guarded growth story is indeed a euphemism chosen to hide the larger reality which could have exposed the crude images of the marginalisation of three-fourth of the population. The role of the media is as questionable as the issues that it chooses to obliterate. The well-designed black out by the corporate controlled media of that evidence and images which can disturb the conscience of the nation are no longer a hidden affair. Questions and answers by devious anchors of news channels are carefully crafted in such a manner that the nation gets to know only what the medium desires the viewer-citizens to know.

If one were to just replace Washington with Delhi, the canvas would largely remain unchanged.

Mainstream political parties tout growth and development almost in chorus, without ever bothering to unpack what they de facto contain for the people and communities on the lower rungs and on the margins. Even for the sake of rituals, they do not scrutinise what this growth really means to the peasants and labourers in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Bundelkhand! They do not even begin to fathom how this growth story has impacted the lives of the workers who find themselves placed within constricted spaces of negotiation under the MGNREGA. They do not enlighten as to how someone like Rohit Vemula can manage to cope with a brazenly discriminatory and omnipresent institutional mechanism or how the countless people at the bottom fail to align with this growth phenomenon when they find virtually no access to health, education, and employment.

Alas, if we had our own homegrown Bernie Sanders! Not only for the millions of the subaltern, for whom he could be an uncontested messiah, even the fictitious middle class in India needs a Bernie Sanders to reveal to it the deep wounds inflicted by the fairy-tale neoliberal boom story. Which political party or media house has asked as to what happened to the Right to Food legislation?

Concerns such as these are not raised because neoliberal politics has an extraordinary capacity to produce the deafening consensus of silence across the political spectrum. However, if in the holiest of sanctuaries of neo-liberal economy and politics, Bernie Sanders, by his sheer grit, imagination and commitment to the ordinary Americans could show a full-size mirror to the big money and the big corporation to demonstrate that their success story is only at the cost of fundamental values cherished by the founding fathers, then one can only speculate about the sheer impact that the power of his ideas could create in a context like ours, where hope is rapidly dwindling.

The colossal absence of a resisting force in the form of a Bernie Sanders has led to the creation of a few islands of prosperity developed by the corporate giants, and these are sold to the people of this country as precursors to India's success story. These perpetuate as they remain largely uncontested. Listening carefully to the issues raised by Bernie, we find that much like the US, even in India important socio-economic concerns of the majority population are being pushed to the darkest corners of private spheres, far away from public consideration. Barring a few individuals who are openly and humiliatingly referred to as cynics, and a few civil society organisations, which are invariably dubbed as anti-development aka anti-national, political parties often choose not to speak up, and the media unsurprisingly follows the same route. The reasons are not very different from what Bernie Sanders diagnosed for America, and that is that 'Washington is dominated by big money'. If one were to just replace Washington with Delhi, the canvas would largely remain unchanged.

Such is the modus operandi of the neoliberal economy and politics that we have been made oblivious of the fact that politics essentially means to question the manner in which resources are allocated and to intervene and explicate that less than ten percent of the people at the top shall not decide what the priorities of the bottom ninety percent shall be. This is essentially why it is imperative, that placed as we are in our troubled times, we desperately need our own Bernie Sanders who would let people reckon that when politicians are navigated by big money and big corporate houses, democracy merely becomes a shield for Gaetano Mosca's 'predictable circulation of familiar elites.'

9 Prominent Indian-Americans In Silicon Valley

More On This Topic