Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The Pied Piper Effect: Satyameva Jayate, Amir Khan, Anna Hazare etc
Sometimes I wonder who the rats were in the Pied Piper story. Maybe it was a metaphor for the stupid people who drowned by following another stupid person.
My fundamental problem with these activist types is that they preach moral and ethical uprightness with no associated economic incentives. On the contrary an average citizen has a lot of incentives (economic and otherwise) to behave in a corrupt and unethical fashion. My strong belief is that any activism that attempts to create ethical awareness without an associated economic incentive will simply not work. The world has moved to a point where this is simply not feasible.
What Amirgan and Anna are doing is improving their own brand value without any real use to society. The average citizen is schizophrenic. He will not do anything that is impractical for his life. But at the same time he claims to profess support for the values that Anna and Amir Khan preach. The average citizen's zeal for ethical behavior extends to meaningless and low-stake things like refusing to pay traffic police bribes or at best refusing to fudge house prices to reduce registration tax (the latter scenario is very rare). This is the average citizen's level of commitment to ethics. If you raise the stakes to a much higher level you will find that almost every single of these 'average citizen' will resort to corruption. The most vocal Anna Hazare supporter and all people who self-righteously boil over against corruption will resort to corruption if the stakes are high enough. Its just that they have poor self-awareness of this possibility.
Anna Hazare and Amir Khan are very similar beasts working for opposite teams. The strategies of both of them to find a place in people's hearts as champions of ethical behavior and social service saints. They start by pretending that they have no political affiliations. This is probably an effort to earn the trust of people. Then all they need to do is point the people to an easily identifiable political party. Identify that political party as the source of all evil. and people will not vote for that party. Anna Hazare was a little bit more open about his political affiliations and the uselessness of his campaign. A bland 'be good, do good,' type of ethical idealogy and a silly Gandhian posturing was unsustainable from the start. It was clear that he was a stealth political campaign to undermine the incumbent government.
Amir Khan is slightly more subtle play by the incumbent government to undermine the opposition. His campaign is equally meaningless because he picks issues which have a clear black and white ethical structure,. On top of it he dumbs it down and then makes a melodrama out of it. All elements of marketing to female and elderly audience is found in his show. This is enough to bring in the whole family. Most issues are plain obvious and there is no subtlety whatsoever in his debates. No gray areas that can whip up a good debate. All his topics already have been addressed in a 15 minute black and white Films Division episode on it. Satyameva Jayate is different because Amir Khan is present and the modern yuppie has been told that its 'cool' to be an activist ("If Egyptians are cool, why shouldn't Indians be cool"). Its a marketing campaign. I suspect the first phase will market his brand and the second one will market the incumbent government.
Question is : when will the incumbent government plan for this TV show to air an episode where they talk about Gujarat riots? When will they bring in the victims and ask them to narrate the gruesome story. In effect that would be the Narendra Modi + BJP dismantling episode. I suspect it would be closer to the Lok Sabha elections. But it may come sooner as well.