Reporter's Notebook: When Anger Unites Us All

What Gives?

Anger, not hope unites people - anger against the rich, anger against rising taxes and falling incomes

Written By Chitra Subramaniam | Mumbai | Updated On:

Tragedy. How I wish headline writers and others in the media would stop slamming. Protestors ‘slam’ politicians, parents ‘slam’ school, India ‘slams’ Pakistan. The last, by far, is my favourite. Every time India makes a speech at the United Nations (UN) criticising Pakistan, the slamming headlines go on a running race in India. Every time India responds to the UN rights agency in Geneva, we start slamming back home. Here’s a little secret. I’ve covered the UN in Geneva for over a decade, especially the Human Rights meet and it’s annual session when the line of control temporary shifts to Geneva. Whatever Pakistan does, we try and do better. If they have a birthday party, we organise a wedding. If they sing, we dance, if they hire Mercedes cars, we bring in BMWs.

Entire careers – diplomatic and journalistic – have been made slamming Pakistan, if not in Geneva then at the UN headquarters in New York.  We do this while repeating all through that India will not allow Pakistan to internationalise the Kashmir issue. That has happened and to be brutally honest, the comity of nations does not really care about how India and Pakistan solve their issues. Yes, a statement from Washington sends us into paroxysms of joy, but it stops there. The enemy we face at our border is a very dangerous one – an enemy that finds favour within India. A slamming speech is not going to do the job when it hasn’t for over half a century. 

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Housing of another type is what lawmakers in India will be making a temporary scramble for over the next 48 hours as assembly election results start coming in. Last resort is resort politics. What’s the synonym resort as used in Indian politics? Desperation. No, it must be money and promise of an important portfolio, the common voter can go to hell. Anger will unite the losers and winners who for years now have stood naked in from of the entire country. The last time the country witnessed the ugliness of political greed was when assembly elections in Karnataka were held. Bus-loads of lawmakers were trundling around from hotel to hotel in the hope of landing on both feet wherever they were dumped. The rate card for this round of elections is out. The un-decided are hoping to laugh all the say out of their resort and into a bank. 

Resort is the new rescue in political lingo. As for language, our politicians shame us. No, Indians do not speak such ugly tongues and no, India has not become more violent in recent years. The very fact that so many voices tagging at India’s social fabric are being heard from across the country – some right, others provoked – is reason to understand that ours has always been a very violent country in a very violent neighbourhood. Ours has always been a violent country in a violent neighbourhood. What has changed is growing levels of education and ambition of common folk that politicians have failed to understand. Failure at the top to grasp the anger at the bottom means sitting on a time bomb, a tragedy.

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Paris is in flames. It’s not May 1968 but December 2018. Different generations, multiple colours, myriad reasons. There’s no Dany le Rouge (Dany Cohn – Bendit, the French-German student leader who united the 1968 protests) to channel the outrage this time around, nor any leaders who make sense. Anger, raw anger has united people against the proposed fuel tax that the French President has changed his mind over suggesting that he can be pushed around by angry mobs. The French government could not find a person with whom they could negotiate a settlement. 

Anger, not hope unites people - anger against the rich anger against rising taxes and falling incomes.  What started as a non-political movement called Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) got submerged in general unhappiness with a government that came in some 18 months ago promising the sky and root and branch reforms that would help the middle and lower middle-class voters? President Emmanuel Macron is now seen as distant and arrogant, completely unconnected with les peuple. Sounds familiar. Makkal in Tamil, aam admi in Hindi – politicians are the same everywhere.

Part of the anger makes sense – large parts of France has no decent public transport system to call their own and a few cents more for gas means fewer things one can afford. One protestor said he thought there was a leak in his gas tank as it never seemed to fill up. The fuel tax stands cancelled for 2019 after three weeks of protests – some say Paris has not seen this type of violence for over half a century. 

Violence is the new vector. Politicians resort to vituperative and vile language at the drop of a hat. Hate groups find their gripe echoed and amplified. Then, enter the “professional” protestors or hire a hit mob. The rest was there to see on the streets of Paris. In case you missed it, the originator of “fake noose” across the pond sees joy in French-speaking in French about what a wonderful man he is.  He actually tweets about it.  The historic Paris Climate Agreement (tax on fuel is based in it) must be a wicked trick of Eskimos looking for housing.  

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Sense. That’s it. How does one make sense of nonsense? No important discourse is possible without filthy words flying around. Fist fights in a television studio in India – when was the last time we saw that? When was the last time we heard a decent conversation that did not break the sound barriers. If leaders do not know how to lose – and must be locked away for fear of some escaping – what kind of winning formulae will they present to the country when they spend their entire days spying over each other. Much mirth and mayhem over the next few days as government formations imitate snakes and ladders. Shame.

...What Gives?

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