“Nothing is what it seems!” – Walter Burke (Al Pacino), The Recruit
In the mediocre-at-best spook movie ‘The Recruit’, CIA chief trainer Water Burke (Al Pacino) kept reminding his new recruits that in the CIA, “Nothing is what it seems!” In other words, everything is an eyewash, what you see and what you have been told is not how it works in reality, what you are seeing is just a facade and the truth and reality are behind the curtain.
It is increasingly becoming clear that the state of affairs in India is something like the CIA as Burke describes it: “Nothing is what it seems”. With a scam or scandal story breaking almost daily, the emperor that is the stark reality of how things in India really work stands naked for everyone to see. Everywhere there is a perversion of justice, a subversion of truth and honesty, ideologies and principles shift-deleted without second thought. We have been living in a ‘Matrix’ of our own, a curtain pulled over our eyes, as the the forces of corruption and favouritism were reshaping our society and the way we live, where deserving people are pushed to the bottom while unscrupulous elements make hay treading on their heads and tears.
The clerk in the government office might never even have written the PSC test. The obnoxious journalists who keep on haranguing and screaming about ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness’ on TV channels claiming to be the watchdogs of the democracy might be colluding with power brokers to decide who in their best interests should rule us. The lottery company would’ve never even heard of that ticket you purchased. Cops might be aiding the same thieves they are supposed to protect you from. Coffins and apartments meant for dead soldiers and their kin might be stolen by our Army officials themselves. Our soldiers might be selling their weapons to criminals for profit. Public institutions you thought were pillars of trust might be sacntioning dirty loans on basis of kickbacks. The people we entrusted with to host international events might be swindling the nation bringing shame. And of course, the entire ruling class just swindled India of $39 billion in the name of priving telecom services. (Look at it this way: You can get 111 Airbus A380 Super Jumbos with that money)
Why doesn’t anyone see that it is not what it seems? We don’t know and don’t care. Spoon-fed and brainwashed with Bollywood movies, hollow political speeches, religious pseudo-morality and hypocrisy, we have inculcated a belief in ourselves that in India somehow everything works (Sab chalta hai). We are taught to imbibe an internal feeling of contemplacy that even though the system is screwed up, it will take care of itself and us, and all the crises happen ‘out there’, somewhere far away, to someone else and will not affect us or will never happen to us. In anycase if there is an imbalance somewhere, there will be a counter force somewhere else that rectifies it. Yes, even though the emperor was naked, we were made to believe that he is fully clothed.
While we were lying dormant in our contemplacy, the same forces that made us that way were hard at work on the other side to twist everything for their larger gain, fully aware that nobody would see how it really was, that we would believe that everything is infact as it seems. Yes, it is not happening to someone else, somewhere else, it is affecting the lives of each and every one of us. Scams that usually stopped at ministers, high bureaucrats and corporate giants has now permeated to even the lowest sections of everyday society.
Today, we stand with our eyes opened, woken from our slumber, realization hitting us hard that it all never ever was, like the little kid who one day suddenly learns that Santa Claus never really existed. Nothing ever was as it seems. All emperors are and always were naked. No one entrusted in building the nation – the ruling class, the bureaucrats, the executive, the judiciary or even the media – was doing it. All the disclaimers, all the speeches and announcements, all the plans and procedures were all a lie, a scam, grand schemes to fill someone’s pockets. Every scheme, plan, law and rule opens a path for its creators and enforcers to fill their bank accounts.
India is ranked 87 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. I can hear some people saying? “Hah. We are ahead of Pakistan and all the African countries, Russia, China and Eastern Europe are equally corrupt!” Agree. But when we talk about the economy, we talk about getting ahead of China, Japan and the USA. In matters of corruption, we find solace in the fact that we are ahead of Africa! Yes, pulling the curtain over our faces. We have been taught not to accept anything negative about India under any circumstances. Hence, even if reality tell us so and we know it, we turn a blind eye towards it, while the very people who have led us to believe that are basking in their own glory. Also, now with Wikileaks it seems that nothing is what it seems in the world. But they have atlewast got roads which don’t dissolve in the first rain. And we can decide who will loot us.
The rot runs very deep – it runs in our minds. We are corrupt by culture. We have accepted that, and it is not going to change any soon, till we get a Lincoln or a Roosevelt or a new age Emperor Asoka. What will help us till then is accepting the reality of where we stand, and what goes on around us. That Nothing is what it seems.
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