By now it seems pretty clear to all of us, no matter which part of the world we are in, that capitalism is not the answer.
Capitalism, on the contrary, has been the huge contributory factor leading to mass destruction of the environment, climate change, the impoverishment of populations, the extinction of a simpler way of life and values, the emptying of countryside with the mass exodus into towns and cities, the mushrooming of slums and shantytowns, sweatshops and social inequality.
And over the years, I am also coming to realise that Democracy has not been a panacea, a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems of people everywhere. Even in the so-called ‘seats’ of democracy (the British Isles, the United States of America, Canada, European countries, Australia, New Zealand) one notices these inbuilt ‘flaws’ in the system:
1. From my experience in campaigning for Bismarque Dias in the last election, I realised one thing: It takes money to run an election. Large sums of it. And I don’t even mean the ‘bribes for votes’ ploy (although it can push unscrupulous rivals far ahead in the ‘game’ of politics). An election requires publicity, door-to-door campaigning, covering vast stretches of road by vehicle, so petrol costs. it all adds up. A candidate who doesn’t do this pulling out all the stops may well lose, even though s/he may be far more honest, upright, capable than the competition. So if you don’t have a steady flow of cash to bankroll your election campaign, you stand a high chance of losing.
2. The corollary to this is that you will need sponsors. And the people with Big Bucks are Big Business.In Goa, this is mining, casinos, real estate, hotel chains, a lot of whom have gotten rich in the first place by flouting the law. In other parts of India and the world, the Big Businesses might be oil companies, coal, steel, industries, tobacco, whatever, and they too probably made their bucks from flouting the law. So if they bankroll a candidate, altruism is the furthest from their minds. They will want their pound of flesh once you’ve been elected.
I draw your attention to this article in the local press recently. You can draw your own conclusions from it as well. Not bad, eh, being an equal-opportunity ‘donor’? Any which way the wind blows, you’ll still come up trumps.
3. This means that candidates who can assure that a party’s coffers will be filled the most are more likely to get a ticket. Suitability and integrity be damned. This is how convicted criminals are given tickets by both national (and local) parties in India in election after election, and why no action is taken against them by a police force and judiciary that has no teeth, or can easily be bribed.
It also means that ‘donors’ can then expect to be granted ‘favours’ in exchange once a candidate is installed in office, and to flout the law and the Constitution in an ever-downward spiral.
4. Lastly, and perhaps as a further corollary to this rotten eco-system just described, the power to amend the law for the better and for the great good of the electorate is in the hands of the very people who will get in the neck once the amendments are in place. How can there be tough laws and a fast-track path of justice dealing with violence against women for example, if so many elected members of state assemblies and Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, will end up behind bars or worse if this happens?
Democracy seems to be in a stalemate for all these above reasons. We seem condemned to ping-pong between one or the other major political party and nothing much really changes on the ground. It might not be so bad in more ‘mature’ democracies, but variants of this (the nexus between politicians and big money, the use of power to muzzle and intimidate the press, the police, the process of law, &/or the use of money to bribe, to achieve the same results; the destruction of the environment to line the pockets of a corrupt few) seem to happen here too.
So what is the alternative? To Capitalism? To Democracy? Damned if I knew the answer. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep searching in our minds and through interactive discussion, to find these answers. Our evolution, our very survival and the survival of our planet is at stake.