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India and the Life Cycle of Democracy

15th August, 2009

The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith
from spiritual faith to great courage
from courage to liberty
from liberty to abundance
from abundance to selfishness
from selfishness to complacency
from complacency to apathy
from apathy to dependency
from dependency back to bondage.

— Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813)

Ah, the Life Cycle of a Democracy! Its funny, because nobody knows why one Alexander Fraser Tytler has been credited with this quote. It was one of those internet-spread things that just caught on. [Oh yes, you must know the full story at our very own Wikipedia]


This is pretty much what I wanted to talk about anyway, so I’ll continue from that unverified quote. Where do you think India, and its current 62 years of modern democracy, would fit in that cycle? Now over-generalizations like this don’t always work, but its good to have such insights anyway! So lets start –

1. From bondage to spiritual faith?

Actually, a lot started in India. Jainism, Buddhism and many other religions have some part of them borne out of the need to remove bondage and enslavement prevalent in those times. And I’m sure it had a major impact in the social climate of Ancient India!

But, in many ways, bondage still continues. Many Dalit and indigenous communities in India are enslaved through debt bondage, among other things [GVNET’s Human Trafficking site wraps up all such stories]. Many girls are forced into prostitution, many small kids are forced into working in beedi-factories. Spiritual faith? None.

2. From spiritual faith to great courage

Actually, I do believe India did something here. Mahatma Gandhi! Now no matter what you have to say, I do believe he was one person who had a helluva lot of courage to make a difference. Whatever drove him, faith, help, determination, he had the courage to stand up for his fellow people, and convinced many to join the freedom fight.

But do we have such characters in todays world? I used to think Barkha Dutt was one woman with courage written all over. Now shes just another commercial thing. There are many, though, standing up for their right. Just because they don’t make the news, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Democracy has bred that in us, to fight for our rights. To garner that courage for that great leap forward.

3. From courage to liberty

The Freedom Movement from the British was a great moment for India. Liberty, at last, from colonial institutions as was the case for India. The freedom to live a humane life, to see horizons where everyone could reach their potential. India was the land of dreams.

4. From liberty to abundance

Heh. Abundance of what? People, oh yes, you can’t beat us. Our population has only soared!

But if you’re talking about abundance of food, fuel, shelter, clothes and other such necessities, we obviously have a long way to go. India’s current per capita income is dismally low [India’s $2,762 is nothing compared to Qatar, highest, at $85,868]. It will take some time to reach there (well, maybe a few oil fields wouldn’t do any harm!)

5. From abundance to selfishness and beyond!

Selfishness as a result of abundance? haha!! Of course we’ll point fingers at the US for displaying such behaviour (AIG is my favourite scapegoat, and in this matter they play very well!).

So, we’re not selfish?

Am I, at the end of it all, trying to imply that we’re just not selfish? Oh no! It’s just a reminder, on our 62th birthday, that our nation still carries baggage even after having climbed many more steps.

We may have progressed in many aspects. We may have a spacecraft rotating around the Moon, we may have built our first nuclear-powered submarine. But we cant simply claim we’re have an abundance of the basic necessities of life. Poverty still prevails all around.

But, like I’ve said before, our great GDP run is probably one of the biggest poverty-alleviation programs in the world!

Lets recount this, and rejoice this, on our 63rd Independence Day!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. 16th August, 2009 1:52 AM

    A very good read indeed!

  2. 28th August, 2009 12:58 PM

    Liberty is a damn good concept, when it’s not controlled by the pseudo-socialist state.

    • kranium256 permalink*
      28th August, 2009 2:24 PM

      umm .. then who should control it? or should personal and public liberties be left to run wild?

      dont we elect (and represent) the government to do just that?

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