The exchange game – OPINION

Perhaps we have to start looking at ourselves a bit differently as a nation and a society. As any therapist will tell you, it helps a lot when you lose your delusions about yourself, see yourself in a different light, and start to register and process how other people see you. It’s only when you recognise your own problems and patterns that you can start to address them, to move away a bit from the internal distress those tics and traits, that repetitive behaviour, can cause. There is, of course, no ‘complete cure’ for one’s neuroses but there can at least be an attenuation, the reaching of a place from where you can manage and contain the problems.

The economy of power

In this regard, I keep remembering something a friend pointed out many years ago. Though armed with a cosmopolitan education and a fully internationalised mind, this friend comes from a solidly rural, agricultural area and one day he asked me a simple question: “Why does everybody have a problem with corruption?”

A slightly shocked laugh escaped me. “What? What do you mean? Corruption is bad. It rots our systems. It unfairly props up the rich and powerful. It forces the poor to stay poor, uneducated and subservient.”

My friend was unmoved by this series of banalities. “No, I mean why do we even call it corruption? In the village, you trade and barter lots of things outside the official money economy and this thing, what we call corruption, is just our politicians and officials enacting our core nature, which is to trade whatever you have for maximum advantage. So, if you’re in a position of power, it’s completely natural that you will trade that power for some profit. This is who Indians are. It’s in your nature, whether you’re a village havaldar , a district collector, a judge in chhota court or big court, Chief Minister or Prime Minister. Other societies like tennis or badminton, we’re addicted to the thrill of the exchange game.”

As I spluttered, my friend carried on….

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