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the train and civil society analogy

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The train and civil society –an analogy

In a slightly lighter frame of mind, let me put down an analogy of civil society’s possible available methods to bring about change; and will try not to put down too many value judgments or pretend that this posting is of great academic and philosophical importance.This also comes from some frustrations ,seeing how some civil societies tussle for space.
In many, many areas of our governance, areas of civic service deliveries, infrastructure development, social initiatives etc, the situation is similar to a train that has already left the station. Our democracy and governance structures have really not reached the maturity where it is really a bottom up approach.
And therefore we get into situations many times, where the train has already left.
Now we can do many things and each with its own merits and consequences, both intended and unintended.
Some of them could be:
a)      We can stay at the station and question why the train has left and demand the train come back, and pick us up. If the protest is loud enough, maybe it would come back, but then a lot of passengers already onboard would be quite angry.
b)      We could go running to the next station, get on board and then try to ensure that it goes in the right direction .But if you don’t know how to drive the train, then it could go to all unintended places, and you could be crowding an already full train. And it is quite fair for someone to ask whether you have a valid license to get onto the train.
c)      We could go further down the track, blow up tracks and force the train to stop. After that we have the option whether to repair the tracks ourselves and get on the train, or be happy that the train has been stopped.
Each, whether we like it or not, are different ideologies. Maybe it’s a combination that works Maybe it is that different trains need different approaches. And maybe it’s just that we need to be at the station on time, and maybe that the train authorities need to publish the schedule well in time.
But just maybe, all the 3 players, while agreeing that there is something wrong with the train, spend their time and resources to discuss which approach is best, while the train merrily keeps going anyway.   


Naveen's picture

Do we know our final destination ?

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All the 3 players, while agreeing that there is something wrong with the train, spend their time and resources to discuss which approach is best, while the train merrily keeps going anyway

Most of us do not even agree that something is wrong with our "train", & even if we did, we never agree on how to fix it & keep arguing endlessly!

As citizens, we "drive" the nation train, based purely on our immediate "destinations" rather than well thought out, collective long-term goals in the absence of a good "driver" (ie. absence of good leadership).

The testimony to this is .....

Populistic measures are being resorted to time & again by parties (even if they violate the laws of the land) - this is grossly incorrect, & the more realistic, harder but more sensible options are never chosen. No party will ever come to terms with tougher, but correct choices since all the other parties will "score" better by protesting against such moves.

So, we as "passengers" are actually "driving" the train indirectly, though we do not know how to drive & it appears that we will never have a good driver, since even if we did, we will turn him away for someone who will drive the way we want!

Ravi_D's picture

Trains, Drivers and the Show

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 So, we as "passengers" are actually "driving" the train indirectly, though we do not know how to drive...

and a majority of the time, not even realizing that we are driving it! 

Democracy, when the constituency is not mature enough to realize that they are indeed driving the train, and not realizing the responsibilities this driving entails only lead to one destination. Destination is the train in itself, a train that spends all its energy moving in circles, while all the 'drivers' pay thru' their nose for the tiring ride that takes them nowhere. Guys who run this train 'show' continue to enrich themselves, convincing everyone how nice the next ride would be if they were given another chance to run the 'show'.

nl.srinivas's picture

Bottom up

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Democracy works fine only when the common man is fully aware of his rights and duties. Invariably it is a bottom up approach. But we think that our elected netas will take care of us as the kings did. We don't seem to have come out of our of the raja-praja mentality. Just see the number of families that run the govt (either in states or at the centre). We expect everything to come from the top and think that there is not need to "interfere" in state affairs. May be we are not mature enough to be a democracy. Or the netas in whom we reposed trust have taken us for a royal ride.



silkboard's picture

srinivas - that was well put

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There are a few categories

  1. Srinivas said - "We don't seem to have come out of our of the raja-praja mentality".
  2. And some people above kind of said this, and I like to put it this way. There is a difference between a) telling the driver - take me here, and b) giving the driver some lessons in driving even though I may have never driven a train myself.

Civil Society at large is divided across these two categories. Blame the top, or meddle too much with the "how to drive the train".

#2 is kind of encouraged by the government as well, mainly because they have this problem of talent and capacity. So you have the holy set of NGOs, warmly welcomed cases like Nandan, or controversial ones like Abide.

Natural question, where do I place myself here? Like Rithesh said sometime ago in a comment here, I don't consider myself to be a part of civic society. I am a part of a growing group of mature citizens that doesn't do #1, and wants to do a lot ff #2 despite knowing that it may not be right. :) comment guidelines

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