He is a Politician!
The young lady on the panel is an Activist!
We also have one of the best Intellectuals to weigh in on the topic.
No, we cannot allow Lobbyists on our Advisory board!
We have invited a group of Professionals to debate on the progress of urbanisation.
We normally use Stereotypes when pronouncing our judgement about others. Our motivation is fuelled by our need to either clarify that we do not like to be counted amongst them (in derision and with vehemence) or wish to be seen belonging to their circle (in admiration or for gain).
While this makes us focus on what we expect from them, it also obfuscates our thoughts on aspects we choose not to discuss with them. Quite democratically, ‘we’ too are similarly stereotyped by those we label in our minds and receive equally prejudiced treatment. The common man (Aam Aadmi), a particular vote bank, the salaried class, the farmers, the middle class, those with agricultural income or those migrating from Tier 2 or 3 cities, et al, all are stereotypes that get sliced off treatments in the minds of other stereotypes. Add to that the ones segregated due to their religion, caste or language and you have probably touched all shadows and ghettoes of the Indian polity. Interactions or communication between stereotypes are never about knowing or learning more about the other. It is rather a gladiatorial contest with each stereotype striving hard to maximise its influence. Stereotyping thrives on the natural psychological need to belong to one type and see the rest as the other. It rests on the belief that we understand the motivations that drive the behaviour and choices of the other side.
…so that ‘you’ can work on their motivations or create motivations for them and then drive their behaviour and choices towards your ends!
Stereotyping creates a transactional society where everyone is scurrying to get the best deal and remain divided between winners and losers. Over the last decade or two (depending upon which part of India you are looking at), the Indian polity has gone through a rapid change in its socio-economics combined with the emergence of an unabashed right-wing political narrative. For the first time in post-independence India, the polity has been offered a political counter narrative to the Nehruvian ‘please-it-all left-off-centre’ choice. And it is also for the first time that Indians have tasted the materialism blood, indulgingly labelled as the emergence of an aspirational India. Globalisation (another outcome of a transactional society), the promise of a demographic dividend and a strident majoritarian narrative laced with nationalism is a cocktail that can only be explosive. No wonder, stereotyping has raised a din that is quite shrill, with each type more inclined to go for the kill.
No, there is nothing poetic about it anymore!
The typing churn that the Indian polity has been going through has also simplified the stereotype landscape. The shriller stereotypes are surviving while the relatively muted types run the risk of vanishing into oblivion. Politics and its impact on the Aam Aadmi have come to bear heavily on most Indians, largely due to the echo chambers most spend their time in, thanks to cheap internet and smart phones. It is estimated that by 2021, nearly 2/3rd of the voting population of India (~ 1000,000,000) would be lapping up narratives peddled through their Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp forwards as news. Indian polity is no longer the unaware, disinterested or ambivalent majority when it comes to political narratives. Life in echo chambers have transformed even the most unaware into an Activist and many among them are even aspiring to a career in politics. But, fortunately or unfortunately – depending upon which stereotype you belong to – such activism is short lived since the impressionable majority do not come from an ideological trajectory.
These adequately populated echo chambers have almost replaced the need for massive political rallies or placard bearing processions marching through your neighbourhood. The Zuckerbergs of today have not only killed the erstwhile flourishing business of the Tent Wallahs and Loudspeaker suppliers, social media barons have become global suppliers of echo chambers with the power to influence election results in most countries across the world.
The shriller the narrative, faster the spread through social media, wider is the corralling of short-term Activists and higher the potential of a last-minute swing in voting persuasions. Yet, the trajectories of people and what they grow up with as their affinities or value system may determine the fate of Indian politics or polity more than what the Prashant Kishores can sway with their echo chamber strategies.
Major Trajectories & Affinities we Indians grow up with
Four facts that no individual controls – where, when, of whom and as what we are born – determine our affinities and scripts our trajectories in life to a very large extent. Fortunately, there is always enough variance in the content, the motivations, the socioeconomic opportunities and the unknown to yet make each of us into individuals distinct enough to walk around without being mistaken as clones. Yet again, it is our commonalities in affinities that keeps us clustered enough to be part of a trajectory category. And that category is what makes us acquire a certain stereotype label.
Most Indians of today have grown up with either of the following primary Affinities:
- Knowledge (Vidya)
- Land & Inheritance – Wealth (Aishwarya)
- Ideology (Vichardhara)
Please note that these are the primary affinities. While we may have other affinities or cross affinities too, it is the primary affinity that drives our choices and points of view in life. Fig, 1 below depicts the Trajectories each Stereotype gets distilled from owing to the Affinities one is born in. In a polity that is no longer ambivalent or disinterested in politics the stereotypes that matter today are those that wield power or can influence policy making. Gone are the days when national television or newspapers with large circulations were considered necessary for accessing facts, news or analysis about government policies or their impact upon the (unaware or politically ineffective) majority. Today they are no longer mainstream media but an amplified summary of the social media echo chambers.
Fig. 1 – Major Stereotypes, Trajectories & Affinities in India
The root cause for this intellectual atrophy lies in the rise of an ideological narrative that can and has wrested political power. And that is why the stereotyping landscape has become simpler and shriller. Only those that can influence policy making are of any significance today and hence the stereotypes to look out for are:
- The Politician (Ideologue)
- The Politician (Plutocrat)
- The Plutocrat (Capitalist)
- The Industrialist (Capitalist)
Power was never wielded without a support structure or an industrious army. The supply line for each major stereotype originates with the primary Affinities and follows the trajectories depicted in the Fig. 1 above.
- Those born in/with the Vidya Affinity goes after acquiring Knowledge, become Professionals, Intellectuals or Academicians and a few go on to become Industrialists (Capitalist)
- Those born in/with Vichardhara Affinity also invest in knowledge but are partial towards learning and practice of the Ideology they have grown up with. They may become Ideologues and then Activists and maintain the supply lines for the Politician (Ideologue)
- Those born in/with the Aishwarya Affinity pick up very early the skills and tools of multiplying wealth. They learn to value their inheritance – land & wealth (Ploutos) – including their family ties, conserve them and grow as a closed tribe known to protect their own against the other. They run local businesses, a few grow into Big Business too and fund the Lobbyist and the Politician (Plutocrat).
The Politician (Ideologue) is inconsequential without his Activists. The Communists always had their ‘cadre’, until their ism failed to satiate the changing needs of an ‘aspiring’ or materialistic India. The right-wing Ideologues learnt their lesson well and invested over decades to develop their Activist army – the largest political party in the world. The Politician (Plutocrat) always held ‘durbar’ with their lackeys or Lobbyists. Nehruvian please-it-all politics controlled by the Politician (Plutocrat) not only delivered the 1991 bankruptcy but opened the doors for a knowledge society – a boon – that paved the way for the Industrialist (Capitalist) to influence policy making. If not for the bankruptcy of 1991, India would have remained a perfect feudal society controlled by the Plutocrat (Capitalist), perennially mistaken for the liberal façade idolised by the unaware, gullible and poor majority.
The Stereotype (& Affinity) Product Mix
The Affinity Product Mix of the Indian Polity in the 90s was probably,
Knowledge (20%) : Ideology (3%) : Land & Inheritance (77%)
On a relative basis, today (2020) the Affinity Product Mix could be,
Knowledge (40%) : Ideology (15%) : Land & Inheritance (45%)
Anyone with an interest in socio-economic change could predict the mix in 2025 to be,
Knowledge (50%) : Ideology (10%) : Land & Inheritance (40%)
Note: The numbers given above are indicative of relative change and not a result of any academic research.
Indian polity, like any other feudal society, was and even today is largely influenced by those born in/with the Aishwarya or Wealth Affinity. Vichardhara or Ideology as an Affinity has always been a product of history or misdoings of the powers to be. Not many are born in or with this affinity. All ideological movements, Christianity, Communism, Islamic republics, the Greens, Nazis or AFD in today’s Germany or Hindutwa have originated from ideologues. They were great influencers and built an army of Activists (Priests, Cadre, Taliban/ Jihadis, SS or the RSS) who believed or married into a certain ideology due to historical mistakes or their need to convert others to their ideology or ism. After all, ideologies are like viruses. They wither away without propagation.
In India today, the echo-chambers would have you believe that the right-wing Politician (Ideologue) holds the sway. No, it does not. It still needs the support of the Plutocrat (Capitalist) as well as the Industrialist (Capitalist). The grounding of a Knowledge Society in urban India over the last two decades has only made the less acknowledged Professionals implicitly significant to Policy Makers. The nationalist right-wing also acknowledges the fact that the future of India as a nation lies in urbanisation and industrialisation and that cannot be achieved without the knowledgeable Professional. Ideologues are good at history and know quite well that it is the Knowledge Affinity that catalyses social evolution, from an agricultural (feudal) society to an Industrial and Services based society. Hence, we see an intense war for knowledgeable Professionals influenced by Ideology.
Going forward, I see the Stereotype Product Mix going underweight on the Politician (Plutocrat) and a gradual rise in influence of the Industrialist (Capitalist) and the Professional. A full blown industrialised society (decades away) is the only thing that can flatten the ideological spread.
- Sensex @ 50,000; Coronavirus long forgotten. A new Novel Virus mutating somewhere in the most stressed polities of the world.
- Social Media still reigns supreme as it will continue to feed the basic need for human beings to find others of their stereotype and ‘Like’ what they feel, say or forward.
- Urbanisation and Industrialisation would have transformed the Affinity Product Mix quite near to my prediction above.
- Indian Parliament may have a few Nandan Nilekanis, finally!