Vox Populi Vox Dei
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Saturday, December 31, 2011 9:51 hrs IST
2011 has finally come to an end.
Whew, what an incredible year it has been ! It seemed that the mistakes of the past had finally caught up with the excesses of the present to create an annus horribilus where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and reality mimicked fiction. Mark Twain had written, tongue-in-cheek that, "truth is stranger than fiction. In fiction, you have to stick to possibilities. With truth you don't need to."
The past year was exactly like that. The improbable became the possible; the impossible became the reality as events around the world revealed that truth could indeed be stranger than fiction. Dictators and thugs all across the globe dug in their heels and played out what would ironically turn out to be their political requiem, while corporate honchos and financial deal-meisters danced the fandango with venal politicians to ensure that the world came as close to a social and financial meltdown, as we have ever been in the recent past.
Nobody could have imagined that what started off as an individual act of protest in Tunisia would ultimately conflagrate into an Arab Spring of dissent that may yet, turn into a Russian Winter of discontent. The unravelling of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme at the beginning of the year revealed the dark underbelly of the business world - the greed of the "barbarians at the gate" - that would finally find its own nemesis in the Occupy Wall Street movement. And profligate politicians in Europe ensured that as Spain and Italy and Greece played Russian roulette with their economies, the world teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.
In India too the climate was ripe for revolt. Perhaps, we have not ever witnessed a more tumultuous year. Anna Hazare represented the face of the average Indian who was fed up with corruption, sleaze and yet more sleaze. With a slew of politicians and corporate kahunas cooling their heels in prison, the UPA government, fronted by the once highly regarded Manmohan Singh, became the object of derision in a nation of scamsters that, unfortunately, is unable a find an alternate set of goons to rule the country. Democracy was dangerously close to morphing into kleptocracy, and nobody seemed to mind. Closer home, in Gods Own Country, a so called "enlightened" society grappled with its internal demons, and we hung our heads in guilt as one sex scandal after the other revealed the brutal, heartless Malayali pscyhe that saw a father raping his 14 year daughter and then forcing her into the flesh trade. And this, just one among several cases of violence against women.
The lesson we have learned from the past year is is that, "we live," as the late playwright and former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel said in his inaugural address to the people of Czechoslovakia, "in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions, and for many of us they represented only psychological peculiarities, or they represented gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships. Only a few of us were able to cry out loud that the powers that be should not be all powerful........"
But unlike in the past, there was a difference this time around. The year 2011 witnessed dramatic change occurring on the ground as the people's voices began to be finally heard and resistance became the "defining trope of our times." Dissent became popular and revolt turned into a tool to demand, and achieve real change. The magic of 2011 was that it was the year when larger numbers of the not-so-powerful cried out loud and made themselves heard. The Tunisian fruit-seller Mohammed Bouazizi, would have never imagined, when he set himself on fire in a non-descript town in the Maghreb desert on 17 December, 2010, that he was igniting a flame that would fan into a global movement of protest like we have never experienced before. Hosni Mubarak and Zine el Abidine Ben Ali are gone; Muammar Gadaffi has been killed by his own people; "Bunga Bunga" Berloscuni stands disgraced; Anna Hazare continues to send shivers up a collective UPA spine, and even in Kerala where jholawallahs and public intellectuals generally oppose capital punishment, justice was finally served when the case against the one-armed rapist murderer Govindachami was fast-tracked, and he was awarded the death sentence.
Yes. The year 2011 was proof of the dictum, Vox Populi Vox Dei . The voice of the people is indeed the voice of God.