Friday, August 01, 2003
SOCIAL DISTRESS : Stuck in the middle
Reading an editorial in the Daily Times, Pakistan (No, Anvita, this is not a Paki fixation), I came across the following paragraph -
At fewer than 12 million adult individuals, our middle class is tiny, especially in the NWFP and Balochistan. Unlike in India, this small middle class is unable to discipline political parties and prevent extremist positions in dealing with the outside world.
The fact that the writer says "unlike in India", does not bear well for Pakistani society (that being a separate topic), but India isn't too great on non-extremist positions in the current political scene.
The middle class of any country is supposed to be the voice of the nation. Some consider the influential upper class or the so-called "capitalist" classes too busy filling their coffers to take notice of the social condition of the nation. Others consider the uneducated lower classes (and masses) open to exploitation by the political parties who make promises before the election or come up with electorate-pleasing-moves just before the elections. As the writer ably notes, it is the responsibility of the middle class to police the extremist opinion prevailing through any country.
India has a burgeoning middle class, yet, the waves of extremism that are overtaking the nation in the form of voices such as the RSS, VHP, AIMPLB, SIMI, Bajrang Dal or even the Hurriyat do not do much credit to the voices of the middle class. Does the RSS or the VHP represent the voice of the average Hindu? Does the AIMPLB represent the voice of the average Muslim? I don't think so!
Yet as a middle-class we throw our hands in the air, believing that we are unable to make a difference. Yet as a middle-class we refuse to vote in elections, claiming the futility of it all. Yet as the people who can make the difference, we live our mundane lives. Yet as the people who matter, we get mis-led by the politicians to incite the same violence we abhor under normal circumstances (As was proved by the Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat where most violence was the localised middle class instigated).
Are we unlike Pakistan or are we worse, because we have the power to, yet don't change a thing?
Update at 5.30pm : I take back all I said about this man. Some people never learn.
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