Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nip it in the bud

We are all control freaks.

There is the obsessive need to control.

At various levels: Parental (captain von Trapp), brotherly (Tom Cruise, Rainman), social circles (Star chamber, Michael Douglas), at the work place (Meryl Streep, Devil wears Prada),mafia boss (De Niro, The untouchables), at national level (Stalin, Churchill…), at global level (The big brother US of A, the self-appointed moral judge of the universe), even in far flung galaxies (Nasa poking its nose in to Jupiter for example or Mangalyaan by Indian Government).

It has been difficult, and of late it is increasingly getting impossible to nurture conflicting thoughts or voice them aloud if they do not fall into a collectively comprehended, approved good.

Dissent is dying.

Slowly but systemically being smothered to death.

Like Carlin once quipped, in his inimitable style, that of a frustrated old man being pissed off by everything, “You believe in God? No. Kaboom. You believe in God? Yes. My god? No. Kaboom”

But to be politically correct, we all say “we encourage dissent”

But often when a colleague/friend/father/boss/leader says “Let’s discuss” it is usually an invitation saying “Let’s argue and let me knock the shit out of you”

A parent has to discipline his kid. It is part of the deal. A child grows up learning what all he can’t do.

Physically harmful things like “Do not touch fire” are ok. Even if you do not caution/admonish, the child will learn.

But, is every restriction warranted.

Don’t use your left hand for writing or eating, is one such. (History, language and religion all have somehow managed to brand left as evil and sinister).

Don’t get involved with the association for the welfare of the refugees. It is morally correct, but risky given today’s general atmosphere.

Take the following study courses, go to this particular college, practice this sport, play this instrument, are you listening to Justin Bieber?, Holy mother of Christ, seriously?, stay away from Adam, befriend Eve, no TV, switch off the mobile…. Yada yada …..

A parent feels complete after administering all the dos and the don’ts.

After all we know better, we have travelled the road, don’t we want what is best for our children…..

Are we certain? How do we know that we do not know everything. That we are probably pushing the rewind and play button of our lives.

The greatest progress in the world had taken place when the minds of the people had the courage to say “I do not know”

The parent feels that he has to nip it in the bud.

How does one know what bud to nip?

Are we sure that we are nipping the bud that needs to be nipped? What if we nip the wrong bud? How strong is our data base that the nipping is 100% foolproof.

I shall not run through the entire gamut listed earlier on, but a few examples are prudent.

Let’s explore the next popular stop: workplace.

It is common knowledge that people often change their jobs because of their bosses.

A place where a new idea is an anathema is not a place to linger on. How can one be productive if he is going to be tied down by bureaucracy and “let’s-play-it-safe”.

And when it comes to nipping it in the bud, bosses and organisations that the bosses try to represent, are the world champions.

The next category, that of leaders, give them a serious competition but the playing fields are not the same. The latter comes with greater mandate and, usually, a shorter reign.

“Don’t come to me with one of your fancy ideas”

“Have you finished writing the next fairy tale”

“Will I get to see one workable idea in my lifetime from you, or is it too much to ask for?”

“Is this what you come up with? My neighbour's son who is dyslexic, could come with something 10 times better than this crap”

These are some of the barbs that are fired in auto mode.

Sarcasm and insensitivity are two great arsenals in the quiver of the boss in his assassin’s role.

Employee turnover then takes them by surprise.

Don’t rattle the boat is their mantra.

Tom Peters (My job is not to motivate my team; it is not to demotivate them) is exchanged for Douglas Jardine

Many fertile, productive, adventurous young minds are nipped in the bud by a scythe wielding boss who defends his actions by claiming to restore stability before potential growth.

“What if” is their strongest counter arsenal to every possibility that one could propose. How can you ever answer all the “what ifs”?

And the what ifs that have a limited damage (financial) as an answer are usually proposals that get the nod and that make the business move at the speed of that of a glacier while the ones with a potential to transform the shape of the business are generally given a burial fit for an entire New Orleans town that was wiped out by Katerina.

The last category that I would like to explore is that of the leaders, by definition responsible for vast masses, and consequently capable of inflicting maximum damage.

Leaders are, against the agreed definition, myopic.

Limited vision driven by limits of geography. They plan all their initiatives based on their nation. A small piece of land cut off from its neighbouring countries by imaginary lines drawn from time to time by other men with different reasons.

A leader initiates his actions by proclaiming a sovereign diktat that it is being done in the best interests of the nation.

He never says for better prospects. It is always the best. He knows it of course.
When the die is cast rendering the action as “the best” everything else in its path must be crushed. One never fails to see use of military terms like “crushed” “annihilated” “squashed” “cut to size”etc… because the intentions are exactly what they convey.

Any opposition shall be crushed.

No room for dissent.

No debates, they are for the queasy intellectuals ensconced in the comforts of academia,

Two factions are formed, one in support and one against. The two factions usually have no influence on the act being enacted. It is already decided as “the best” by the leader and his henchmen.

The media, the administration and the powers at the disposal are all employed to implement the act. The dissents, should they dare rise in public, are quashed, with iron fist if needed. The leader manages to achieve what years of efforts by other vested interests could not manage. He creates “us” and “them,” within us.
And the artificial “us” and “them” never can reconcile to a neutral path. We are forever divided, the later day member of this faction blindly following the established way, not having the slightest clue as to how it originated.

Friends turn foes, division is created in the names of colour of your skin, faith, eating habits*, geographical locations.

(* - there are housing societies in certain cities in India, where you are not allowed to be a tenant if you eat meat)

Ghettos form, unrest grows, at times they end in a successful rebellion, replacing the existing ruler with another one, usually, more abhorrent than the one displaced.

The cycle continues.

The catch phrase of every ruler, without exception, is “In order to clear the field of weeds (a clear analogy for nipping in the bud) I do not mind sacrificing few roses”

Who gives him the authority to sacrifice the few roses? How does he know the nipping is restricted to weed?

How does he even know they are weeds?

All ethnic cleansing have all been categorised as monstrous in hindsight. But while they were being implemented, the collective masses took part gleefully, believing they were doing the right thing. All of them were told to “silence the dissent”

Catholics vs Non-Catholics

Civil war in USA

Systematic ostracizing and elimination of Nomadic Romas in Europe

Albanians in the Balkan wars

Bolshevik vs Cossacks

Nazis vs Jews

Japanese in America vs Americans after Pearl Harbor

Serbs vs Croats

Indian Hindus vs Pakistani Muslims

The Rwandan massacre

The list goes on

The blog is a result of being a witness to the animated discussions of two individuals who accompanied me on my regular trekking to Lysa Hora. 

At times I feared that one of them would throw the other off the mountain, so vehement was their discussion. 

The redeeming factor was that the two could bury the hatchet and drink a Pilsner peacefully at the end of the discussion.

As my daughter, one of the two in discussion, succinctly put – they agreed to disagree, over a beer on amicable grounds.

These two nipped it in the bud, the right bud and at the right time.

Can we say the same about others?