The communication of the powerful: The agenda of disconnect
The following is a viral video from a Facebook live event where an Indian Politician abused a person who was calling her. Apparently, she was not aware that she was still online and people were listening and seeing what she was doing. She cursed the caller and used such terms as, “Stupid, son of a whore”. This politician is perceived to be an energetic, articulate and assertive young leader, who is admired by many followers of the ruling political party in India.
Although it is fine for anyone to use cuss words in their personal or political lives (democracies thrive on freedom of speech), it is observed frequently that people in power are aggressive towards the people who serve them (like office assistants, gardeners, cooks, drivers etc).
I had personally observed one such case at the airport at New Delhi, India. A lady politician, from the then ruling party in India (the year was 2006 I guess) was having a scuffle with someone who rushed passed her and her water bottle fell in the process. She ran after him and started yelling and even using curse words. Finally, the individual apologized and the matter was settled. This could well be one nuance of the behaviour that the politicians display, although there is no data to substantiate this narrative. Many politicians also engage minors for doing their household work and there are non-profit charities who try to rescue those individuals from the oppression they face.
Coming back to communication, this is also observed in people who assist the politicians in executing their agendas i.e. the civil servants. As some of my relatives were in bureaucracy, I have seen them up close. During dinner table, they would turn nasty and scold the servants who were serving them and such things happened although there was no critical issue to react upon. It is of course their personal choice but again, isn’t this a tactic to oppress the downtrodden? If the people in power do not have empathy, will they reach out to the poor and think of inclusion in holistic sense? In India, in Institutions that belong to the Executive as well as Judiciary, the poor somehow do not matter.
If we observe the body language of politicians (especially in the Indian context), they usually walk in a typical over-confidence swag, as if they own the Country. Although they talk usually with tactful politeness in front of the media and people, one doesn’t know if many of such people are nasty, vengeful or petty in their regular lives. Some of them display the mean mentality in public as well. A senior politician, for example accused a former Prime Minister of collaborating with an enemy Country to assassinate him. Later on, there were counter reactions and apologies but once any message is given, it cannot be reversed.
The larger question to ponder upon is just one — if those who matter look down upon people who serve them, how would they then reach out to masses who have huge expectations? If a Judge is abusive towards his/her gardener, would he/she be empathetic to a falsely implicated poor man? If a politician is abusive and lives a high-profile life in private, would he/she have some connectivity with the people who voted for him/her?
In India, unfortunately we inherited the British Raj’s style of Bureaucracy and the political power created the ethos of the “ruler v/s the ruled” and it led to the development of an elitist political and governance corridor, one which has not helped the policies to percolate down till the common citizens. Even leaders who claimed to be self-styled socialists were having that disconnect (barring few who live a spartan lifestyle). The greatest folly of our first prime minister was to inherit the Westminster system along with the added colonial perks. For example, an MP gets a bungalow in Lutyens Delhi or a Judge gets summer vacation. Accordingly, they get disconnected with the people they are supposed to serve.
As a lay person, at times I would be admiring an aggressive leader. In most of the countries, if identity politics is played vis-à-vis a perceived enemy country, people start getting affiliated to such narrative. In India if a politician says that he would have a tougher stance on arch enemy Pakistan, he/she would get more following. However, the people whom we admire may not necessarily be friendly in their individual capacity and hence as participants of a democracy, we need to be careful in selecting our representatives.