Mediocrity writ large

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Can’t help but think of American law and due process that’s centerstage in Trump administration as we speak; since two months into Trump presidency.  Despite the foundation of its common law based in the legal doctrine of “stare decisis,” precedent that makes future decisions of judges and courts as simple as 1 2 3 unless fundamentals of law have changed between then and now, between established precedent and freshly legislated statute, this patchwork quilt of US law is held together by a code of honor of its practitioners, about whom a wise man once derisively said, he is no lawyer who cannot take two sides, referencing familiar and lawyerly double speak.

That’s how both the convention and the modern, the ethics and morality, struggle to shine like diamonds in a coal mine ambiguous legalese notwithstanding.  In other words, law is dynamic, not static, is open to review, discussion and interpretation.  Statute is not the king, and yet it is, during its tenure.  And the tenure is endless. Magna Carta is still cited in some parts of the world. 

This lack of certitude in application of law that’s subject to vacillation makes well intentioned progressive behavior all the more important. For, ultimately, law is meant to serve people not the other way around.  That’s perhaps why most public servants are lawyers.

Their view of law and interpretation must be mobile and fluid and withstand review; but  there’s the rub. This interpretation must comport and conduce with the imperturbability of convention, ethics and morality, the judiciary, the executive and with the legislative demands of checks and balances. 

That’s what makes raucous American and Indian democracies intriguingly dramatic.  US controls constitutional implosions such as its current Trump problem very well. 

India’s hair trigger volatility flares up in no time from lack of self restraint and flourishes of incendiary rhetoric reflected almost preemptively by media and in the words of politicians without  finesse. They are guilty regurgitating vote-grabbing venom known as Samjauta Express, Balakot, Modi ji ki Sena etc.  Political rhetoric has no statute of limitation. 

It never expires.  No wonder we see PM Modi forever invoking  the ghost of Nehru for a few votes more, chipping away at the pedestal of a natural  hero.  This lack of respect has spread toxins nationally.  Even though deserving of compliment for placing digital India ( forget the silly demonetization and GST issues ) in the forefront Modi undercuts himself for not letting modern technology become super national culture that doesn’t cut its nose to spite its face.  

For all its faults, the digital system is worth  having regardless of the hardship it imposes on earlier generations like mine, what skeptics and pundits say. And one of these ‘checks and limitations’ is the vested interests of a political party that are almost inviolate. When such a party joins in the executive authority that will lead to the absolutism of worst order. For example, when a party’s ideology gets into national policy formulation it’s trouble. Sadly we are already having our share of the latter. 

Argument weak. Speak loud. 

Right?  Right. Noise will get you places. That’s been the unfortunate fate of our parliamentary system where higher decibels will reach fringe groups quicker than ultrasound dog whistles.  Public  servants, don’t think of public service as a privilege but as a sinecure. Harking back on Nehru and Pulwama to an excessive and tedious degree is all contrived to look like dark ages of first assembly. But know this that that might be a nightmare,” daymare” is staring us in the face.  Law not only has reason, it has passion and tradition of generations that goes further past Modi, into Nehru, Gandhi, Aryabhata etc. 

Trump knew he lied every time his lips moved. And he lied loudly.  The country respected him but kept his feet to the fire to remind him he isn’t above law.

India’s ongoing  elections have already heated up the greenhouse gases some more with coded political messaging.  Dog whistles are on and a ‘on the cue’ Yogi, a Chief Minister of India’s most populous,Uttar Pradesh  has already minted a coinage for the upcoming elections…Modi Ji Ki Army.  The genius of its ambiguity is whether Modi means Indian citizen as army or just the soldiers in boots.Modi for his part has left no room for doubt.It’s his Army, The Indian Army in uniform.

He has cleared whatever doubts that might have existed by repeating his war cry of Balakot  and  India’s space ascendancy, surgical strikes, nor forgetting his favoured threats to teach all his enemies including top-of-the-list Pakistan a lesson to remember. Kashmiris ? You have the word of Modi’s handpicked party chief, the Gujarat collaborator, Amit Shah : Article 370 will be scrapped the day we are returned to power. That’s it for the State, If Yogi of UP wasn’t such a political neophyte and Modi not driven by his ego trips it would be considered, if not childish, at the very least, childlike, for embroiling a politically-neutral army in contrived polemics. 

Either way it’s subliminal advertising for party ideology and democracy demands government stay above the fray,  Why, is the question?  To Modi it’s probably a  pragmatic statistic but a stellar pragmatist of World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another US President unlike bumptious Trump, in a prescient insight had already responded thus.   There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Ultrasonic dog whistle to right-leaning racists, pracharaks and assorted bigots are working round the clock to promote bias.  Epochal changes take generations and sometimes the history itself to build up tradition cumulatively into culture.  It takes centuries to build it up and mere decades to deface it.  It took Nehru nearly a 100 years to shine like the north Star in the galaxy of glamorous guys on India’s freedom firmament.  Let’s not destroy its  sheen. 

So popular was Nehru that charming American expression Boston Brahmin traces its way back to him.   When he walked down the hallways of American Congress the female staff went ooh and aah, acccording to William Fishbait’s book Gatekeeper. 

As the chief of security of that venerated institution on the Hill, Fishbait understood a few things about security, protocol and personal appeal of world leaders. Allegations impliedly slapped on the ‘previous generation Congress (read Nehru, dead since 1964,) just prove the merit of a great Irishman’s words that Jealousy is a compliment mediocrity pays to talent.  And Mr. Modi is too bright to be mediocre.