In 2018 October, I was attending a weekly talk of Global Strategy Forum at National Liberal Club, London. British member of House of Lords Michael Anchram has been organising it for years and has been kind enough to send invite to me regularly, irrespective of the fact whether I am in UK or not. Speaker at this talks was former Defence and Foreign Minister of Poland Mr. Radosław Sikorski. Sir Malcom Riffkind, who himself had been a former Foreign and Home Secretary of UK was chairing this particular session and I had been in touch with him over the previous few weeks. He introduced me to the visiting speaker before the talk commenced. We all three exchanged few words and had a nice little chat on India and South Asia.
Sikorski conveyed in his talk that once a major civilisation is humbled in war, its entire national psyche changes. He was speaking in the context of reluctance of average Britisher or even large number of British elite to submit to EU rules and overly pacifist approach of post Bonaparte France, that pretended to run the whole of EU, in what appeared an apologetic approach in substance, to cover up injury to its national psyche.
His narration of the phenomenon was far too interesting that has kept me thinking till date. I wonder how has sustained plunder and pillage of India by external aggressors and colonial rulers, over nearly a millennium, impacted behavioural pattern of our people. .
I have often been coming across observation from my friends from smaller South Asian states that most of us in India are either too arrogant or too subservient in our dealings with people. It depended on influence or clout of the latter. In their perception, we either bully or fear and refuse to have honest and forthright interaction with integrity. I remember a few years back at an informal social event, an Indian origin billionaire regaled others through most forthright condemnation of the government policies. But the moment a senior union cabinet minister walked into the gathering, he immediately changed course coating his words with sugar and honey and praising the same government to amusement of the rest. I struggle not to laugh at such superficiality of our so-called corporate leaders.
Such phenomenon is not confined to India. Legacy of colonialism has impacted psyche of people in most parts of the post-colonial world, where rule of law remains fragile. Authority structures have remained oppressive and somewhat despotic. Servility to power has been a critical ingredient to success and prosperity in a phenomenon that has often been described as crony capitalism.
Most colonial and occupying forces had used fear and intimidation as the primary tool of governance in these societies. It helped the agenda of plunder and pillage of local
Societies and silenced any resistance.
Ironically, most post colonial societies have struggled to eliminate such distorted and perverse legacy of colonial subjugation. It has altered behaviour pattern of entire society to such an extent that incumbents in authority struggle to consider themselves anything less than Super human or divine. A large number of followers rally around them to reinforce such narcissistic self perception. This is what explains the phenomenon of dynastic succession to leadership roles in both politics and business.
But can such fear, intimidation, sycophancy or even outright resistance and abuse of opponents bring the best out of individuals and societies? Will it not destroy harmony in society or institution or even in a family, leading to all round under-performance?
Democracy, Rule of law or a humane society require enlightened and courteous discourse based on mutual respect. Can we ever have right leaders and role models who not merely preach it but try to uphold it in their day to day life?
Strength of a society, state and civilisation depends upon the ability of people to build a larger culture of trust, harmony and mutual collaboration and competition. Some degree of conflict is inevitable but societies and civilisations that have done better than the rest are those who have prevented such conflicts better by fostering higher quality of collaboration among people. Fear, deception and criminality can silence and deter few but can never be the foundation for a strong society or state.