Saturday, March 16, 2013

The national pledge and it's relevance

We have repeated our National Pledge for more than 10 years, judiciously after our school leaders at the daily assembly. Atleast those of us who were born after Jan 26, 1969 would have. Check the link out, there are some things there that you never knew.

We have been exposed to it constantly for more than 10 years. Yet it hasn't got imprinted. Perhaps it was during school days. I was a much better individual when young and in school - most of us were. As we grew, we become not-so-nice versions of what we were. The memories of the pledge that we have taken so many times seems to have faded away and whatever faint strains have stuck around are surely in some archive location. (I have remembered only the joke about how Rajiv Gandhi took the "brothers and sisters" part too seriously and thus married an Italian.)

When left to our instincts, our conscious being is overrun by factors such as greed, ruthlessness, lack of discipline and adopting the easy way. We compete with each other seeing life as a zero-sum game and with a decided lack of co-operation. There is a marked inability in us to enlarge the pie that life has to offer. There are many reasons why it is so. The brain as every other system has an increasing entropy unless energy is actively applied. When left at as it is unmanaged and uncluttered periodically, it gets chaotic. Also, we have evolved as strategic players trying to make the most with the least of available resources in the game of survival. While this innate talent is definitely important, if all of us go about with similar strategies, sub-optimal outcomes are inevitable.

Mankind has perpetually been in a war with the basal nature of itself. Religion historically has had a large role to keep the animal part in leash. We need to be constantly reminded that we ought to co-operate for creating a better alternative future. In our national pledge, we have the right dose of daily spiritual medicine that is simple enough that the entire nation can understand. It is not affiliated to any religion so there are no holy cows involved. It is designed for kids. But adults are no different, most of us are just overgrown kids.

Reading out the pledge daily and striving to act on it would make much more sense should we do it in our adulthood rather than childhood. It is as adults that we go about with the real business of life. Our capacity to create damage is on a much higher scale when are grown up. I know that I sound naive, but civility and courteousness as a base nature of a country is a reality and not governed by economics. You want evidence, see Japan.

Look carefully at our pledge once again. It reminds us that India is our country and that we love it. It tells us that everyone we interact with are as good as our brothers and sisters. A subtle suggestion to put our country and fellow beings one step above ourselves. It asks us to be proud of it's heritage and strive to be worthy of it. We have a strong heritage handed down to us. Be it Philosophy, Music, Literature, fine arts or cuisine, the subcontinent is mindbogglingly rich. We seem to have enough of (false?) pride associated with it so I am not going to talk about the pride part. But behaviours constitute that being worthy of our heritage. Does It mean that some amount of our efforts and pursuits as an individual should be in strengthening this heritage? Does it mean that we should never feel self pity and demotivated looking around? To me it means that our race has survived very long as a continuous and unbroken line. We have been exposed to differing global realities and we have survived. Great sons have come out setting the direction and context every time when it was required and that will happen again. It reminds me that we are standing on the shoulders of giants so get motivated to do whatever is in my powers, always. The next part of the pledge reminds us to treat our people with respect and courtesy. Being treated well and treating others well - what more could make life happier. So many a times we have been rude and discourteous to the meek and injured our own hearts. We never get happy by treating others shabbily, we never get happy when our own conscience is hurt. It is in others' happiness and prosperity that our own lies. And who is not in the pursuit for happiness and prosperity.

Archimedes once said - "Give me the right lever and the right fulcrum to place it and I will move the earth". He was exaggerating to drive home the concept of leverage. I was wondering whether investing some effort and energy to remind our country men of our own pledge could be a key leverage point to create maximum effect in the system. Marketing science would have come up with tools for doing this. But whatever it is, it would involve tremendous costs. Costs that can't be born without profit generating activities. In the late eighties and early nineties, the Government used to spend with efforts on national integration using Doordarshan. I don't think they will be interested in any of it now. They have far too much of fire fighting to do. They are not in a position to be creative or invest in long term strategies.

At the risk of sounding like a hero from Rajkumar Hirani movies, I propose the use of paid advertisements on dailies for creating leverage. How about printing the national pledge in the newspaper everyday along with an earnest note (from some celebrity?) to the reader to read and apply it. It could make everyone think and act a little different than what they would have otherwise. There could be a massive virtuous cycle that this would set going. It would be really worth trying out.