Thomas Jefferson who drafted the famous American Declaration of Independence which contains the oft-quoted phrase that “all men are created equal” owned about 200 slaves when he wrote that and never set them free even upon his death. It doesn’t mean Jefferson was a fraud or even a hypocrite. Rather it points to certain bizarre truths about social systems and the beliefs which create them. The Americans during Jefferson’s time did not even consider Negroes as human beings. Negroes were subhuman, according to the beliefs that upheld the American social system of the time.
All social systems are built upon certain beliefs most of which may not stand up to rational analysis. The ancient Indian caste system or many other social practices such as Sati were not based on any objective truths. Social systems are created by certain individuals in order to protect their interests by subordinating the interests of others.
It was not mere selfishness either. More than selfishness, it was an attempt to create a stable society. The most famous Babylonian king was Hammurabi and he had created a rigid social system with a strict code of behaviour. He said, “I know that superiors, commoners and slaves are not inherently different kinds of people. But if we believe that they are, it will enable us to create a stable and prosperous society.” [Emphases added]
Beliefs make up social systems to a very large extent. One such belief that is forging contemporary India is that black money is the root of all evils. One truth is that the vast majority of Indians do not have any black money. In fact, they don’t even have enough money to live comfortably. A more significant truth is that black money is not the root of most evils in the county. It is dishonesty that is the root cause. It is the corruption that is engendered by dishonesty that is the root of most evils.
The present war (euphemistically called surgical strike) on black money will achieve little in the end. Like viruses that never die but find new avatars and keep on invading the human biological system perennially, black money will reincarnate more easily in the larger denominations of the new currency.
What should be fought is the typical Indian mendacity. Can we bring in a little honesty into our systems? Into our hearts?
When the Parliament under the present leader was more eager to double the wages of themselves than promote the welfare of the citizens most of whom can’t even dream of earning in a year what our MPs are earning in a month as salary, can we hope for radical surgical strikes?
Instead of striking at the root of that evil of blatant dishonesty and selfishness, the new system that is being forged seeks to promote the interests of certain sections and put others in manacles. The manacles are not just about the temporary hardships that we have to undergo. They are the permanent restrictions that will be imposed gradually on certain sections (read the new low castes) of the country’s population. The reports that the information about demonetisation was leaked to certain people are indicators of more bizarre surgical strikes that will follow. It is neither black money nor its root cause that is being treated. It is a new social system that is being forged.
PS. This post was inspired by Jug Suraiya’s [The Times of India’s Groucho Marx] column today: Corrupt Climate: Black money is only a symptom of the disease of dishonesty. If I were to use Suraiya’s wit, black hearts would become blackguards. But I am not Suraiya, you see.