Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cabal Central

A long time ago, I had asked a wise old man if he knew anything about how the world was run.

With a smile, he had quickly replied that it was God who was in charge of that grim task. And then, rather hesitantly, he had added that there were seven, or perhaps nine old men, with long white beards who assisted God in his business of running the world. And then, he had made one more clarification -- that God, had really had enough of this world -- and, that he was looking forward to driving a convertible with its top down, in a colorful straw hat, that screamed the word retirement aloud.

And so, it was all down to the wise old men.  Perhaps seven, or perhaps nine. I am guessing that they too have similar issues with hiring, firing and retention that we do.

Image courtesy: http://zelda.wikia.com

When I first heard the word cabal a long time ago, I had thought that someone had misspelled the word cable. But, the context in which it was used, had nothing to do with messages that the postman brought home, with a grave expression on his face. And so, I had looked it up.

As a libertarian, I have always believed that in most democratic societies, there exists somewhat of a tyranny of the majority. In countries like the United States, where half the population pays an income tax, that tyranny is somewhat mild, or perhaps, medium. In a country like India, where only four percent of the population pays taxes, the tyranny is screaming habanero hot. Almost slavery, for those who pay their taxes. Through a system of giveaways and freebies, the ruling elite keep blowing public money to keep themselves in power -- and the dole recipients in perpetual poverty. And they do all that with a paternalistic halo around their heads, as if, God finally did turn his office key in.

I have long believed that in a society such as ours, where people are quick to trade their vote for a freebie, that democracy is essentially a waste of time. But then, no other system of governance is supposed to be as good as democracy. And, if I believe what my wise old friend had told me, there is no one more competent to run the world than the seven or nine gentlemen with white flowing beards. Then perhaps, the best way to run the world is to let the old men run it, and let people believe that they are in charge of who runs their world.

As a child, when I was barely four, I had thrown a tantrum that I wanted to ride my grandfather's bicycle, which was rather tall for me. But grandpa, had come up with an ingenious solution -- he had held the bike steady with his firm hands -- while I rode it.  I remember turning the handle from left to right, as the pedals mysteriously moved by themselves, while grandpa gently guided the bike around the courtyard.

After the show was over, I had joyfully told everyone I could find that I had ridden grandpa's bike --  all by myself. And grandpa had stood there with a poker face, nodding. After all, there is nothing like a self-sufficient grandson, even if he is four years old, and has legs that are yet to reach the peddles.  

I have always wondered if our small cabal of bearded old men, with the blessings of God almighty, could somehow get us a bike to ride. One, in which our feet didn't quite reach the peddle, but one, that was fun to ride.

In mature democracies around the world, that art of holding the bike has been mastered. In countries like India, we are still coming to terms with the fact that most of us are really a bunch of idiots, who don't know any better. In countries like Egypt, they still don't know what democracy really is.

And that is why when Uncle Sam announces yet another round of "quantitative easing" and our government installs portable "dole" machines for the poor, we can see yet another set of tents in Tahrir square. Perhaps, the Egyptians too, will come to terms with their leaders and their government in their own sweet time. Or perhaps, an old man in a long flowing beard will show them how to. Perhaps. 

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