Bad eggs don’t help

In a brilliant talk titled Does the news do us any good? Alain de Botton, a Swiss-British writer, philosopher, and television presenter in the UK, says:

The thing about the news is that it’s obsessed by bad eggs. It’s obsessed with the Watergate paradigm which associates everything that’s wrong in society with a few bad eggs… who’ve done some things wrong… and you can try and identify them… and then put handcuffs on them… and then take them to jail… and all will be… well. The thing is that most of the things that are really wrong with our society… you can’t bundle someone in a prison van and take them away. There are systemic problems that arise not from evil or crookedness but from lazy thinking, lack of inspiration, etc. The news is very bad at seeing systemic problems…

This is, in some sense, my point of departure in The Pyramid of Corruption. Those were times when there was so much hype about the Anna Hazare movement that I was forced to think what really corruption is all about. Will all be really well if the bad eggs are identified and sent to jail? And then I realized that we are so used to blaming individuals about our political problems that we tend to forget that they’re systemic.

The definition of corruption as ‘abuse of public power for private gain’ has nothing in it which requires us to attach it only to individuals. I argue that entire groups of people can indulge in it. The very foundation of the modern Indian nation is afflicted with such group corruption. I call it India’s Primitive Corruption. It’s impossible and pointless to point at individuals – contemporary or past – and blame them for it. We have to get out of this individual-bashing mindset to understand what’s fundamentally wrong with the Indian nation.