Don’t you know promises were never meant to keep?
Just like the night, they dissolve off in sleep
I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true
I’ll come to your emotional rescue
I’ll come to your emotional rescue
-Rolling Stones, Emotional Rescue, 1979
Of course, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were not thinking deeply about social change, when they wrote these words to the song Emotional Rescue. In fact, they rarely ever thought deeply, unlike John Lennon. They were just good at strutting out nasty beats with teasing lyrics. They hardly ever engaged in any activity of significant social impact. But this, like many of their other songs, attempts to shred the illusions of young, love-sick, lovelorn and believing individuals who think that they are special, that their emotions are so direct, so pristine and pure that they will get what they want. No you don’t! In reality, what you think as righteous, is not automatically transferable to the conscience of the individual you are interacting with or the people who surround you.
In reality, as with the emotions of individuals, the emotions of a group of people follow a similar pattern. Those who think alike and believe in the same things, also expect the end results according to what their fervent beliefs suggest, to be transferable to not only their own milieu and social class but also in a state of utter fantasy also believe that other social classes would accept their line of beliefs. Not so. Intelligence (meaning prioritized intel, facts on the ground) and rationality (meaning acuity and what if scenarios) is not automatically transferable. It is imbibed, taught, redistributed and reinforced by hard work. If you think you have attracted someone, or have convinced someone, you are in for a major whack to your ego, very soon. Because people do not express their true emotions, in their first few encounters. Some positive encounters do not amount to a “conversion.”
People do not think strategic when they go to vote
Actually, the illusion that righteousness and strategic thinking automatically affects the behaviors ofthe people in general, is one of the biggest fallacies in political organizing. A large section of the “Left” in India and also those who have not missed a chance in dismissing the Left, whenever the opportunity arose, are now so distraught. They are forlorn with the election of a certified creep and gangster as the Chief Minister of India’s largest province, and are therefore wondering what went wrong? So, there are the usual bullshit terms like anti-incumbency, Modiwave, vikas, complex caste vectors etc. being ploughed through the infertile brains of those who dwell on TV and social media. Nothing can explain the sweeping victory given by the “masses” to a singularly backward, stone-age confabulation of gangsters, organized to the hilt by feudal, crony capital. So, a few minutes of such analyses on India’s riotous TV news programs, some mass indoctrination and everyone is ready to analyze not only the election of a creep in Uttar Pradesh, but also explain it as the basis of the triumph of the equally creepy right wing populism in the US of A. When people are carefully fed with populist rabble-rousing slogans, they do get swayed. In India, people were fed with the notion that secular torpor and statism, led to lack of growth. And Modi and company were taking swift action. In USA, people were fed up with three decades of political correctness and identity politics, which were made to align with job loss and de-skilling. Xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria was combined with it, just as in India patriotism and anti-nationalism was re-aligned. The word Azadi (freedom) was made into a pro-Pakistani scream from anti-nationals. The “people” slurped it up.
When Indira Gandhi jailed over 50,000 people across most Party lines during India’s National Emergency, the creep factor was clear. It registered deep. Not only because of the high numbers of those persecuted, but also because these 50,000 people have friends and family and the wave of dissension took roots not only amongst the intelligentsia, but also in rural areas where Railway workers’ families resided. She censored mainstream newspapers and so the scandalized and flabbergasted middle class went into a state of shock. They needed emotional rescue! Of course, the Left decided they had won a victory when she got kicked out. Not really! The word had spread and the people in general had felt it in their daily lives. They were not voting for democracy and freedom. Never mind for socialism. They simply wanted out of a severely restrictive atmosphere and wanted their family and friends out of jails.
The masses when they go to vote, do not have a Manifesto on their minds as the basis for their vote. In a pre-industrial society and as well as a highly alienated post-industrial society, where jobs are few, inflation is sky rocketing, the basics are unavailable, large sections of the voting masses vote by emotion.They want to be rescued. By immediate possibilities of deliverance. “Make America Great again” is such a slogan. It delivers. Hating China for stealing jobs is a tangible proposition. Giving allowances to minorities is equated with hating flippant, lying female Washington corporate neo-liberals, because it also fires-up incipient misogyny in the average American neo-conservative cultural make-up. The BJP’s slogan in UP? “Saathaayen, parivartanlayen, kamalkhilayen’, ‘Jan jankasankalp, parivartanekvikalp. “ Development is a possibility. The BJP lotus symbol was synchronized with the flowering of development. Development to people in the rural areas means wells, water, easy access to cash, roads, hospitals and schools as basic necessities. And like hating China for job loss, hating Moslems (or Pakistan) is an easy rallying point, but it was also instigated with controlled enthusiasm. BJP played their cards deftly. They created hatred for social customs but attracted Moslems with open arms, as well. So Moslems voted for BJP in large numbers.Because if any community needs development, it is the Moslems of India.The illusion of Moslems voting as a bank is now utterly destroyed. You cannot use Moslems, you cannot use workers and peasants, and you cannot use Dalits- just because you have a more intelligent manifesto or vision about the society you want to believe in. The notion of Trump’s America and Modi’s India is of course built on a strategic vision. But the tactics deployed are always for immediate and plausible gains. The concept of secularism and tolerance has been reduced to a joke confined to the slightly educated intelligentsia. The anti-intellectual appeal is far more attractive, tactical and therefore easily deployed.
Therefore the notion that “people” always vote intelligently and forcefully, is a liberal salve. An unguent that covers up a chancred condition. People vote with their emotions. They like a temporary reprieve. They want emotional rescue. They walk away from a rally and vote for the other party, because so-and-so elder made an important point about cow meat as opposed to buffalo meat. That is the way popular culture registers it’s verdicts.
A mainstream US media outlet recently asked a senior Chinese political functionary, what they thought of Trump’s election. He smiled and said, “We don’t think in terms of 4 year terms. We think in terms of generations to come.”
In other words, when your goal is 4 or 5 years of power, the people do not go to the polling booth exuding intelligent strategic considerations. So, if you have not been quietly plugging away and organizing people in large areas of the country, in remote communities and small towns, block by block and raising hell about inequality and corporate controls and actually mobilizing people on a daily basis, without making members only for electioneering, you will not groom the people to think and vote intelligently.
Trevor Selvam is a freelance writer