Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Power and The Permanence

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I was watching BBC classic Yes Minister, when I stumbled across this quotation by Sir Arnold Robinson, the cabinet secretary while he is discussing certain issue with Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Power goes with permanence. Impermanence is impotence. Rotation is Castration.
This, in my opinion is one of the fundamental observations regarding power, which when applied to politics and sociology, helps us in understanding the subtle undercurrents of the time and its effect on individuals, society, polity and Rashtra as a whole.

Power indeed goes with permanence. In context of the government and the administration, it can be seen that the real power-holders in government are not the elected and ephemeral representatives of people, but the stationary and permanent bureaucracy. There is no change in fundamental policies of any stable nation, irrespective of which party is in power, and what is the political party's outlook. For example, the economic liberalisation policy of P.V.Narasimha Rao government was continued by A.B.Vajpayee government, even though their stated economic, social and religious objectives were poles apart.

It applies to every major policy decisions taken by any stable governing entity. The fundamental policy never changes and this permanence is ensured by the stable bureaucracy which ensures its execution. Hence, the secretaries wield more power than the ministers, who take half of their tenure in understanding how things work in administration.

The Bigger Picture

The above example provides a very partial picture, however. Since different people seek different forms of power, the power wielded by a bureaucrat will be different from the one wielded by a politician or a scientist or a teacher or a soldier. However, this principle applies ever where.

With permanence, comes stability; and with stability comes prosperity and power. A cursory look back at history shows the tendency of consolidation of power for longer time over larger area and more people is the key towards prosperity and rejuvenation of individual, society and Rashtra. Polity is the basic factor which nourishes all other branches of life and knowledge. Nothing affects every aspect of life of individual, society and rashtra more vigorously and profoundly, than Polity. Hence, a stable and yet ideologically fertile Polity is the most important factor which contributes to the rise of a Rashtra.

All men of power want more power. However, there is a catch in this statement. The key question to be asked here is what is the character of the particular man of power under consideration? How content or otherwise he is when he consolidates enough power to satisfy his immediate issues? It has to be understood that time and power are in direct relation. The longer one stays in power, more the conslidated power he possesses and higher are his capabilities of projecting his power over larger area for longer time. However, even after sufficient consolidation of power in space and time, how willing is one person to project his power beyond his domains depends upon the degree of mercantile and mercenary character in his personality.

Mercantile and Mercenary mentality

This mentality is present in each and every individual to various extent. However, when this mentality is too strongly ingrained upon the mind of the power-seeker, he tends to prematurely limit his conquest of power as soon as his immediate goals are achieved.

This mentality is represented by those people who are ready to sell their services to highest bidder without considering even a slightest bit about whom are they offering their services and how will it affect the society and nation as a whole.

When an optima is achieved and immediate problems resolved,some people with higher mercenary character become relatively prosperous by partial consolidation of power, they try to maintain the status-quo for as long as they can. They are willing to pay any cost to keep the potential adversary from impacting their set way of life and peace. They are open to make any compromise for tactical victory, without thinking about impending strategic defeat. Such mentality is detrimental for overall progress of society and nation. The classic examples of such mentality is Aambhi of Taxila, Jaichandra of Kannauj and many others.

When such mentality crosses its threshold, everything is opened up for sale, including one's faith, nation, honour and dignity. When a mercantile and mercenary mentality is ingrained in the minds of population, the leaders tend to buy off partial consolidation by pampering to the dissipative and centrifugal forces which avoids complete consolidation of power for longer and farther.

In absence of this mentality, however, the men of power go on to consolidate power longer and farther. This zeal of power projection is the real key towards achievement of any lasting progress as it ensures the permanence of power as well as constant flux of new ideas in every sphere of life owing to material prosperity achieved. This mentality was displayed by Mauryas, Guptas and all the classical empires of ancient India until Harshavardhan of Kannauj.

The Power-Permanence Equilibrium

The projection and subsequent consolidation of power longer and farther requires a ruthless execution of permanence and constant and indigenous reflux of new ideas, not only in polity, but in every aspect of life. However, all the government has to do is to make available suitable platforms for the expression of such ideas prevalent amongst masses. Masses, when accustomed to a particular political system which is powerful, stable and permanent, adapt themselves accordingly, and a dynamic equilibrium is established between individual, society and Rashtra. This equilibrium is very delicate high energy state which is nourished not by morality of the ruler, but largely by the permanence and stability of the rule.

Thus, we come to understanding that governance is never about choice between good or bad, its about the choice between order and chaos. A good thing which will bring in chaos and impermanence, is categorically avoided by the men of power. Permanence favours order. Order favours stability and stability favours prosperity. Once prosperity begins to set in, the giant leap forward for a particular civilization is not far behind.

Impermanence favours instability which in turn favours evolution of mercenary and mercantile mentality amongst masses. Once this mentality sets in, stability becomes exponentially expensive to achieve.

Variability of Definitions

For different people, power means different things. For all the conceivable definitions of power which vary in every individual, its relationship with permanence remains constant and unchanging. Be it physical or political or administrative or monetary or love or knowledge or spirituality, power comes and amplifies with permanence. Without permanence, power cannot manifest herself in her fullest. Without permanence, she is impotent. Without a stabilizing effect of Shiva, Shakti is worthless. Hence, it is essential for every entity (individual, society or nation) which seeks power to inculcate the habit of permanence and sustainability.

3 comments:

kaushal said...

To begin with,I must admit that it is a well thought article and written with careful rather appropriate words to describe the complex phenomena.
Speaking about the more stable form of power(bureaucratic)which is not largely effected by the top level politics is however, a subject of discussion. Taking about your own example, P V. narsimha rao and Vajpayee, we need to consider predecessors of Rao. There was an overnight change in the policies which is still preserved in Indian economic chapter for various reasons such as MMS and his decendents i.e montek in the powerful positions. However the point here is if we plot the policies be it economic or politicial agaist time scale, the graph does not always show exact value of slope. There are bumps and exponential discrepancies which has to be studied. To me its of extreme importance to understand the history for this. We Indians have never been under democracy in past thousand years. Our immediate idea is to bow to a master be it king's era or mughals or brits.This puts barricades on the execution of bureaucratic abilities in country like India. They tend to follow the orders of upper layer of policy makers i.e politicians in spite of considerable differences in the view points. here needless to mention the NSA himself bowing to the president Zardari(ref. to our discussion). This trend tells us to try and distinguish between bureaucrats of relatively independent way of functioning i.e. US or China post 1948 and bureaucrats who are handcuffed due to the natural burden of 'Yes Sir' mentality, which also partically helped Brits in ruling India for so many years.
Also the point of permanency is not the only criteria even thought it's very essential as you emphasized through out the article.If we scan thru the 60 yrs of Congress stable govt which did very less to nothing practically. The will to do is also essential, the nationalist eye to make a diffrence. Its unfortunate that the most stable political time of India was enjoyed by a party having very little zeal to exercise the power and bring about the change.
Having said all this, back to the basics again, it was a nice concept of defining pre-requisites of power and prosparity.

Chiron said...

Very Valuable comment Kaushal, Dhanyavaad.. :-)

You are particularly right about the graph not necessarily being smooth as it might have resonated from the article. There are thousands of different other parameters..

The mercantile and Mercenary charater which I have discussed in the article fits perfectly well wit the behaviour of INC government prior to 1990.

Having consolidated enough power to stabilize and satisfy the immediate problems, there is choice in front of the power-holder. To go for complete conquest on his terms OR to remain satisfied and trying to maintain the status quo.. Leaders with Higher mercantile and mercenary character go for compromise and not for conquest (This is what Congress did and what you implied in your comment)

I guess, lot of it is related to the nature of North-Indian politics. But that will be different topic altogether.

The tendency to sell anything, just to maintain the status-quo and peace is what has ingrained in our current policy-makers (NSA, for example). Even if that is not the case, the decisions, the statements and the body-language of "Men-of-power" in the centre seems to suggest the same.

The permanency of INC rule ensured stability of India yes when times were against us.. But now that India wields much more power, we are hesitating in projecting that power, owing to that higher mercantile character of INC in general and Gandhi-Family in particular.

Thanks again for the valuable comment.. :-)

kaushal said...

also a quick thought of the two mentalities u were referring to just in case if ppl dont recollect the memories of Ambhiraj BC 300, an easy bolster to the theory is India Post 1947, were survival at the highest power being the only criteria seemingly introduced goons, religion and reservation based politics. The vast majority of Indian population suffering from this ''moves'' is least of their worries apparently!