Voluntary Servitude

Posted: June 26, 2010 in india, Uncategorized

Atanu Dey, talking about free India’s first dictator, Mrs. Indira Nehru,  quotes Murray Rothbart on voluntary servitude:

every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general popular acceptance. In short, the bulk of the people themselves, for whatever reason, acquiesce in their own subjection.

Theoretically this is true, but in reality it’s much more complicated. Overthrowing an oppressive regime is a huge coordination problem.
For an individual under a tyrant, opposing the government is generally equivalent to suicide. Sure, if all the people come out and demand freedom, they shall have it. But who would bell the cat? How do you plan and organize an uprising under an oppressive regime? Obviously, any attempt at doing that would be nipped in the bud. Also there is the question of firepower; Even if you manage to get majority of people to participate in the movement, how do you fight the army if the regime uses force? There have been several instances in history where entire populations have been wiped out to gain control. What European occupiers did to the native American civilizations is nothing short of extermination. British were never shy of mass murdering people in India. Tiananmen Square massacre demonstrates that tyrants may not hesitate to indiscriminately kill their own people.

I’m not suggesting that dictators can’t be overthrown by people if they really care for freedom, or that the fear of getting killed should stop them from revolting against tyrants. All I’m saying is that merely because a population is under a tyrant, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have given their consent for servitude.

In India’s case though, it might actually be true that we voluntarily submit ourselves to servitude. What else can explain the fact that a family of corrupt, clueless, arrogant people had practically been the monarchs of a country which boasts itself to be the world’s largest democracy. Not just that, every state, and every political constituency in the country seems to have a ruling family which wields power in that region for generations. Even movie stars have dynasties that have been running for many generations. It’s one thing for powerful people to elevate their useless offspring onto positions that they don’t deserve, but what can we make of a population that puts these undeserving people on a pedestal and worships them unconditionally?

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