The Controversy Virus

For any casual observer watching India, it would seem that we are suffering from foot in the mouth disease as a country. The symptoms are all around us.
We have a sports minister who in a function to felicitate Ms. Saina Nehwal, asks who Mr. P Gopichand is. The fact that he is ex All England Badminton Champion and the coach of Indian ace is a detail that the minister never bothered to find out. He then does one better by insulting the coach of wrestler Sushil Kumar’s coach. He asked the legendary Satpal Maharaj to step aside in a ceremony to honour the world champion wrestler. Mr. Satpal himself is a celebrated grappler, Asiad Games gold medalist, winner of Dronacharya Award and a mentor to many of India’s champion wrestlers. The snub even moved Mr. Sushil Kumar who felt that Guru’s need to be respected
We also have Lalit Bhanot who very famously said that “our standards of hygiene are not the same as standards of western countries.” No wonder he had to beat a hasty retreat and take a crash course in hygiene management.
These are not isolated examples of the foot in mouth disease. From the police commissioner of Karnataka who called Kannidigas too lazy to indulge in act of terrorism to the minister in Haryana who pushed the athletes off the stage to stay in front of cameras, the examples are many. This disease has a very pronounced symptom. It afflicts those more who are in power or occupy positions of authority.
The issue is why does it happen? There are three reasons why the virus of this disease attacks the mighty and powerful. Because they are Disconnected. Because they are Unconcerned. Because they are insensitive.
It is amazing how the entire ruling class is so distant from reality. They seldom represent the aspirations and the feeling if the constituency they represent. Amazingly this is not restricted to the populist politicians only. The so called intellectual officials also seem as disconnected. May be they need to borrow something from the world of marketing and go on a market visit. I suspect that even this will not change anything, as the ruling class only sees what it wants to see.
They are disconnected because they are unconcerned. Mr. Gill did not have to apologize, Mr. Bhanot did not have to do so either, and certainly we can’t expect the Police Commissioner of Karnataka to do so. We the ordinary citizens of India seethe with anger and hang our head in shame, but those who bring this shame upon us, move on looking for the next target. Such is the affliction of the virus, and those suffering from it don’t even realize that they are suffering from an infection
The disconnection and lack of concern happens because of lack of sensitivity. Possibly the lack of real heroes in our culture is a reason for this insensitivity. Those who are in power have no role models to look up to. This makes accepting a contrary point of view very different. Every contrary point of view is seen as an irritating fly that needs to be swatted and killed. Wonder how they feel after saying the kind of things they say.
It is amazing that the cut throat world of branding and marketing has by and large has been free of this virus. This may be because the powers to be do not feel that they are powerful enough. It would be nice if we let it be like this for times to come.
As for powers to be, let’s not hand over the reign of brands to them.

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