By Surya Narain Saxena
Generally two conflicting views prevail in the society about the role and character of the middle class. One is that the middle class is the backbone of humanity everywhere in the world and is the harbinger, catalyst and agent of change and custodian of morality. The other one is just the opposite. The middle class is only vocal, corrupt and corrupting, exploitative, self-seeking, do-nothing, ever-grievancing and change-resistant. While much can be said on both sides and historical and contemporary evidence produced and arguments advanced to press each premise, the former appears less convincing and more aggrandising and the latter more realistic and truthful, especially in the present context.
The middle class is that it wants many things?money, comforts, entertainment, prestige and above all, a clean environment and good government?all at once on a platter. But anything in return? Probably none. It negates the ever true ?demand and duty? relationship which holds the mankind together and the disregard for which creates the aberrations we witness and suffer from all around.
Many in our times and country think the middle class is the harbinger of change and morality but it denied the opportunity to play its role in full. But the contention is not supported by facts. For example by their social status, the founders of modern scientific socialism, Mare and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. Similarly in India leaders of the freedom struggle like Sir Surendranath Banerjee, W. C. Banerjee, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, M.G. Ranade, Bipin Chandra Pal, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Jawahar Lal Nehru?all belonged to amender or high-fee lawyer families.
The middle class wants everything on a platter: popularity, money, resources, tickets for elections, without striving and perspiring for the same. A strong will and hard work is the first and foremost requisite for climbing the ladder of politics or governance.
We all, specially the middle class, complain of all-pervading corruption in public and personal life, but we can not trace the beginning and end of corruption, and probably none can. The genetics of corruption or bribe is like generation and circulation of blood within the human body. For example, small entrepreneurs complain of ?inspector raj? arguing they can'tlive without bribing the inspectors. Ask an inspector and he would blurt that businessmen are thieves. They share a part of their booty with us willingly in order to hide the rest. Look both the giver and taker of bribe belongs to the middle class. The inspector along with his widespread ilk forms the self-centred, self-seeking consumerist society, about which one can say: It has eyes but it doesn'tsee; it has ears but it doesn'tfeel.
Days of poverty-driven crimes are gone. Leave aside some petty carriers, pickpockets or burglars, the real criminals?the big or kingpins belong to a well-to-do class or families, who are armed with sophisticated weapons, move about in shining cars (maybe stolen) and are equipped with latest cell phones, cameras, scanners, printers and the intelligence required to plan and execute crime in a big way. Economic crimes like smuggling, drug trafficking, adulteration, faking, boot-legging, tax evasion and bribery carry no stigma or social taboo. Where does the bulk of economic criminals come from or who forms the backbone of economic crimes? Isn'tit the middle class?
It was probably the late President Kennedy of the USA who once said, ?Don'task what America has done for me, ask what I have done for America.? Our own respected President Kalam has more than once echoed the same message. This question is the test of our middle-class worthiness for its role in governance and politics.
Mahatma Gandhi believed that there is no social work without political work and no political work without social work. We find a virtual femine of social workers in the country. While the unlimited scope of social service exists all around, one need not give up his job or profession and become a sanyasi. He can start from his gali or mohalla by keeping it clean and be popular as an honest doer. But how many young men and women, even highly educated and accomplished, have any inclination for doing something for others? Some abhor the very idea of social work or moving out of their cosy homes as one below their dignity and status and others, a majority, have no time for this. In these conditions, the vacant space in social work and politics is occupied by ?scoundrels?. Who is responsible for criminalisation of politics? Surely the ease-loving middle-class as somebody has said, ?it is not the activity of bad people but the inactivity of good people that harms the society most?.
Unfortunately, the middle class wants everything on a platter: popularity, money resources, tickets for elections, without striving and perspiring for the same. A strong will and hard work is the first and foremost requisite for climbing the ladder of politics or governance. ?Resources first?, is the wrong end to begin with. These will follow, since sincere and selfless social endeavour has never been killed for lack of resources but for want of will, idealism, spirit of sacrifice on the part of workers. Let the sharif aadami (gentleman) come forward and fight for space; the criminals and undesirable will be pushed out of politics and governance, if not today, then tomorrow, the day after or another day after.