tl;dr: Go join /r/aap, and spread the word now.
Political activism is getting a lot of press and attention in India these days, primarily because of rampant corruption.
One of the most important man behind all this is Arvind Kejriwal. He quit his job as a government beurocrat to and participated in a series of investigative research/campaign against various local governements.
About a year and half(?) back Anna Hazare, another political activist, credited for being main person responsible for Right to Information Act in India, exploded into limelight by going on a fast against corruption, and demanding a new legislation to root out corruption, lokpal bill.
Arvind was touted as the brain behind Anna's campaign and lokpal bill. Right after that Arvind started becoming a media darling by providing a series scandalous expose on various corruption scams by different politicians.
I am not a fan of Anna and then Arvind's movement and of lokpal bill
Since the beginning I have been publicly protesting against the lokpal bill at every venue available. The premise of the bill is idiotic, "everybody so far, whether selected via merit or popular vote, is corrupt, but officers sitting in lokpal office won't be". The proponents of the bill want to create a power more powerful than prime minister of India or Supreme Court of India, and expect these people not to get corrupt some how. You will find few things more idiotic than this. "We will find some way to solve such issues" is the strongest argument lokpal bill supporters come up with.
Arvind and Anna, they are very quick at declaring themselves winner. Half a dozen time ruling party fooled Anna by offering dicey promises, half a dozen times Anna declared himself a winner, and then half a dozen times he came back crying when he realized he was taken for a ride.
Arvind, he is too happy feeding media and not carrying through on anything. You would expect a person who got such a widespread support as Arvind, from nearly every quarted of country, who is campaigning for years against corruption, who prides himself for uncovering solid evidence showing corruption, that at least he would have gotten at least a few hundred people behind bars by now. None. This is a man who wants to beat Sachins world record in the first match he plays in gally. He wants the first person to go behind jail to the most powerful person in the country. He would not settle for less.
Whole country gave support to these guys, and these guys have cheated the country, in my opinion, by throwing all of it away by not even attempting to come up with a strategy. I will go on fast, or I will sit outside someones house till police forces me, this is the only strategy these guys have got.
If I had the support and was actively involved in activism, I would have gone after lowest level of govt involved in corruption. The upper level guys would not have tried much to save these guys, and if you have taken 10 rupees as bribe I would have put my entire energy into getting you behind the bar. I would not touch the ones taking lakhs and crores, not for first few years. I would have gotten thousands and thousands of people behind the bar, low level, but with clear message, if you are corrupt, start sleeping uneasy, for its only a matter of time, this will send a chilling message. I would not have self congratulated myself for finding evidence, I would have rejoiced only if a court accepts the evidence, otherwise it is not really evidence.
In any movement we have to build momentum if we have to continue to keep make progress, and my exposing politicians after politicians but with zero conviction, Arvind is building a momentum of failure. It becomes very difficult to change from string of failures to success, so it is important to seek our success, even if they are small in the beginning.
And finally, the biggest mistake in my opinion, is the Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind should not have started a party. The politicians love throwing this argument against anti corruption movement: if you want the bill, stand in election, come to power and pass it. This was a ploy to detract the movement, they know that if this is the path Arvind is foolish enough to chose, lokpal will automatically go in cold burner for years or probably decade. And Arvind fell for it and this is exactly what happened, today nobody talks about lokpal bill.
The premise that everybody who wants a change brought in India must start a political party and pass the bill themselves is deeply flawed for two reasons, one, it kills all the momentum as forming a party is tedious task, elections comes in 4 year cycle, second, much bigger problem is that for a party to become powerful enough to force a bill in parliament/state legislature house, that party has to be too powerful, and politics is comples, there are so many issues that devide the country, reservation, ayodhya, FDI, tilangana, and dozens more, it is simply not possible for me to know that a party, like aam aadmi party, who is asking me to vote for them so they bring about lokpal bill, will have any intelligent or sane position on all these issues. Its a losers choice. We have to start to force our politicians, the guys we put in office to repsent us, to start representing us, and do as we say as people. That is democracy, accepting that is not possible is giving out a message that democracy does not work in India. If it does not, then all of this is pointless.
So Why Do I Support Arvind Kejriwal and AAP?
To say I support them is premature and probably I will never support anybody, to me politics and democracy in India is failing not because politicians are corrupt, that is just refusal to take responsibility and attempt to find scape goat and play blame game. According to me this is why we have corrupt politicians, because we do not want to look into details, we do not want to be involved in day to day affairs of politics, we do not want to exercise our mind, we just want to find saviour, some massiha will come and solve our problems, and if he does not then we will proclaim him to Ravan and loath them.
This, only dealing in absolute love and hate, and the inability to have level headed, objective look into people, their motives, their actions, changing need and times, is the reason we are in this mess.
Two of my fav quotes about politics are:
Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
Anyone who says they are not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water. -- Anupam Kher
We all are part of politics. We are just not performing our duties. And saying I support a man, or I oppose a man, is the most convenient way to avoid our duties.
In my opinion ideal situation would be entire country, every person with franchise, votes on individual bills, direct democracy. Representative democracy is a legacy of past, and only there because we did not have means to collect votes from everyone on every issue till before advent of mobile and internet. Now that it is possible, it must happen.
But till the time we do not get to vote on individual bills, we have to vote for people, and the only way we can make sure the people we elect continue to honour our wills on individual issues is talking about issues and keeping people and party secondary.
There are issues that are important to me, Arvind and AAP may appear to share my views on those issues, and by keeping track of their track record on their speech vs action, I would be able to decide if I will vote for them or not. I am not giving anyone unconditional support.
So again why I support Arvind Kejriwal. One of the things that is most important to me, is ability to have healthy discussion, even if the views are not favorable to you. This is how you learn, this is how you hone your skill and arguments to sway more people, this is how you gather support from the intelligent people, this is how you not put off intelligent people actually.
And despite all my complaints, Arvind appears amenable to consenting views. He brings attention to allegation made against him. He gives support to voices who are critical to him, but would have lost without his support in all the noise.
To me this means the man is, as of now, capable to represent me, if he learns what I want. So my job is to tell him what I want.
So How Do We Tell Arvind What We Want?
Why this is a simple problem you would say, you meet him, you write to him, you go to his facebook page and post on his wall.
If only life was this simple. After working in Information Technology, a field that deals in part how to manage flow of information, I find it a very non trivial problem.
Signal vs Noise is a very important problem. My voice can get lost in all the well meaning voices shouting nothings to him. He gets load of letters every day. He has no time to read all of them. Even if he does, and if he can spot the kernel of corn from the surrounding shit, his attention may get stolen by the something more immideate. Same with facebook and emails and personal meeting. Also he may not get my point because of my poor writing, he may require clarification, but has no time for and so forth.
So how do we solve this problem? Well this in my opinion, for the use case concerned here, is a nearly solved problem, and solution is reddit or a reddit like system.
What Is Reddit And How Can It Help?
Reddit is a tool, and while there are many other tools for gathering suggestions, here is what is most important requirements in my opinion.
First thing first, the tool must be public. If I write a letter to Arvind, there is no reason for Arvind to read it. Its a criminal wastage of his time to read every letter. He simply can not do justice to them, even if he tries to sqeeze time in for going through them out of a sense of respect of the person who wrote it.
What he needs is to publicly publish all those letters, and let people review them. For this to work, he will need a large audiance, but luckily Arvind has show repeated proofs that he is capable of mobilising voulanteers to help him.
So a large number of people go through the letters, and vote them up and down. And they post replies, offer objections and suggestions, original guy improves his suggestion based on criticism offered, and if the suggestion still continues to get traction from people, then Arvind should review it.
I have no adolation for Arvind, a lot of his supporters do. It is very important that we realize that his views could be flawed (everybody's). What he considers good may be bad, and what he considers bad may be good at times. It is our responsibility to offer him not just menial labour help, but also to offer him intellectual help, by offering well reasoned arguments for and against things. Arguments that are based on logic, arguments that avoid logical fallacies, arguments that are beyond the flood of "me toos", "I am with you" the poor man is getting. If you don't like something don't dismiss it by making a comment about the person who made the point, argue against the point, talk about why what is said is wrong irresective of who made the point or what their intention was. Keep people and ideas separate, and focus on ideas. Once we offer him those curated ideas, he has seen pros and cons, he has an option of acting on them.
Please note that this is the reason Anna and that yoga baba kept splitting and coming together, and then today Anna and Kejriwal are facing love hate relationship, it is because they are all acting on their wishes, what they should be acting on is based on crown wisdom that all the supporters of the movement wish. Each individual is different, they will conflict with others, but if a crowd comes votes on everything, then the individual opinion becomes lot less important, it matter lot less who is at top, as long as he is doing a decent job of helping the community organize, facilitate a healthy discussion, act as a moderator when needed, does not give a message that this is what I want and therefore this is what I am doing, but that this is what all of us want, so this is what I am going to do. We have to elevate ourselves from level of people to level of ideas, and if used effectively, reddit can help us do that, this is what reddit is designed to do. It does that by letting people vote up comments and articles that makes sense.
One of my biggest problem with Arvind Kejriwal is that he is not asking me for help. He is trying to write his own draft of lokpal without inviting me. Not me personally, but people in general. There is so much we can do for him, but we do not have a place to discuss what ideas help, and what ideas hurt, what has merit and what is just noise. We can not go to commetties, India is big, we have jobs, and even if we assemble somewhere for a week, nothing substantial will happen, only few people will be represented. If there is one idea in the head of one person, who could not come for any reason, that was helpful for our cause, we would miss that idea, that contribution, and we would all suffer. Internet is changing everything, we can do those commettee discussions online. We must. We do not have to force people to travel using jingoistic lines like "you can't even do this much for country when there are people who are doing so much!!!", that is losers position again. If you can get something, you must, if you dont, and put the blame on it on others then you are loser. We can get feedback from the whole country without forcing them to travel, so we must.
So a system, that has proven track record of helping people distinguish signal from noise is essential for Arvind, and activism in India in general. And reddit is that tool. Even Obama used reddit as the means to reach out to talk to general people of America.
So How Can We Use Reddit To The Fullest?
If you agree that a forum of sorts, that supports robust voting mechanism, handles proper threading and so, is good for Arvind, and if you unite with me in trying to use the best tool for the job, which Reddit is, then there are a few points to note so we can optimally use it.
First and foremost, any such tool only works if it has people on it. So our first responsibility is to reach out to people far and wide, people only we can talk to, and introduce them to reddit. It is our job number one.
Second: Reddit is organized into subreddit, portals for individual interests. I have created one such subreddit, /r/aap. You will want to join reddit and subscribe to it.
Now how does reddit work? On reddit we do three things: one, we read about what is popular. We do not want to read just what Arvind shared on his wall, or whats in the newspaper you subscribe to, we want to read any article, no matter where it is published, that is deemed worthy by the community. We can see articles ranked by recency and voting, we can see comments about that article, again ranked by our votes.
Two: We as community, people who have subscribed to /r/aap, have to vote. We want to keep the community healthy, not give in to needless cynicism, or over the top optimism, idolatig Arvind, or discuss in hyperboles. We are doing a service when we vote, we can not just vote opinions we favor, but we have to vote opinions that merit it. We have the duty of supporting differing opinions that are thoughfully written, logically argued, and are offering a new perspective, new solution, new idea. If someone says Arvind sucks, and presents a very good case about it, Arvind is the biggest beneficiary of that comment, if he is open minded, amenable to change, not stuck up or full of himself. It is therefore our duty to upvote such logical criticism so it comes in notice of Arvind and others. We can not hide our flaws by sweeping them under the rug, we can only get rid of them by addressing them fair and square.
Third: We have to submit articles and comments. If you see a opinion that have some merit, bring it to /r/aap and submit it there. Respond to comments, do not take comments to personally, do not make things personal, never attack a person, only attack people's positions.
While commenting and submitting it is very important to keep away from meaningless "Indian comments" like "hi", "me too", "I am with you". Write proper english, care about grammar, spelling and style. We Indians are at a disadvantage in this regard, english is not our native language, we do not think in it, and yet enligsh is almost the defacto official language. So a lot of our brothers and sisters make mistake, write shoddy comments. We have a further disadvantage that we do not put emphasis on literature and writing as much as other developed countries, for the simple reason that art comes after roti kapda aur makan. This does not mean we accept our flaws, we have to make a concious choice, put in effort to improve, and improve we must, for that is the whole point of all this.
What Can You Do Now?
First of all, thank you for reading this long post. I am hoping I have provided adequete justifications for my views, in case I have missed out on something, please take it kindly, writing is something I am still learning, if you find anything I said crass or offensive, please reserve judgement till you have interacted more with me. I do respect what you do most probably, I just do not believe what we respect should be immune to scrutiny, criticism and even mockery.
Assuming what I said appeals to you, please help me make this a success. There is two ways we can make it a success, one: by getting people to subscribe to /r/aap, and activily participating in it, two: by getting Arvind to participate in /r/aap. You have to help me reach Arvind, so if you can post this article to places he frquent, somehow bring it to his notice it would be greatly appreciated. Bottom line is if Arvind is not onboard with this, the chances of this becoming a success are rather low.
In case it really works and Arvind is reading it: thanks man for not taking offense at the criticism and reading till here. I am more than willing to do anything address your queries. Also, please accept the admin rights to /r/aap from me, or assign it to someone you trust, as long as you resolve to fight all form of censorship.
Let me repeat:
- Spread the word about www.reddit.com/r/aap, use this blog post in case some justification is required, or go on copy anything I have written, rewrite it, post it anywhere, the content of this blog is available under liberal creative commons license.
- Subscribe to /r/aap, vote and comment there.
- Somehow get Arvind Kejriwal to read this post :-)
PS: If you have something to say about this post, please submit your comment over at reddit. I have already submitted this, you can find the post here: Reddit For Aaam Aadmi Party: Why I created this subreddit. Please rip my arguments apart, but keep it healthy.