Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

They say history is written by winners. Perhaps, survival of the fittest works backwards in time too. Bet Darwin didn't think of it. I bet a significant amount of things that we read are bogus - perhaps that was the only thing I liked (and learnt) from Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. There is a saying in kannada that says "if 9 out of 10 people call a donkey a horse, it is a horse".

It is in this regard that I view Saddam's hanging. Maybe Saddam deserved the hanging. May he didn't (very few people say that, btw). Maybe capital punishment is wrong, maybe it is right. Who knows. But as far as history is concerned, he'd just be a foot-note in 2100 AD. And the text-books would tell them exactly what US is telling the world now. That would be the official version forever.

But, why have people and Governments protested the execution (or was it "assassination" or "murder" or "killing" ) ? Mostly because of the perception that the trial was not completely fair, that there was an element of vindictiveness involved ("he tried to kill my Dad" - Bush) ... Sometimes, it is not important to simply do something. It is more important to do it in a way that it is fair and even more importantly, in a way that it is *perceived* as fair.

That is where it is important to have something called a process, a law. Given my start-up background, my rebel instincts and the bureaucracy that I have seen at places I have studied or worked, it is hard for me to accept something is the foundation of bureaucracy. And good thing is: it is also the foundation of creating systems that go over and above egos and persona.

If we notice the turmoil in Bangladesh (elections for PM) or in Pakistan (constant military rule and deification of the army), it is all because either there is no process or one (or more) party decides to deviate from it. No that we are far from it. But on the whole, we seem to have a consensus on democracy as what Shashi Tharoor defined it in his speech at PanIIT 2006 - "where you agree on how to disagree".

It is where our neighbours have failed. It is where India has more or less succeeded.

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