"Greed is good", said Gordon Gekko, the central character of the film Wall Street. Gekko was a high living, risk- taking corporate raider cum stockbroker. For Gekko, money took precedence over all else. Three talented cricketers, one a World Cup winner and already famous, the other two well on their way to earning riches from the game far beyond their dreams, have sold their souls for money.
They’re not the only ones. An MBA, accompanied by his friend, recently killed his 13 year old nephew to pay off an IPL debt. Last year, management student Parminder Singh killed and abducted 5 year old Shubh Rawal for money. Two years ago a Mumbai youth killed his grandmother for money. In 2007, 5 teenagers killed another teenager Adnan Patrawala for money. The middle class parents of the Ahmedabad -based alleged bookie Manan Bhatt, arrested in the spot fixing case have said that their son was not content with their modest lifestyle and wanted more and more money.
Today, almost every Indian wants to get rich fast. In Bollywood, crime is now glamorised and advertised as a legitimate path to getting rich. IPL is indeed a microcosm of the new India; where greed coexists with glamour, where massive crowds coexist with massive corruption, where hype, glitter and instant gratification coexist with frenzied money making and a sharply plummeting moral quotient in which women commodify their bodies as “”empowerment” and men commodify their conscience as “business acumen”. Parents of criminals move heaven and earth to make sure their children escape the law, as I have written in The Dhritarashtra syndrome. Journalists are willing to sell of every principle of the Fourth Estate for thirty pieces of silver.
Bollywood pumps out massively popular entertainment centred on the dishonest and the murderous. Sexy, well–dressed criminals loot and pillage their way through life and are rewarded at the end by "true love". The film Ishaqzade, in many ways chilling propaganda for youth crime, showed a pair of violent anti-socials as star-crossed lovers, where the evil smile of the hero seemed more suited for horror than amorousness, the couple’s blood-soaked life advertised as a story of “rebel love”.
What is this New India? To paraphrase Malcolm Muggeridge, wealth increasing ever more, and its beneficiaries stupefied by money and sex, for them heaven lying in the nearest shopping mall or in the mansions of real estate sharks climbing ever upwards, mansions as shining white as their finances are dark black.
Can IPL owners honestly talk of eradicating corruption when several of them are facing inquiries from tax and enforcement authorities? Can a Subroto Roy of Sahara have the moral authority to rein in his players when SEBI wants to freeze his assets due to non-payment of dues to investors?
Those wearing Gandhi caps are accused of gargantuan scams, those promising social justice are accused of amassing personal wealth in the name of revolution, those promising honesty in economic reforms are accused of crony capitalism. On the same day as the IPL spot fixing made headline news, a corner box item reported the arrest of a CBI police officer investigating the Coalgate issue for taking a 7 lakh bribe.
The spot fixing expose, the endless neta-babu scams, and the scams in medical colleges, the scams in government procurement, the scams in the media, there must come a time when revulsion produces a revolution born from collective nausea. The revolution cannot necessarily come from political initiatives or simply from law or from agitations against a particular government or a particular regime. The revolution must come from society, from schools, universities, workplaces, families and above all from the individual conscience. Each of us has to participate in this revolution and each of us has to bring a long forgotten word back into our lives, that underused word interpreted as a sign of weakness and failure, that word “goodness”.
Godmen, spiritual leaders and religious cults are proliferating. Yet even some of those who are part of the God Industry are accused of wrong doing. Very rarely has a spiritual leader spoken out passionately against corruption of the soul and personal morality in a manner that can inspire and convince. The spiritual and moral vacuum can hardly be filled by yoga classes, ayurvedic spas and aromatherapy treatments. When spiritual leaders themselves are accused of land grabbing and sex scandals then society's moral compass can only point towards the end.
Yet it’s important here to make sure that that the war against corruption does not become a war against human nature. Nothing short of a personal moral renaissance will do, not the poor substitute for morality known as moral policing. An aspiring society cannot be expected to return to a prurient era of license permit raj or to decry money as evil. Advocating the questionable joys of self-righteous socialist living is not the medicine required. An aspiring society, newly liberated from the command economy, can’t be expected to shun glamour, betting, quest for glitzy entertainment and unitedly take to sanyas. We can’t turn the clock backwards towards moral policing but instead must turn it forwards to transparency, professionalism and accountability at all levels.
Betting is perfectly legal, but players must not fix matches. There’s nothing morally wrong with either glamorous women or cheerleaders, it’s only unprofessional when they try to be journalists. There’s nothing morally wrong with an expensive car, but there’s something wrong when possession of such a car leads you to commit manslaughter in the quest for pleasure. There’s nothing morally wrong with the leisure industry provided it does not endanger the life and liberty of others.
Putting strictures on short skirts and jeans, banning movies, paintings and books are exercises in double standards. The same folk who agitate to ban books, burn other people’s property. The same folk who noisily protest against women visiting bars are the same folks often accused of voyeurism and sexual assault. Netas like Sharad Yadav pour scorn on IPL as Indian Paisa League and want IPL to be banned but Yadav himself is known for disgustingly lewd and sexist comments on 'parkati' women.
Moral policing will achieve nothing, moral policing can never be a substitute for a moral renaissance. The pious billionaire with a gilt edged mandir installed in his villa who swindles others to make his fortune is an example of the morality games we play.
A moral renaissance means a parent turning their criminal offspring over to the police. A moral renaissance means accepting the rule of law in every personal and professional relationship. A moral renaissance means making it possible for every Indian to get rich honestly, transparently and professionally. A moral renaissance means pursuing entertainment and pleasure within the boundaries of the law. A moral renaissance means every citizen openly accepting that he or she is driven by the urge to get rich and opting to make money honestly. A moral renaissance requires those who call themselves “leaders” to set the example by shunning the culture of pomp and privilege and embracing a culture of decency and equal citizenship.
The war against corruption will not be won by returning to Marxist dictums, by a war on corporates, seeking to ban all industry, seeking to ban all wealth creation and ban all pleasure. The war on corruption has to be fought on the personal level through a moral renaissance and on a public level by accepting realistically that every Indian today is not a mahatma. Today every Indian, from the adivasis of Bastar to the mall rats of South Delhi, wants a better life, wants quality of life, wants entertainment, wants pleasure and wants to enjoy the best that is on offer.
All these must be made available through rigorous corporate governance, total accountability and zero tolerance on wickedness and dishonesty. Glamour is not synonymous with immorality; money is not synonymous with evil.
The way a morally flawed society can reform itself is by realistically accepting its collective desires and achieving them in the best cleanest possible way, not by denying that those desires exist. Banning the IPL is not the answer; instead we should make it what we all want it to be: glamorous, entertaining, clean and fun.
Sagarika Ghose is the Deputy editor of CNN-IBN