The Lost Lone Voice

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The dissidents are showed the door. In the offices, those who differ are marginalised and pushed into a corner. The institution, which could have benefited from the unique input or those who could show an alternate way are thrown out of the system and the system or community actually loses out. Where will those lone voices go? The simple reply is, nowhere. Hemashri laments the lack of the lone voice, of innovation and invention that is silenced by the brute majority, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

The pretty lady is a writer and a green reporter.

She was narrating how her write-up in a website, on the river Brahmaputra, received enthusiastic queries and comments from distant places like Europe and other continents. She lamented that people right here, living on the bank of Brahmaputra, rarely show such curiosity to know more about the river.She concluded saying that may be because the locals perceive the river as source of misery due to recurrent floods caused by it. She also informed that in the interests of the state as a genuine environmentalist, she opposed several issues in various meetings. So she has been thrown out of a state level environmental committee. We were a small group of three people in the chamber of a very renowned, octogenarian editor. It was my first meeting with the editor and I had gone with the resolve to be a listener but this lady’s thought provoking comments made me speak up.

I felt an instant concern for her when she said that her views led to her expulsion from the state level committee. I have myself endured it many times when people side-lined or pushed me into a corner because my views or style of functioning differed from others. My punishment ranged from not giving work to sudden withdrawal of facilities to which I was entitled. It aggrieved me initially. I went through mild depressive phases and did my own SWOT Analysis to find out what exactly was my problem. Repeated experiences and experiments made me realised I was perhaps perceived as a non-conformist and so the odd one out.Why people are so intolerant of the lone voice or disagreement. Is it because we live in a democracy and majority is considered always right so anyone who dares to differ is strangulated? Is it lack of civility that disagreement is rudely eliminated? Could human civilisation progress or thrive only on the basis of ‘agreement culture’? What leads to invention or innovation? Is it not one man or woman, who believed that there was a better way of doing things and went on its quest to come up with something new? Why are we so intolerant of the lone voice?

I became aware of this power of lone voice in a training that I attended some nine years back. We were twentyfive officers who were sent to Management Development Institute, in Gurgaon. I was the junior most amongst them. Till date this has been the best training I ever attended. There were many psychometric tests in the training for which officers were asked to do some exercises or games. One day our trainer gave us an exercise. We were asked to assume that we were left in an island which was very dry and hot and we were given 14 items such as two water bottles, a head to toe covering jacket, a small mirror, etc. and we were asked to arrange these items in order of priority to be able to survive and come out of that island. We all placed two water bottles as our most urgent item at serial 1. As usual, some of us even discussed with each other and felt reassured that we were correct because most of us had placed water bottle as the number one item. When the trainer evaluated our sheets there was only one person who had put the small mirror as the number one item and he was the only one who was correct. The logic was that the mirror was the most important item to reflect light to be able to signal to an approaching ship for help. The trainer then gave us a briefing why the lone voice is very important and why should we pay heed to the one who differs from the majority. That was a lecture from a Management Guru in one of India’s premiere Management Institute. What do we actually do with the lone voices? Not to speak of paying heed to the lone voice, usually do not we strangulate them or eliminate them? Intolerance for the lone voice is ubiquitous whether it is politics, a committee or Arnab Goswami’s talk show. Perhaps it demands high degree of civility or wisdom to develop the patience to pay attention to the one who disagrees with the majority. In politics they call those who disagree as dissidents and they are ruthlessly demolished and only “agreers” or sycophants rule the roost. Wherever possible, such dissidents are showed the door. In the offices, those who differ are marginalised and pushed into a corner. The institution, which could have benefited from the unique input or those who could show an alternate way are thrown out of the system and the system or community actually loses out.

Where will those lone voices go? The simple reply is, nowhere.

Democracy presupposes fair degree of equality. When democracy is planted in a soil ready for it perhaps lone voices would have got the freedom of expression or acceptance. In places afflicted with mass illiteracy, poverty, hunger, unemployment, superstition and a hell of a lot of ills – where a blanket or a liquor bottle or Rs 500 can entice a person to sell his valuable vote. So here the lone voices shall die down because majority is always correct.

No wonder, the country which ranks second in volume of population is ranked sixty ninth when it comes to innovation because majority is always right and the status quo has to prevail no matter what.

Is the majority always right or the lone voice(s) always wrong?

©Hameshri Hazarika

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#Government #Population #Democracy #Freedom #DifferentTruths

Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.