You know how magazines keep pushing articles at you teaching you how to solve problems? Evidently, articles teaching you how to solve problems sell. And people are always eager to find out what others do to solve problems, aren’t they? Especially really difficult problems that seem to have no easy solution?
So here, in five easy steps, is the tried-and-true South Asian method of solving problems.
Step One: Ignore the problem.
Suppose there’s a messianic religious terrorist movement sweeping parts of the world, and there are good reasons to believe that your own country might fall prey to it; in fact, there are good reasons to believe that this terrorist movement has already set up cells in your country. What should you do?
Deny the problem exists. If anyone is crass enough to point it out, declare that he is stupid and ignorant, and/or that he’s an anti-national traitor and agent provocateur. If you ignore the problem, it might just go away.
This doesn’t only refer to terrorist movements, of course. A drought or massive pollution, or thousands of farmer suicides caused by disastrous crony capitalist financial policies – all these should be treated in the exact same way.
Step Two: Call the problem a conspiracy by your political opponents.
Suppose these terrorists, who you have successfully ignored so far, begin making small scale hit and run attacks, killing one or two people each time? Now you can no longer actually pretend there isn’t something going on. But don’t let that mean you have to actually do something about it! In fact, there’s a perfectly simple way of actually taking advantage of it. Just blame your political opponents! You do have political opponents, don’t you? Blame them! Say they’re doing it! Even if it’s a drought or an earthquake, it’s all their fault!
Step Three: Covertly promote the problem to use it against your political opponents.
Let’s say the terrorist group we’re talking about has its main base in a state where your political opponents are strong. These opponents may belong to another party or even to another faction within your own party. No matter, an enemy is an enemy, and this is a golden opportunity to weaken them.
Start covertly arming and training the terrorists. Give yourself wryneck looking the other way as they get arms and ammunition in huge amounts, gather explosives, and set up zones where only their writ runs; a classic guerrilla war strategy. Then blame this on the incompetence of your political opponents, who let this happen right under their watch. Or make sure relief materials for the drought do not arrive, or are stolen by crooked bureaucrats and other middlemen. Again, you don’t have to do anything but look the other way. Easy!
What – you ask – of the fact that just in the previous step you were saying that this was a conspiracy by your political opponents, and now you’re saying it’s their fault because they’re so incompetent? You’re worried about people catching you contradicting yourself? Listen, these are people who are hard put to it to recall anything more than the movie they watched last weekend. You could say aliens from Aldebaran came down to bless you and get away with it.
What happens when the problem grows so severe that your political opponents can no longer control it? Simple: use it to push them aside. Call for elections, saying you’re the only one who can save the nation. Or if the law allows, do it without calling for elections. Why even bother with such superficialities?
Step Four: Now that you’re in charge, make the problem much, much worse.
Now that you’re in charge, let’s say there are ten different ways you can go about tackling this problem. Of these, nine may or may not succeed, but at least won’t make the situation materially worse. These might include peace talks, besieging the terrorist controlled areas to stop them from breaking out and to cut off their arms supply, a propaganda offensive to make the people withdraw their support to the terror movement, correction of national policies which created said support in the first place, or a combination of them. The tenth, however, will be absolutely, totally, guaranteed to make things infinitely worse. Let’s say, for instance, that the terrorists which you’ve been encouraging have now taken over a major religious structure, such as a grand temple or a major mosque, sacred to millions. What you must do is attack this mosque or temple with tanks, artillery, and commandos, and commit a bloody massacre. Whatever happens to the terrorists inside, and even if they’re all killed, what will happen is an immediate massive increase and solidification of their support.
Similarly, if there’s a drought, make highly visible tours of the area to “see for yourself” how things are. Perhaps people are starving to death because there’s no food, but your convoy of vehicles including your huge security entourage, must hog the highways and close them off to the lorries bringing relief supplies. Perhaps people don’t even have drinking water? Make sure tankers drive along in front of your convoy, spraying the road with water to lay the dust so it doesn’t disturb you or obscure your view of the fields cracked and fissured by the sun’s rays. If you visit a refugee camp, make sure the local politicians have cleared space for a stage for you and arranged personable-looking refugees for you to talk to for benefit of the cameras. And so on.
Step Five: Declare a victory and use it to win the next election.
So you’ve destroyed the temple or mosque and killed some terrorists, or made your “tour” of the drought hit area. Announce victory! Do not make the mistake of waiting until people discover that the terrorist menace has increased, or that there’s now an actual famine in the area you just “toured”. Announce victory, make sure the tame media repeat the claim, and use it to win the next election.
Ah, but what about when the trouble starts again?
Have you not been paying attention? Go right back to Step Two and blame your political opponents, dummy.
This has been your Public Service Article on Problem Solving in South Asia. You’re welcome.