I am in awe of people with strong political opinions. How do they utter the same thoughts day after day? It’s like having bread and jam all the time and never getting tired of it. It’s like reading the same book every day or singing the same old song. Don’t they get bored?
My political views are more nuanced. After a restful night’s sleep, I am in a kindly, optimistic frame of mind so essential to being a liberal. In the morning paper, I read about all kinds of mayhem. The Pathankot attack? I hope it doesn’t derail talks with Pakistan. The Saudi-Iran standoff? We must carefully listen to both sides. Some guy murdering his wife? Ah well, boys will be boys. While having a hot water bath, I sing the Marseillaise. My liberalism is blunted a bit when I get my eggs boiled instead of scrambled for breakfast, but I believe everybody is entitled to their opinion and it is possible that, from some points of view, boiled eggs are better than scrambled. Nevertheless, I get the feeling, munching a soggy piece of toast, even liberals must draw a line somewhere.
That sentiment is strengthened on my way to work. Stuck in an interminable traffic jam, I realise liberalism doesn’t work. The problem is too many people, too many cars who don’t obey the rules. We must have a strong leader who can crush lawbreakers. As a biker cuts lanes and veers dangerously close, I curse the pseudo-secular scum. It is people like these, I think, as a car overtakes me from the left, who destroy the nation. I hum ‘Deutschland uber alles’ to calm myself. By the time I reach office, I vow to read Mein Kampf.
That mood starts to ebb when my boss doesn’t respond to my Nazi salute. As I slowly sink under a pile of work, my resentment grows. Why should I work so hard while the upper classes frolic? After the editor shouts at me for missing a deadline, I start longing for a revolution. We workers must rise up and overthrow my bloodsucking boss, I think, carving a hammer and sickle on my desk. I start humming the Internationale.
After a long and excellent lunch, I feel less revolutionary. I am inclined to social democracy by the time I have dessert.
Imagine my delight when my boss tells me I’ve got a fat bonus. This is the beauty of the free market system, I realise, giving people incentives to perform. I feel even better when I hear the slime who sits next to me hasn’t got a bonus. We productive workers must be rewarded, I reason, while the losers are sacked. How else can the economy progress? I think I’ll read Hayek and Ayn Rand.
But things get really interesting after work, when over drinks with friends, I run across the entire spectrum of political opinions from left to right and back again in a few hours, before forgetting which side I am on and caring even less.
I realise this might sound a bit erratic. I have therefore drawn up a time-table so that when folks ask me, say, whether I am a conservative, I can reply, ‘Yes, usually between 3 and 6 pm, every alternate day.’
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed are personal.