Change is a Vector, not a Scalar


The above tweet was prompted by a comment made to an old post “Why a Vote for the AAP is a vote for the Congress” referred to in the tweet. The comment in question was posted yesterday by one Mr Rajesh Debnath.

He writes:

When somebody steps out to do something with good intensions, we come up with 100 negatives about that person/group.

The old adage about the path to hell being paved with good intentions comes to mind. If only, lord if only, good intentions were sufficient to ensure good outcomes. The fact is that practically everyone — with the exception of criminals, lunatics, psychotics and schizophrenics — has good intentions.

“Let me save you from drowning,” said the monkey to the fish and put it up on a tree. There are too many monkeys saving fish from drowning. Misguided action arising merely from good intentions does more harm than is commonly recognized. It remains to the wise to undo the damage done by the merely good.

There are very few, if any, such circumstances that things cannot be improved upon. This is an imperfect world which could do with some changes for the better. That’s the truth. But sadly the other truth is that we who intervene in this world are also imperfect. Even the most well-intentioned work sometimes goes terribly wrong. As the poet Robert Burns lamented,

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

That does not mean that we should not plan and work to bring about change. The caution is to think very deeply about what change we want and how to bring about that change. Caution is important. First understand what’s wrong with the system and only then take action.

The Buddha cautioned: First do no harm. Then try to do good.
The tailor cautioned: Measure twice. Cut once.

We are unhappy about the present setup. We want change. But what is that change we so deeply desire? What should we do to bring about that change?

Let me restate Mr Rajesh Debnath’s position:

a. Something needs to be done to fix the present situation.
b. Someone is doing something with good intentions.
c. Therefore we should all go and support that someone without critically examining his motives or his methods.

It does not work that way. Sure we want change. But change is a vector, not a scalar. Change has a magnitude and a direction. You cannot just say that the goal is 5 miles away from where we are; you have to specify not just the distance but also the direction in which to proceed.

Too often the direction is wrong. One day they get rid of dictator X and then a few years later X’s successor Y proves to be worse than X. See what’s happening in Egypt for a contemporary example of this phenomenon.

The problem with India is that there is too much government and too much government control. We need less of both. But AAP and Kejriwal is demanding more government and more government control. He is in effect saying that the government is insufficiently in control of the country and the change he proposes is that he would be made in charge of the government so that he can impose even more control on the country.

I believe Kejriwal is not just misguided but that he is positively dangerous.

Author: Atanu Dey


6 thoughts on “Change is a Vector, not a Scalar”

  1. Thanks for the feedback sir. However last I read, AAP was preaching and planning about Swaraj, which essentially is decentralization, which is essentially about taking power from the government giving it to people.


    1. Kejriwals definition of swaraj as he calls it is to create a classless, moneyless and stateless social order structured upon common ownership of the means of production, as well as a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of this social order. Have we heard this before ? When people tried this in the 20 th century that led to 100 million people exterminated and billions stuck in extreme poverty !


  2. You didn’t point out specifics where he is wrong? it’s metaphorically philosophical in nature.
    Sir you need to follow them more.


  3. Simple question for Kejriwal – does he support free markets and a vibrant private sector?

    His activism against crony capitalism is wonderful and much-needed. But, his solutions do not call for a better capitalism, but, instead, socialistic solutions which have been wrong in so many countries, for so long.

    He wants referendums on mundane issues that should be debated with intellectual depth. That is the definition of mobocracy. Mobocracy and socialism is great for politics, but its the wrong path.


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