I am fond of giving this example in my talks of a frog having fallen into a pit. A rabbit came there and cajoled the frog to come out of the pit by making all out efforts to do so. The frog just sat there at the bottom of the pit helplessly and resignedly. The rabbit motivated him with frequent shouts of “jump”, “yes you can”, “you can’t spend the rest of your life there” and “think of how nice you would feel when you are out of the pit”. But, the frog made no effort to jump and get out since it had already decided that it couldn’t.
Finally, the rabbit asked the frog what help he required to get out. The frog said that perhaps if the rabbit would fetch a ladder, he would climb up the ladder and come out. The rabbit, good Samaritan that he was, went to fetch the ladder and after a few hours managed to get there with his friends carrying the ladder. They noticed that the frog was happily sitting outside the pit. On inquiry the frog replied, “I thought that I could never come out of the pit by jumping. But, after you went to get the ladder, a snake came into the pit and I had no choice but to jump out”.
Fear is the key. It is that all important motivational factor that leaves you with no choice.
I have a senior, a most respected senior, in security industry who feels that deterrence based on fear of being caught and punished is the basic tenet around which security needs to be built. If people get the message that when they do something wrong (petty theft to huge frauds), they would be caught and punished, “97 percent won’t”. The reverse is also true, in that, 97 percent would probably fall into the temptation of doing something wrong if they felt that there were near 100 percent chances of getting away with it.
We used to have a school-time joke of kids attending a Christmas party. Many eatables were laid out on the tables. One of the kids noticed a sign near the cake plate: Take only one slice, God is watching. He went, next, to the chocolate plate and told his friends: “Take as many as you want; God is watching the cake”.
Of course, as societies evolve, respect for law becomes ingrained even when big brother is not watching. In my former service, Indian Navy, when Captain K Pestonji returned from his deputation to West Germany, he told about motorists waiting at the red lights in the middle of the night even when there was no one to see and theirs were the only cars. Similarly, during the 2004 Tsunami, in Japan, a case was reported of a motorist waiting at the red traffic light even when Tsunami was approaching from behind. An Indian, on the other hand would – nine times out of ten – jump the red lights if he knew there wasn’t a cop or a camera guarding those lights.
Two years back, a friend and I visited Vienna, a city ranked amongst the first ten in the world for tourism. Knowing what to expect there, I told my friend that in a day’s time, he should count the number of cops on the roads. By the end of the day, he was not able to spot a single one. And yet, all traffic and people moved with discipline. But, it takes centuries before one can get to that level of self-regulation. I remember having seen pictures of 1971 New York Power Outage and how people, who were not thieves till that time, helped themselves to all kinds of goodies from the malls since all the cameras were switched off due to the outage.
Whenever we talk about Indians rigorously following all traffic rules in Singapore but blithely ignoring them in India, it comes out that the penalties are universally applied in Singapore and cannot be circumvented by paying the cops chai-paani money. In Indian Chalta-Hai manner, the lack of deterrence promotes taking short-cuts and then that becomes the new law.
And it is not that we don’t have it in our culture or religion to use fear as the key. In Hindu religion, the fear of Death and the Punishment that we would get in Hell for our misdeeds often kept us from doing wrong. Indeed, this is the basic tenet, which keeps us on the right and the correct path. Two years back, I had visited this temple in Gujarat and one of the priests was advising a middle-aged man and his wife on the schemes available for charity in the temple. He said that the basic scheme was for Rupees 1100 but added for effect that the scheme worked only for those who hadn’t done any wrong deed. For those who sometimes indulged in wrong, benefit would be gained by donating Rupees 2100. The man was about to take out the sum and offer when the priest added that he should add Rupees 1100 for the welfare and long life of each child. And then, he came up with the clincher: Rupees 5100 would even look after his soul after death. By the time we left the wife was cajoling the man to dish out Rupees 5100 to ensure safety of children and his soul. The priest would have known that fear is, indeed, the key.
Some of the most well circulated posts on Whatsapp are the ones that tell you that good luck would come your way in case you forwarded it to twenty. However, you would rot in the fires of the hell in case you omitted forwarding. And then these give examples of people and what happened to them when inadvertently they didn’t forward the message to twenty. Of course, you don’t believe in this gibberish. But, you reason it out that there is no harm in passing it to your friends. Fear is the key.
Despite our religious practices and what is contained in our scriptures, we Indians are idealistic enough to believe that people and nations would behave nicely with us if we continue to give them homilies about peaceful co-existence and other such virtues. We are fond of giving the example of Porus, the King of Pauravas who fought Alexander the Great in the Battle of the Hydaspes (Jhelum) in 326 BC and was defeated. Having been captured alive, Alexander asked Porus as to how should Alexander treat him (Porus). Porus seemed to have replied, “As one king treats another”. It is said that Alexander was so impressed by his adversary that not only he reinstated him as a satrap of his own kingdom but also granted him dominion over lands to the north extending until the Hyphasis (Beas).
This idealistic and largely non-realistic philosophy – somewhat similar to telling a lion to convert to vegetarianism because of its mutual benefits – has been practised by us as a Grand Strategy. For decades we are trying to convert our neighbour Pakistan to vegetarianism by such promises as good relations, most favoured nation, and peaceful co-existence. And Pakistan terror groups, very routinely, get away with terror killings of our countrymen. We threaten them with – hold your breath – discontinuation of talks. Fear and deterrence are conspicuous by their total absence. Indeed, the only fear that the cross-border terrorists think of is that since killing Indians in terror attacks is such a cake-walk, they (the terrorists) may not get the 72 virgins (houri) in paradise that they would have got if there was some degree of difficulty involved in such jehadi act.
Of course you cannot fight Terror with Terror as was tried out, quite unsuccessfully in Punjab; Gulzar’s 1996 movie Maachis portrayed the ill effects of state-terrorism let loose on innocent people converting them to terrorism. But, fighting Terrorism with Deterrence brought out by Fear of Consequences is another thing altogether.
Fear can be the key if it is supported by Love and not Terror. You cannot, for example, make loyal personnel in a company, by always confronting them with the fear of losing their jobs; some of the companies, for example, revel in their hire-and-fire policies. The employees, of course, pay back such companies in kind. And suddenly, you find, that they are not afraid to lose their jobs but you are afraid to lose them.
Fear is, of course, the key and is a pragmatic security philosophy. However, in the end, I leave you with two thoughts that shall be covered in the follow-up article:
- In some regions of Maharashtra, farmers commit suicide unable to pay back crop loans due to failure of monsoons and other factors. What fear of consequences would work against such people; more so, if they were to be wrongly motivated to perform wrong and even terror acts?
- What exactly is the difference between Fear and Terror? At what stage the distinction between Deterrence and Terror would appear to blur.
Let me hear your views in the comments below.
On the lighter side, here is an imaginary (I hope) conversation, on the phone, between a kidnapper and a man whose wife has been kidnapped.
Kidnapper (nastily): We have your wife. We shall not set her free if you don’t give us Five Lakh Rupees.
Man (Matter of fact): And I shall kill you if you set her free!
There is, as you can see, a quick transfer of Fear.
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