# In School:
It used to be the usual argument in lower school. In the scuffle between two boys, when one of them was punished for getting into a fight, the argument used was, 'But he hit me first'. As if the fact that ‘he hit me first’, completely absolved the second boy from any responsibility for taking the fight further!
A juvenile response, you will say. But, looking around us and the news in our country, many of our senior leaders and some professionals seem to also act in this juvenile manner.
# On the Road:
I see a smart young man, well dressed and in an expensive car, pulled up by a policeman on duty for jumping a red traffic light at a busy junction in Mumbai. He must be a well-heeled executive, in a large company.
His argument with the police, which I overheard, was, “But there were two cars ahead of me, which also jumped the red light. Why did you not also catch them? Why did you only catch me?”
He did not contest the fact that he was wrong. He objected to being fined, when the other two were allowed to get away!
Again, a juvenile response!
# In Government:
Many years ago, there was a famous response by a Union Cabinet minister, who first showed the country that telecommunications was, indeed, a profitable ministry (perhaps it remained so, like the oil wells of Saudi Arabia).
When he was caught with Rs4 crore in his house, he adopted an air of injured innocence. It was reported that he complained to the press that there were others who had far more than he and those guilty ones should be investigated first, instead of him being hounded. He paid the price for his indiscretions and was relieved of his portfolio. But he did not go to jail.
He went back to his home state, to remain active on the political stage from where he had earlier come to the centre and then waited for a resurrection of his political career.
# In the Supreme Court:
There was the famous and well-regarded lawyer, who defended Rajesh (name changed), who was appointed the CVC (chief vigilance commissioner), although there was a case of corruption filed against him (in his earlier assignment), and where he had not yet been acquitted.
The well-known lawyer submitted to the Supreme Court in defence of his client, that out of the 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha, 153 are facing criminal charges, and 54 are facing charges of a very serious nature, including murder. These are the people who govern the country. In comparison, the misdemeanours of the proposed CVC are minor and they have, similarly, not yet been proved!
# In the Bureaucracy:
And what does it matter if an officer from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) has been allotted an apartment at a price much lower than the market rate, at the Zero Coop Housing Society in Mumbai? After all, the cost of the flat, even at market rates, is only a few crores!
And this is a small sum compared to that of the IAS couple from Bihar who had been caught with Rs345 crore, plus numerous other assets like properties. They probably need another administrative setup to administer their large estate!
# At the Bus Stop in Mumbai:
There is generally a well-ordered queue with people waiting patiently, sometimes for a long time. And when the bus finally comes along, some of those at the back of the queue rush up to be among the first—however much those in the front may complain.
Ask any one of them, why they did this—they will tell you that this is normal- and it is always someone else, who does this first!
All the time, the juvenile refrain is repeated - HE DID IT FIRST!
We need to stop this – and start again. A big challenge that is certainly not easy!
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are ‘Marketing in a Digital/Data World’ with Brian Almeida and ‘Customer Value Starvation Can Kill’ with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)