Thoughts on economics and liberty

If you don’t want to join the Indian Army, at least don’t denigrate the jawan

Bhagwad Jal has written a piece entitled, Would you Die for your Country?

Please go through it and form your own opinion. My comment is provided below:

Bhagwad, in an ideal world there would be no wars (there would still be borders, to ensure that taxes are spent within the borders), but in reality wars are a permanent threat.

The social contract of a nation is based on defence (the fortress). If India fails to ensure defence, the subsequent anarchy would make mince-meat of any idle day dreamer. There are no natural "rights" to exist without first defending against the enemy. 

Citizens pay for defence through taxes, but should the need arise, the able-bodied are expected to share the responsibility of defence as well (e.g. should the enemy cross the border, overpower the nation and threaten to take slaves). 

I always knew that India doesn't produce enough citizens, but I'm disappointed at your current way of thinking in which you, a well-"educated" Indian, are publicly declaring your determination to free ride on the lives of others. 

Such lack of citizenship has already handed over the baton of political leadership to crooks. (I "admire" these crooks who govern India far more than "educated" Indians who sit on the sidelines and criticise.) 

But above all I deeply admire our brave soldiers and officers who are willing to put their lives at risk for the defence of all Indians (including pseudo-citizens). 

No one has asked you to volunteer to defend India, but was it necessary to indulge in such extreme lack of citizenship?

What are you trying to say? That our jawans "put their lives at risk in unquestioning obedience to their superior officers"? – that our jawans are idiots? that our armed force officers are fanatics? that their life is less important than your life?

I would encourage you to read Shantanu's book: And then let's discuss. 

Note, none of this is about "patriotism". It is about citizenship.

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32 thoughts on “If you don’t want to join the Indian Army, at least don’t denigrate the jawan
  1. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    It should be noted that concept of country began with the birth of concept of the culture, identity etc. Now in the modern world these culture, identity have come to be questioned (without sufficient satisfaction) still the boundaries of the countries are not questioned based on these. So why sacrifice one's life for undefined things may be the Bhagwad's dilemma. Citizenship is the responsibility. For which definition of identity, culture one should should sacrifice one's life, may be the Bhagwad's question and it should be addressed satisfactory if we are to be saved, that is my concern. 
    It may drag the question and discussion far deeper whereby identity of the self, society, country, citizenship would be decided. Is it other way either?

  2. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sabhlok, as bloggers it's not our job to be politically correct. If a person makes a reasonable case for believing that a particular group of people are not doing the smartest thing, is he or she supposed to shy away from stating it publicly?

  3. sabhlok

    Dear Ramesh

    This is not about “identity”. You are always who you are. It is a simple social contract. I’ve explained in length in DOF.


  4. sabhlok


    I’m not at all suggesting that ANYONE be politically correct. I don’t know and don’t care for that kind of “fluffing up” of the truth.

    I’m merely saying that:

    (a) Your theory of the state is INCORRECT (it is not even an anarchist libertarian theory, but a FREE RIDING theory) and hence your entire argument is flawed. So you do need to review your theory of the state.

    (b) And IF you have a theory of state which is tenable, you’ll automatically realise that defending others (soldiers) is equally a service as curing their sickness (doctors). And just because YOU don’t understand why someone wants to be a doctor doesn’t mean you can denigrate the entire profession. People make choices, and some CHOOSE to become soldiers. Is their choice less respectable than a choice to be a doctor or something else (such as your career choice, whatever it is)?

    When a doctor conducts an excellent brain surgery, it is the acme of his career. When a soldier KILLS MANY enemies and possibly dies in the process, it is the acme of his career. Why is a doctor’s excellence more “worthy” than a soldier’s excellence? Why is a soldier assumed to be STUPID (with “unquestioning” obedience)?

    If anything, I believe that both from the theoretical perspective and practical perspective, the contribution of a SOLDIER to society is FAR GREATER than a doctor’s. The doctor simply WON’T EXIST without good soldiers who defend the border. In order of precedence of contribution to a society, the soldier is the highest among citizens.

    Now, I know you see this in a very different way. Your way of seeing is not political incorrect, it is simply INCORRECT. Period.

    However, you have confirmed to me that India simply doesn’t teach basic concepts of citizenship. And that is why it suffers so badly on every front.

    George Washington founded a nation. He was a CITIZEN and hence a soldier. Not a stupid fool who decided to risk his life for nothing.

    You must understand that freedom doesn’t come cheaply. Its cost is BLOOD. And it must be paid.

  5. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sanjeev, you're assuming that I have something against a person who freely chooses to serve their country – and if necessary, die for it. I don't. I don't "free ride" as you put it because I pay my taxes (with which soldiers are paid) and follow the laws. Tax evaders and criminals are the real "free riders." Not law abiding citizens like myself.
    Now, let me ask you a question. Soldiers are trained to do what their superiors tell them to do and not question orders. You can't deny this. The Nuremberg trials featured several prominent Nazis using the "just following orders" defense. Do you admire that quality? Because such a person is a pawn.
    It just so happens that in India (so far), most of those pawns are doing the right thing. But what if their superiors tell them to say…torture a civilian or do something else in the name of "national security?" Will they question? Will they say "Sorry, but my conscience doesn't allow me to do that?" That would quickly lead to a court martial.
    Untold suffering has been caused throughout history by such "pawns" and I stand by my analysis that such loyal "soldiers" are dangerous. Anyone who doesn't question orders falls into that category.
    As for India not teaching the "basics," you'll find people like me are in the minority. Most Indians are blindly loyal, patriotic and are the senseless flag waving types. But I choose to educate myself rather than be indoctrinated.
    If George Washington was a citizen first, good for him. I'm not convinced that most soldiers are like that and will act according to their conscience rather than follow their superior's instructions.

  6. sabhlok

    Now your assumptions are becoming more clear.

    a) “Most Indians are blindly loyal, patriotic and are the senseless flag waving types”
    b) “Soldiers are trained to do what their superiors tell them to do and not question orders”

    Effectively you are saying that ALL (am I correct?) people in India who are “loyal” or “patriotic” or “wave flags” or “obey orders” are somehow brainwashed and incapable of making rational choices? And so you are apparently the only one in India able to think rationally?

    Are you suggesting that we should scrap democracy and replace it with a dictatorship where YOU decide for the people?

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say. Either you must now oppose democracy because the people of India are brainwashed robots, or you must admit that YOU are wrong, and that others CHOOSE their vocations.

  7. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Wow Sanjeev – talk about shooting down strawmen! Nothing I said above leads to any of the conclusions you've drawn after that :)
    Even if many Indians are the blindly loyal flag waving types, there's no law saying you can't be as idiotic as you want to be. Let them be the flag waving types! How does this have anything to do with democracy? People can choose whatever vocations they want – why would I want to force them to do anything else?
    Merely saying something is stupid doesn't mean that I'm saying it should be outlawed!
    Second, there are plenty of people who feel the way I do. Just look at the comments in my original post – and not just Indians either.
    Finally, I don't usually TRY and say anything apart from what I actually DO say. Like Alice in Wonderland, I mean what I say and say what I mean :)

  8. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    I think question under reference is not so simple. Social contract does exist in every country. Still the boundaries are set and countries are defined as different. Is the Social contract only criteria for a country to exist as an different identity? From scientific point of view social contracts need not be different for unscientific contracts are not viable. Still the countries exists. Do you still think social contracts matters here over and above the identity element in this particular case even now?
    Unless this matter is resolved Bhagwad will remain unquestioned, I think. My view of thinking is more robust, I guess.

  9. sabhlok

    Dear Ramesh

    “Is the Social contract only criteria for a country to exist as an different identity?”

    Indeed, it is only the culmination of various other issues such as culture and “identity”. However, once you are within a country (after it is decided to form one), then the obligation to defend it kicks in.


  10. sabhlok


    Re: “Nothing I said above leads to any of the conclusions you’ve drawn after that”

    Indeed, it does. If you don’t think people can think rationally and are subservient fools, then they have no capacity to pick a representative. They need your tutelage.

    Democracy is premised on the RATIONAL ability to pick a representative. That requires a mature, thinking mind.

  11. Bhagwad Jal Park

    No Sanjeev. You might want to take away the freedoms of irrational people, but I don't. The law treats everyone equally – rational or irrational and no authority is given to anyone to restrict irrational people as long as they don't break the law.
    So again – I DON'T mean to set myself up as dictator. If you were me, you might wish to do that, but your'e not me  :)

  12. ramesh

    Dear Sabhok,
    One time you stated it was not an issue of 'identity' and now you mixed the 'identity' and 'social contract. Point to be noted is that 'identity' element is mostly without logic say based on faith or ego etc whereas 'social contract' should always be scientific. Scientific things are always unique. So most of the countries it should be similar. Once you mix up the 'identity' element with the 'social contract' it becomes difficult for scientific reasoning and ego factor to go hand in hand. Bhagwad's problem is exactly the same. You are missing the subtle reasoning. Am I right?

  13. sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    Are you suggesting that people who are UNFIT to select their vocation and become jawans like some fanatic mindless robots who are determined to (a) unquestioned obedience (i.e. they are slaves) and (b) if necessary give up their life for their fellow citizens are somehow FIT to select people who will determine POLICY?

    Your depiction of jawans is people of lower calibre than 3 year old children. You seriously disrespect jawans because they are zombies without a mind. Then you generalise to ALL Indians similarly.

    Your subsequent denial of the obvious implication of your sentiments is not going to hold any water. Are you telling me that people with brains smaller and less sensible than 3 year old children can vote?

    What logic is that? Then why the age limit of 18? Why not 3?

    The point I’m making is simply this, Bhagwad, that YOU may not want to be a soldier, but please avoid spitting on the face of those who have VOLUNTARILY CHOSEN to protect the likes of you.


  14. sabhlok

    Dear Ramesh

    I’m not suggesting that the PRE-NATIONAL issues don’t have to relate to “identity”, “culture”, etc. That’s all part of the picture. However, after people have then decided to form a nation (e.g. India or Pakistan or any such thing), and they have signed on the social contract (Constitution), then the obligation of a citizen kicks in. This obligation is not limited only to one’s direct family but to all those who live within the nation. And indeed, at that stage, questions of identity are superimposed with the obligations of a citizen under the social contract.


  15. sabhlok

    Well said, Supratim. I agree with your points.
    To Bhagwad: once again, I'm not asking anyone to join the army, but for you to sit in judgement over the voluntary choices of other adults (and particularly those who are ready to give up their life for our sake) is deeply misplaced. Even paternalism would be better. There is a something not quite right with such a way of thinking. I can't find the right word for it, but it is not arrogant, not immature, not holier-than-thou, not paternalistic – but a combination of these sentiments and many others. Spoiled brat comes to mind, although I'd be the last person to call anyone a spoiled brat. There is another word for all this, but I can't pin it down.

    It boils down to a deficit of citizenship.

  16. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Ref: However, after people have then decided to form a nation (e.g. India or Pakistan or any such thing), and they have signed on the social contract (Constitution), then the obligation of a citizen kicks in.
    This statement is trivial truth. This is not the question under discussion, I think. The point under consideration is that Bhagwad is not ready to decide to form a nation itself to begin with say by sacrificing the life etc. He thinks why he should sacrifice his life to form a nation which is not going to be his own personal asset. For him the concept of nation itself is an anathema. You can cross check this version of mine for what Bhagwad means.
    In other words for him citizenship may include all responsibilities except one's won life about which he alone will decide and no form of citizenship should ever override it except according to his own will. i.e. Self would always be above all sorts of citizenship.
    How can you beat this argument of me on his behalf? [Pray answer it even though he means different]
    Do you have any answer?

  17. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sanjeev, you're talking in terms of black and white, indulging in rhetoric (spit in the face etc) and generally getting way too heated for a cool discussion of this matter. If we continue here, I'd like it to be calm and logical without making use of flowery (and inaccurate) verbosity. So, to your points:
    1. A person can be irrational about one thing and still be perfectly normal about something else. We all know this. So a blindly patriotic person isn't automatically unfit for life in general. So to say that I'm treating jawans as a three year old is a monstrous stretch of the imagination.
    2. There are levels of irrationality. Merely not thinking things through in one aspect of life doesn't mean that they're automatically "mindless robots." In fact, I feel it is you who think humans should be "robots" and just be perfectly rational all the time.
    So let me repeat what I've been saying all this while. I've never objected to people joining the army. It's a free country after all.

  18. Surya

    "I finally came to the conclusion that he maybe he was right. Maybe there's no such thing as heroes. Maybe there are just people like my dad. I finally came to understand why they were so uncomfortable being called heroes. Heroes are something we create, something we need. It's a way for us to understand what's almost incomprehensible, how people could sacrifice so much for us, but for my dad and these men, the risks they took, the wounds they suffered, they did that for their buddies. They may have fought for their country but they died for their friends. For the man in front, for the man beside him, and if we wish to truly honor these men we should remember them the way they really were, the way my dad remembered them"
     – A line from the movie – Flags of our Fathers

  19. sabhlok

    Dear Ramesh

    That’s an interesting idea – that Bhagwad is “not ready to decide to form a nation itself to begin with”.

    Well, he must then do either of two things: (a) leave and go somewhere else which suits his definition of nation or lack thereof – because India is already a nation, with a constitution signed by its people; (b) secede from India and establish his own defence (or lack thereof) and try whether his ideal nation, without soldiers, works.

    So long as he continues to be part of ANY existing nation which was initially formed by its citizens coming together in some form or shape, he is obliged to follow the citizenship role of that nation, and defend it from invasion. I’m afraid he can’t sit in India and claim he is “above” the defence function. That utopia doesn’t exist.

    Indians are too kind on such people – who pretend to be “above” this basic function of the state. He doesn’t realise that our soldiers HAVE and will CONTINUE TO die for his sake. An ungrateful “citizen” is he.


  20. sabhlok

    Bhagwad, this is rhetoric, for the purpose of making a point – not absence of cool discussion. So let’s move on.

    I’ve indeed made a similar point just now in response to Ramesh’s comment. Do read the response.

    There is NO THEORY of human nature that says that people will be irrational in selecting their vocation but rational in every other thing. There is indeed very little that is irrational. What seems irrational on the surface is actually rational when you explore deeper. That was Gary Becker’s pathbreaking finding, and it is being CONSISTENTLY proven to be true. Just because some economics models are simplistic doesn’t mean people’s brain is. We own a very powerful super-computer that can make calculations which defy ANY computer or mathematical model. Let’s not question human rationality.

    In any event there is no theory of PARTIAL rationality. Where do you draw the line? When does someone who joins the army become rational?

    Basically, you are incorrect in your perception. That’s not because you are irrational, but because you’ve not thought through the issues. When India is attacked by China you’ll recant. But that’ll be too late.

    All I’m saying is that we must give the benefit of doubt to others, including soldiers, and not attribute irrational passion to them. That’s a basic courtesy I’m sure you’ll expect from others as well, in return.

    The model which says: “I’m rational, but others are not” is actually known as megalomania and may need psychiatric treatment.


  21. sabhlok

    Indeed, Surya

    To these men who fight for the defence of their nation, the initial decision to join is motivated by the brave logic of national defence, but the continuation is motivated by the camaraderie and goodwill in their teams.

    I’ve written here:

    that “the highest obligation of a citizen is this: to defend the nation’s borders. Without defence of territory, no nation can possibly be free.”

    I salute those who fight for the defence of India. And let none of them be mortified by the commentary of “gentry” like Bhagwad, the pretend “Bhadralok”.

  22. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sabhlok, if China invades and looks poised to defeat India, I'll be doing my best to get out of the country and find another social contract with another country – not China though. I don't like their contract. Which is why I'll be leaving.
    If the US invades India, I won't even bother resisting. The social contract which the US offers (absolute freedom of expression etc) is rather to my liking. But I haven't left India yet, because I like my home in Chennai, I like the shops on the road, the food etc. If the US invades I'm sure they won't interfere with all that!
    You seem overly concerned with how/what I intend to do with people who think differently from me. This might be the logical thing for you to think about, but I don't give a damn.
    As long as people don't interfere with my freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, they can wear their undies on their heads and walk on their hands for all I care. I'll be curious about their reasons naturally, but I won't force my version of rationality on them.
    I enjoy academic discussions of what is rational/irrational, but you're taking this way too seriously. Even if someone does something which I think is irrational, where's the skin off my nose?

  23. sabhlok

    Sure, Bhagwad, you are disclosing a lot about your “worldview” through such statements. It helps me understand the kinds of people who live in India, and confirms certain views I have. No problem, let’s move on. I’m unable to discuss with you since all you want is the liberty – in this case to INSULT those who give up their life for your sake. Fair enough. I can’t do much about it, but suggest that you are very, very, wrong. Your liberty does NOT match my definition of liberty.

  24. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Also, you're making up rules as you go along. Nowhere in the Indian constitution is it mentioned that I have to help in the defense of India or be punished. You might want such a clause to be there, but the fact remains that its not.
    If India was the only civilized country on earth, then I would help defend it because there's nowhere else to go – like say the barbarians were at the doors. But I have choices. I'm supposed to kill myself to defend a social contract when there are many other good ones available?
    No way!
    Mind you – I agree with fighting and dying with your comrades. But we're not discussing that at all. We're talking about a pure desire to serve the country.

  25. sabhlok


    Citizenship is not a “rule”, just like being a mother is not a rule.

    It is a form of moral sense, a theoretical conception, a worldview, a belief in one’s joint responsibilities.

    I notice that not all Indians have such a sense. You might, should you wish to question the creation of India, consider the speeches made in the Constituent assembly. These may help you understand what you’ve “signed up” to.


  26. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Another strawman Sanjeev. Where have I questioned the creation of India? As long as other countries exist, India needs to exist too. National borders are man made entities. There's no fundamental difference between a Pakistani, a Chinese, a Black person and an Indian. We all share a common humanity.
    If you need a nation, let it be a single nation of humanity – we can of course have administrative regions. That's the ideal situation. But till then, you won't find me fighting to defend one set of boundaries over another.
    Finally, you're breaking your metaphor/analogy with regards to a social contract. A contract is by definition specific and precise. A person either follows the contract or they don't. I follow the contract and fulfill the terms of my citizenship as required.
    Incidentally, motherhood is a legal contract and has all the attendant responsibilities, but that's irrelevant.

  27. sabhlok

    For so-called “educated” people like you who simply CAN’T and WON’T understand the concept of citizenship, the Government of India actually introduced the following article in the Constitution, called “Fundamental Duties”. This (Art 51A) includes the following:

    It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—
    (a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;

    (c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

    (d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;

    Should you fail to defend India when called upon, no law can force you, but I would be surprised if you were not held to account by the court of public opinion.

    For free riders who wish to live off the spilled blood of others there is ultimately only one remedy.


  28. Bhagwad Jal Park

    How fortunate for me that some sense prevailed and the so called "duties" were not made into laws! And if they're not laws, they don't count. Public opinion can of course, go stuff itself – it'll be a sad day when everyone does something merely so that "public opinion" goes against them. The list of people whom the public has unjustly hated is too long to list here – so I'll let you think about what a ridiculous statement that is.
    These dubious "fundamental duties" also make it mandatory for a person to "strive towards excellence." Do you really think its any of a state's business? I suppose you support "public opinion" against people who are merely content to not excel as well?

  29. sabhlok


    Note carefully that the government of India has the flexibility (not being barred by the constitution) to use conscription when needed. Don’t be too sure of the “duty” not becoming law should sufficient free riders exist in the system. I’m NOT against conscription as and when it is needed.


  30. Bhagwad Jal Park

    That's the day I say ta ta and good bye to India :) Fortunately, we have one of the largest armies in the world. The likelihood of them needing more people by force is very low.
    I don't mind conscription if I personally get left out somehow. I'll fight against it with whatever tools I have, but I may not leave the country if I'm not personally affected. Much like I didn't leave India when M F Husain was hounded out. I fight for his right to paint whatever I want. If I was in his place though, I can well imagine leaving too.

  31. SK

    The government (public) attitude to the armed forces is “We care a hoot about you. You are the dogs we keep to protect us from intruders and we have thrown a few bones for you to chew on. Don’t expect anything beyond that and don’t forget who your masters are. Hey, no one forced you ! You were the one crazy to serve and protect the country ” Under such circumstances do you think armed forces would be effective? Why waste Lacs of crores to buy new ships, aircraft and guns. Who will man them? Soon there could be an exodus from the armed forces. Better throw the OROP in the sea. Stop insulting veterans. Let the poor idiots take rest. Let the Civil servants in the MOD and finance ministry go and defend the country.


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