By Partha Chakraborty–
(Partha Chakraborty, Ph.D., CFA, is an economist, a statistician, and a financial analyst by training. Currently, he is an entrepreneur in water technologies, blockchain and wealth management in the US and in India. Dr. Chakraborty lives in Southern California with his wife and teenage son. All opinions are of the author alone.)
“There’s more to life than the aimless passage of time, which is what we teach 18-year-olds today,” Vivek Ramaswamy said at the Butcher’s Brewhuis in Pella, Central Iowa on Friday.
Millennials — at 38, he is one — “are starved for purpose, meaning and identity”; “faith, patriotism, hard work, family” as pillars of American society have given way to “depression, anxiety, fentanyl, suicide,” leaving our young folks with a “black hole in our hearts.” “We face a nonzero risk that the United States of America could cease to exist,” he added.
Vivek Ramaswamy sounds like a Messiah on the throes, even carrying his “Ten Commandments” anywhere he goes.
It is easy to close the eyes and imagine him trekking down the dusty alleyways spewing venom on the tribes of today — he commits to eliminating three quarters of the Federal administrative apparatus. It is easy to imagine him standing on horseback seeking compadres for an expedition against the heretics — he commits to sending the US military across the Southern border.
He talks about a revolution he wants to bring in — not too difficult to hear the call for parting of the seas. Like him or not, he is fluent with his thoughts, quick on his feet and a gifted debater as the first round of Republican presidential debates last week showed.
Followers of this column are aware that many of Ramaswamy’s calls to action were echoed here for years and long before he burst into collective cognizance. We railed against the idea of “equity” — calling equity a false prophet that sacrifices equality.
We have lambasted the climate crisis cult, asking for a full stop in filming disaster porn; instead, focus on adaptation. We called for mass deployment of nuclear energy, noting how the cow huggers need to be best friends with atom splitters.
We celebrated the nail in the coffin for affirmative action in college admission, calling for a reversion to the ideal of no child left behind because of the color of their skin. We hailed diversity as a private privilege every single person has a right to, but the State must not must stay vigilant against succumbing to the “Ides of Identity.”
We lambasted so called “Critical Race Theory” as a racist rant cooked up in the Faculty Lounge that conveniently erases the Indian-American experience. We repeatedly called for an end to pandemic restrictions, noting that it penalizes blue-collar workers –the immigrants, especially — while comforting the college-educated office-goers and rewards tech elites, who in turn enforced a regime of censorship as a favor — thus making the circle whole.
Ramaswamy supports all of these. Still, something is lacking. As he harps on what is missing in us, he is missing a storyline of what is next — he needs to thread his thoughts in the bigger quilt of an American aspirations.
An aspiration of rebirth of confidence in America, a restored faith in American Exceptionalism, renewed commitment to America’s well-earned role as the Arsenal of Democracy, even if it means shaking off old tethers that tie down.
A dream that beckons deserving women and men to its shores just like it has done for centuries. An aspiration of growth that can only be supported by free markets, capitalism, and a singular commitment to meritocracy.
A key underpinning of these aspirations is entrepreneurial zeal, some of whom might be utterly incongruous and unfathomable by themselves, but collectively the biggest thing ever happened; an entrepreneurial mission that is best supported by curtailing regulatory onslaught on private enterprise.
An aspiration to live free, which is antithesis of the explicit designs of the administrative state, thus necessitating a hackjob against it. An aspiration to live with one’s own faith in no way weakens the principles of separation between the Church and the State; rather it strengthens.
American aspiration of economic supremacy requires the energy to fuel from all resources, including fossil fuel and nuclear; and no way negates private forays into the next sustaining energy source.
Ramaswamy should appreciate it. His first name may have come from that of Swami Vivekananda – a Hindu missionary of the late nineteenth century. [Full Disclosure: I spent twelve years in schools run by the sect he founded. For better or for worse, they were my formative years]. Ramaswamy’s oratory and ability to preach to the wider audience evokes the monk who counts Mr. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, as one of his followers.
Vivekananda’s sermons were of aspiration in tune with the times. I am sure the Republican candidate can find inspiration there. Ramaswamy’s parents came to this country in search of better life for their kids, an aspiration that brought millions — aspiration always strikes a chord with the new Americans.
Closer home, Ramaswamy might want to learn from the last Republican incumbent, the 45th President Mr. Donald Trump. Even if he railed against “American Carnage,” Trump’s tagline always was making America “great again.”
Trump’s conducts may raise questions about his efficacy, but it is an indisputable fact that Trump still evokes a following that Ramaswamy only dreams of today.
Trump’s message always had the undertone of rising over the ashes of the past, that only he can make this rebirth happen; his rise to the High Office and continued permanent residency inside the psyche of a vast population is a testament to wonders a message of aspiration can do.
The American story of today is that of decadence, even affluenza. We are too comfortable earning sweat equity through a grind to growth and so we imagine curses that are supposed to hold us back. We are too much creatures of comfort and we invent ideas of positivity to mask odors of failure.
We are too laden with guilt of the past that we neglect to recognize the path we have trodden for the last few decades. We are without motivation because we are mortally wounded even with a slight setback or rejection in today’s hyper share-everything digital existence.
We bring isolation to our doorstep as we cocoon us in worlds of virtual — “negated reality” — communities. Every single way we are a textbook example of a society suffering from collective affluenza. Ramaswamy needs to offer a way to break free, not just reiterate the status quo.
Ramaswamy can avoid getting bogged down on nitty gritty — attempts to bring him down with a single slight of speech are already par for the course — if he anchors his script on an uplifting storyboard. He aspired big himself, youngest Presidential candidate in memory, and that too as a second generation Indian-American, a successful businessman who certainly earned his place in the history books.
Why not that aspiration become his flag? Leading the country from stasis of affluenza to raucous aspiration – that is a story we most certainly have been waiting for.