The very valuable activity of inaction

On Thursday, in the erstwhile kingdom of Trumpylvania, the house select committee looking into the matter of supporters of King Don-Il storming Capitol Palace on January 6, 2021, concluded that King Don ‘did not fail to act’ but ‘chose not to act’.

The wise men and women of the committee thereby made an important point about inaction as a proactive activity. Much of analysis about politics and, indeed, life, makes the mistake of seeing inaction simply as the absence of action, thereby suggesting that inaction somehow just happens. But tactical inaction, whether in the case of King Don or in many examples of local thanas in India not registering an FIR, is very much a happening thing.

In cricket, the equivalent would be when a batsman ‘leaves the ball’. This decision to not engage with the incoming delivery not liable to hit the stumps or result in a nick that could be caught by a fielder, is seen as a virtue in the sport. The decision to not sell a stock is also a tactical inaction – rather a non-action – that requires not just choice but insight and wisdom about timing. The house committee was right when it stated that ‘this is not, as it may appear, a story of inaction in a time of crisis, but, instead, it was the final action… to remain in power’. It is time inaction is recognised as the valuable proactive activity it can be.


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