A Politician’s Confessions

I don’t write poems. But somehow, my thoughts on politicians suddenly started flowing in this manner. I imagined a politician thinking out loud. 

I know how to cover the stink,

I am almost as mean as you think.

I know where the fire’s beginnings lie,

I know how to make the rumours fly.

Demon of inflation is a friend of mine,

With him I merrily drink and dine.

I regulate the disorder of Law and order,

I can devour onions and gulp fodder.

I’ve mastered the art of passing the buck,

And aim accurately at a sitting duck.

Post- scam clamour is no stress,

I silence it with ‘enquiry in progress’.

You may know me as a rightist or a communist,

But deep within I am only an opportunist.

I have screwed up nation’s economic health,

But look at my soaring personal wealth.

I know that common man is my one day boss,

But time and again he falls for the gloss

It’s easy to woo my one day lord,

Some fake promises and he is floored.

Should we blame racism for the state of education in India?

“Do you agree to these rankings of universities in which Indian universities are slipping? “, a bright, young colleague of mine asked.

“You might find my views on this topic somewhat shocking”, I hinted, “In fact you might even find them a bit tangential in the beginning.” I added

And the same views I am about to share in this post.

I said tangential because my views do not relate to the authenticity of the survey in question. Instead, they relate to whether any real difference exists in the quality of education in India viz-a-viz Europe or the US. And if it does, where are the reasons probably rooted? Has it got something to with races? Is racism a reality? Does it still exist?

We are seemingly as far as we could possibly be from the question my colleague asked.

Race is one of the most controversial and divisive words in the contemporary world in pursuit of racial equality. Talking about racial equality is not only trendy but also essential for the survival of social-economic agendas. “Racist’ tag can spell doom for politicians, professionals, academicians and so on. Even the U.S has had a history of racial divide and discrimination. Recent killing of Trayvon Martin a black teenager from Florida and the subsequent acquittal of his killer (a white man) has racial hues.

I wish to deal with this issue without biased emotions and with complete objectivity. So first let us list the most significant achievements of human kind.

Some of them are : exploration of sea routes between continents (that paved way for the first wave of globalisation), invention of gun powder, cannons, laws of motion, thermodynamics, genetics, steam engine, industrial revolution, gas engine, automobiles, aeroplanes, nuclear energy, computers, internet, cell phones, google, facebook, twitter, Microsoft…and so on.

These achievements have been the engines of the progress of mankind. Can we imagine our lives without any of these? There is one link common about all these inventions…some WHITE man …a Caucasian. The contribution of other races cannot be neglected as a lot of achievements have been of collective nature. In fact we may argue that most of the top organisations in the west have immensely benefited from the intellect and efforts of multiple races especially after the World War II. Still, thinking about majority of great inventions is accompanied by the name of a white man.

Does it prove anything? May be it does not. But the message is too overpowering to be ignored. Why do we have so few names from the other races in the list of scientific, cultural, business & management, strategic achievements?

Is this an outcome of racial differences or the very cause of it?

The possible reasons for this could be the different approach to knowledge. It’s challenging to figure out from where this difference arose. But I intend to speculate on this.

The basis of races has so far been skin color and facial and anatomical features. I agree to the majority view in this regard that these differences can not be enough proof of and basis for a broad categorization of humans and subsequent discrimination.

One of my main contention is that different races namely Caucasians (whom I will refer to as whites), Negroids  and Mongoloids have different world views. By world view I mean an individual’s perception towards life, knowledge, relationships, religion, art, body, soul etc.

True, that race is generally acknowledged as partially a social construct and the society can shape the world view of its subjects. But individuals preceded a society. So, logically it can be argued that dominant views of powerful individuals formed the basis of a society which in turns mold the views of its subjects. But despite numerous instances of colonization of non white lands by whites we don’t have instances of these non white populations naturally adopting the white man’s  world view. I think that apart from socio-cultural factors, there might have been genetic factors too.

In other words I am claiming without any empirical evidence that world view is an inheritable trait and that too a strong one. The white race is endowed with what I call scientific world view. Their approach towards knowledge is that it flows from out to within and does so only when it is properly analysed,  organised and documented. It believes in carefully going through the documented knowledge. It also believes in examining the surroundings again and again, tirelessly and endlessly in order to refine the existing knowledge. The analysed and organised form of acquired knowledge makes it possible for the thinkers and scientist to carry the good work forward. All this certainly doesn’t mean that others are totally devoid of this approach. It simply means that this trait is predominantly and abundantly visible among whites.

Now let us turn to the second category of achievements which are quite different to the ones listed above.  Yoga, Yin and Yang, Tao and te Feng-shui, Vastu, Hindustani music, Carnatic music, martial arts, Zen, Buddhism , Jainism, Bhakti. These are achievements that ask for intellectual abilities of the highest order. At the same time they need a spiritual world view. The approach is more wisdom centric than knowledge centric, with a basic belief that wisdom flows from within. The documentation of these achievements cannot be compared to that of western achievements. Else we would not be at loss thinking about the void post discovery of zero by Aryabhatta. Still, remarkably, we have been able to pass knowledge through generations. Here I would like to mention that it is rather difficult to imagine a white being naturally comfortable with the above ideas.

Also I must categorically state that I am not comparing one great individual of any race or color with another of a different race. I am comparing the dominating world views. As a contemporary example I would like to cite the preference for reverse engineering so much prevalent among the mongoloids as epitomised in Xerox vs Canon and Apple vs Samsung. This approach although can be applied by the whites too but this tendency is not very marked.

The biggest manifestation of the world view is the education system, which is both the source and the biggest beneficiary of the systematic exploration and documentation of knowledge.

This research based education and exploration comes as naturally to a white as yoga to an Indian and martial arts to a Chinese.

I would also like to observe one more difference. The Caucasians have predominantly believed in broad level sharing of knowledge which not only originates from documentation of knowledge in form of research papers but also facilitates it. In other races there is general tendency to hide rather than share knowledge. May be it was to safeguard the misuse of knowledge. But I believe this approach has greatly limited both the quality and the quantity of knowledge creation in these societies.

I shall now talk about the racial order.

In this regard my basic belief is that social orders analogous to racial order are prevalent at micro and  macro level ubiquitously. Across the world and across the societies, some sects, some ethnicities, some castes have almost always enjoyed a higher order than the others. Racial order is only the most momentous and therefore most prominently highlighted.

The underlying reason behind such orders is the feeling among some group or sect or section that we are superior; superior by natural endowment, superior by our contribution to the society, superior by our achievements etc.

Wherever a social order has existed, the higher group has always exploited the lower order to further its own interests often with a view that those interests will benefit the society as a whole.

All this seems to be pretty obvious as we can relate it to the events around us in India.

But we find it very difficult to apply it to races.

I can think of a white man who feels that “the world belongs to the whites as we are naturally better endowed, we have contributed more to the development of this world. It’s because of us that the world is living a modern life. We are superior and it must be understood and acknowledged by the others.” I can think of another who feels “This is exclusively for whites, so keep off”.

But is this not similar to feelings of a higher caste or a higher sect? When such feelings exist at micro level around the world, they are quite likely to exist at macro level too.

What is more important here is that it’s the other races that have lapped up the values, family system, education system, sports, music, dance, life style of the whites and not the vice versa. If you were a white won’t you take it as an endorsement of your superiority?

Value is directly linked to demand. Whatever is in demand assumes more value. If we want to dominate we need to produce something that is in great demand.

I believe this also explains the US dominance over the rest of the world. First, it exported wheat (is still the largest exporter of wheat), then automobiles, arms and ammunition, information technology, movies, music and now shale.

I believe that the perceived social importance of what one produces to a great extent determines his/her importance in the society.

The same applies to races and nations.

If we really want to move up the racial order, we must reform our basic approach towards knowledge. Our education and scientific outlook at research level is rudimentary. Our current education system which was put in place by the British, is still centered around creating employability (which was their purpose) rather than creating path breaking knowledge.  The number of patent applications can be used an indicator of the current status in this regard.

Thus it can be said that racial differences are to a great extent, huge differences in the achievements that can obviously be attributed to colour. True that the expression of superiority on the basis of color or caste or nationality is inhumane but sadly it is human too. Even the US president Obama has been criticised for the recent “exceptional” comment about the US.

The world is now relatively comfortable in masking the inherent belief in racial differences and checking the manifestation of this belief. But the belief itself is still deeply rooted.

The only way to bridge the racial difference is to bridge the gap in achievements by upward movement of other races. There are only two ways to rise up. Either we start producing or inventing what is in great demand or we create great demand for what we have created and invented for centuries. The former sounds more reasonable.

When great ideas like photography, movie making, Google, Facebook will start originating in non-white countries, and that too in great numbers, the gap will start closing. This can happen only when our world view and education becomes predominantly research and innovation oriented. This is because great ideas in great numbers cannot miraculously happen; they have to be patiently bred by creating highly favourable conditions. Conditions that have existed in White dominated continents and nations since centuries. Today the US is the most fertile ground for great ideas simply because it is the best incubator for creative minds.

We must aspire and strive hard to be such a place. And for that to happen we need to change our approach to education and research.

Coming to the answer to the question asked by my colleague, once this change happens, it will also reflect in the university rankings.

I sincerely hope that it happens soon.

Fight against rape. Understanding the dynamics of an echo.

What is rape? A crime? An issue? An act of depravity? A media event? A corollary of uncontrolled power? An act to avenge deprivation?

May be it is all of these and more. In fact I would like to see rape both as a crime and as a dangerous social phenomenon plaguing our society. And if we are seriously contemplating to get rid of it, we must first try to understand this highly complex phenomenon. I aim to share my perceptions about this issue to the best of my understanding which is constrained by the fact that I am not a qualified social scientist. At the same time I would invoke my freedom of expression as a conscious individual.

I see this phenomenon as a frame work consisting of four major aspects.

The first is the society, which views rape more as the sin of a female than as the crime of a male. This view is so hard wired that 2-3 decades of modern education have proved grossly insufficient to uproot it. At the root is a covert enslavement of woman. A woman is supposed to be owned, to be fully committed to the “master” to prove that commitment time and again in lieu of getting ‘protected’ from the ‘dangerous’ world.

I consider analysing language as a means to understand the thoughts. So I am deeply suspicious about the use of the expression “outraging the modesty” as another tool of enslavement. Of course it is highly disrespectful for anyone to be even touched without or against his/her wish. But in this expression I sense the “modesty” at stake is more of the owner than of the woman herself. So at subconscious level the expression imbues more threat than empathy or reverence. Because if a physical damage can mean loss of ‘modesty’ than why don’t we use it for someone who lost an eye or a limb?

So this first aspect, namely society, keeps on playing an active role at subconscious level right from the early stages of upbringing in conditioning the female’s view about herself and the world. The same society is instrumental in shaping the male’s worldview. The commonality between the female and male worldviews is that both assign a secondary role to the female. It is possible that women, some centuries back, at some stage of social evolution were probably relegated to being partially and conditionally sovereign as individuals and most of the patriarchal societies have happily persisted with the same ideology.  By partial sovereignty I mean that women could enjoy a lot of freedom in a lot of areas till she conformed to certain conditions laid down by the society.

Let us have an example of how the worldview is manifested even in the investigation of a rape. This example is based on inputs from various sources. Imagine a police person interrogating a female who has undergone this gruesome experience. The typical questions could be:

What were you wearing? What were you doing there? Did you go there alone? Why were you alone there? How much and how did you resist? The questions can be far nastier but I am sure you have got the idea.

All the above questions in a nut shell mean: Are you sure you were not trying to be raped? In fact going by lot of accounts the female in a number of cases failed to convince even the family members that it was a ‘rape’ and that she was not ‘responsible’.

The second aspect is the female. The highly revered pillar of the society. The caring figure that deserves utmost respect epitomised  in remarks like ”Ladies First”. But only till her conditional sovereignty is not breached.

In most of the cases, she is not only constrained by comparatively less physical strength and vulnerable anatomy but also by her sensitive mindset that has been conditioned to “fear for the social repercussions”.  In a raw male perception she is dehumanised commodity, an object of desire, waiting to be owned just like a car. Only this ‘car’ can be at times perceived to be inviting. So high is the degree of commoditised perception that just like a pickpocket cannot resist the sight of a less protected wallet, a sick minded male would feel drawn to her. When a male walks on the road he is unmindful of who is watching him and with what intentions. But in lot of societies a woman may not enjoy this privilege. Like the analogy I used earlier she might be no more than an unprotected wallet to lot of sick minds who would patiently wait to pounce.

So this second aspect the female is living in a society where the odds of her safety are not very high and she is mindful of this.

The third aspect is the Criminal. Yes there cannot be any other word for a person committing a rape. If we really need to curb this crime then it’s necessary to understand this aspect. This criminal should not be generalised. He may be affluent or deprived,  a charmer or unimpressive, usually aggressive or usually submissive, extrovert or introvert, loquacious or taciturn, uncouth or chivalrous or anywhere in between these extremes.  In lot of cases this may be a crime of a moment. This could be a moment of lust, moment of frustration, moment of rage, moment of bad judgement. This is what makes it a crime which is very difficult to guard against as such moments may catch people unawares. And it may also be committed by a habitually perverted person.

But in all the cases one aspect is common. The biggest weapon of the criminal is the fear in the mind of the female. This known fear on one hand weakens the female both mentally and physically and on the other gives the criminal a sense of immunity. This is the biggest similarity. In most of the cases the criminal assumes the crime will never be reported.

Fourth aspect is the law having two forms, prevention and investigation. And here I am not demanding any change in the laws but asking for swift implementation of the existing laws.

The menace of rape is severe in areas with poor state of law and order. This is because it provides immunity to the criminal.  From this angle prevention of rape is another challenge for the law enforcement agencies and a formidable one too, considering the police-population ratio. So police cannot be directly blamed for not being every where all the time.

However, police can be blamed in one way. When police has a reputation of being evasive, sloppy with respect to investigation, it strengthens the criminals. It also weakens the society particularly the female by indirectly discouraging from reporting the crime. . Normally the female is harassed when the criminal is from influential background and he or his family is able to influence the investigation. Female is also harassed with an objective of further exploitation.

So, on the basis of the above explanation, I would like to claim that rape is an event with severe ripples.  It happens once but haunts for long may be forever, especially if it is reported. Because then the society aspect makes it difficult for the female to forget it. In a number of cases she is punished for being raped.

Rape injures but the post rape stigma kills. If rape is a dreadful sound emanating from an instance, the post rape stigma is the deafening and lasting echo that is feared even more than the sound itself.

It is here where things seem to be improving. People have become more considerate and they are trying to create an environment more conducive to healing and recovery. But there is still a long way to go.

On the basis of my understanding of this crime, I would now propose long term solutions.

First, to reduce this crime, we need to weaken the criminal. And the strongest way to do this by killing the stigma attached to rape and the female. This is because the biggest strength for a criminal is immunity against the reporting of his crime. The criminal knows that due to the social stigma of “being raped” the female would not report.

Do we look down upon someone who has been attacked by a robber, beaten brutally and deprived of his belongings? The answer is a clear no. We may use words like careless, unfortunate etc. But in this case the if person happens to be female and robber goes a step ahead and rapes her then will our perception be same as in the previous case?

A part of the solution to the crime of rape is hidden in the answer to the last question. And the answer to this question must be an honest YES.

What I am trying to suggest is the female should feel confident enough to go ahead and report it as a CRIME and not as an act of DESECRATION.

And to fill every mind with this perception, the society aspect has to play a vital role in conditioning the minds in such a way that female is not looked down upon for being raped.

Second, the investigation should focus on swiftly identifying and rounding up the criminal rather than harassing the female or shielding the male.

It is our responsibility to protect the children and the women as they are relatively vulnerable. But I believe we need to empower the women at the society level to really weaken the criminal and bring this the incidence of this ghastly crime.

And apart from reducing this crime we should also aim to reduce and minimise the ripples. Rape can be a life shaking experience like a big accident or the news of a bad disease. And the positive and healing role which the society plays in the latter cases is greatly needed to empower the female.

I hope that my thoughts find resonance and are able to bring people together in the fight against this monster!

Whose India is this? Can we rescue our nation with a collective effort?

At the very onset let me make it clear that my question is not targeted at a particular political party, community or profession. I am talking to anyone who genuinely identifies himself as an Indian. And I doubt that such people are in minority. This is because most of us have started identifying ourselves on the basis of our religion, ethnicity, language, profession or income group. The last thing that comes to our mind is the entity known as India.

But isn’t that very natural, you would ask. Do all Americans always think of themselves as Americans and not as Whites or as Afro Americans and so on? Or the Chinese for that matter. And still they have set standards of achievement that have led and inspired the world.

Although most of us identify ourselves as true patriots I doubt whether we really understand what patriotism is. But lecturing on patriotism is not the goal here.

What I aim to outline here is that one of the reasons we have not been able to realise the true potential of this wonderful land called India is lack of collective ownership. I believe it this sense of collective ownership that has worked wonders in the ascent of so many civilizations and also of nation states like the US, Japan, Germany, and China.

In fact our achievement of attaining independence also can be ascribed to this sense of collective ownership across the narrow divides. This may be probably because this sense often arises as a response to hugely negative experiences like a foreign onslaught.  In the times of relative security and prosperity the true character of a people is tested. It is here that we don’t match up to the Japanese and the Chinese.

This is not to say that we are grossly disadvantaged as compared to these countries. In fact even as a nation state albeit under the British influence we were  able to build  a system based on the modern principles of democracy and equality and to a great extent have been able to by and large respect most of these principles.

Where we have lacked is that post liberalisation, during the relative boom and relative rise in prosperity, most of the people failed to focus beyond ensuring that they do not miss out on the benefits of the boom. And this failure, if we may call it so, is collective as entrepreneurs, farmers, professionals have all been party to it.  In this rush for being a beneficiary of a socio-economic phenomenon, most of us have remained oblivious to our ownership of our nation.

We are living here as one lives in a rented house i.e with a sense of limited responsibility. Our responsibility begins by paying taxes and ends at criticizing the government.

Criticizing the government has assumed emotive proportions vastly due to advent and rise of the social media. It is justified to an extent but it should not be the only way to express our love for our country.

Let us understand the challenges of the government. Government is an entity created by the constitutional governance system. It derives its power from the compliance of over 1 billion people in the constitution and so it is tremendously powerful. This power gets multiplied in the times of economic prosperity as the government erroneously and often deliberately assumes itself to be main reason and the force behind the phenomenon and also aggressively projects itself to be so.

As an outcome of a wrong assumption of being the main cause behind the boom, the government becomes oblivious to the possibility of the fact that it might be reaping the fruits of a previous government or a number of favourable global factors and also to the certainty of facing the consequences of its own short sighted decisions which are sometimes victims of hubris. What makes matters worse is that the moment government senses trouble, it suddenly goes risk averse and even more myopic as it doesn’t want to be blamed for any future trouble. This leads to an unimaginative and sapped policy formulation. The opposition becomes merely an excuse to justify the suspended policy scenario.

There are two points where I might seem counter-intuitive.

First, I am not including greed as a flaw of governance because it is not the dividing factor between the government and the subjects. In fact both the government and the subjects are equally inflicted with greed of making hay while the boom lasts.

Second, I believe that most of us are not fundamentally evil. Most of us including the government, the opposition and the common man are patriotic enough to have positive intentions about our nation but not enough to take pains to ensure the safeguards.

Let me now to come to the point of collective ownership.

Firstly we need to realise that economic health of the nation is our collective responsibility and thus both the prevention and cure of economic problems lies in our collective hands. In absence of this strong realisation, status quo cannot be challenged. We must understand that collective ignorance has been crucial factor in the downfall of some EU countries like Greece.

Second, there should be massive campaign to increase among the educated class and the business class the understanding of the basics of economics and the significance of GDP. We all must understand that as a nation we as good or as bad as our GDP growth rate.

Third, we must all be driven by a common goal of doing our bit to ensure that the economy grows at decent rate. This includes not only increasing production but also controlling wastage of natural resources. Here it must also be understood that the gains of the economy will be collective gains too which in the short run will be neither equal nor pro rata.

Finally, we must demand the government a socio-legal space for the formation of non political but representative voluntary bodies of acting as economic watchdogs and pressure groups to provide both the possible growth horizons and the warning signs. Of course and there must be enough competent people willing to utilise this space even if it means extra effort on their part. These groups must be allowed make their suggestions and feedback public on their web sites. A separate ministry must be created to ensure these suggestions are passed on to the respective ministries and are responded promptly by either implantation or explanation for the otherwise.

I am keen to know whether my ideas find resonance!

The Easy way out

An easy way out is usually an easy way down!

When we make a decision on the basis of short term convenience and/or relative ease viz a viz other alternatives we might be choosing to go under the hurdle rather than over it. And after finishing the race we might come to know that the effort has come to naught.

The realization is almost always in the hind sight!

This applies to one and all: students, entrepreneurs, politicians, sports persons, the list is endless.Here I am not preaching against corruption. Even being corrupt requires guts, planning, innovation etc. Although the downfall may come in different ways, at least the initial (and in some cases steep) rise is there.

I am talking about more insidious vices. And before I share them, I would categorically state that I am not immune to them and trying to get rid of them.

The first vice, complacence, usually plagues the good performers. Companies like Nokia have experienced this. Nokia that lost a significant market share while choosing to overlook the growing demand for dual sim cards found itself guilty of choosing an easy way to simply carry on. There are instances from the arena of politics too. In most of the cases, anti incumbency is a fall out of this weakness of governments viz. complacence. Otherwise with all the power in hand and the right intent who can stop a government from retaining power. Students getting easy 90 percent marks later realize they could have topped and got much better colleges. Sales people who narrowly miss the incentive target rue the lack of one more followup.

The narrower the miss, the bigger the pain.

The second vice which is more rampant due to a larger vulnerable population is setting soft and easy targets.

In fact it is not the enormity of the target that intimidates. Rather, it is the anticipation of a huge effort that gets people ducking. So what do they do? They go for something which is attainable without a great effort.

On a sarcastic note, I would say that we sometimes aspire for a special greatness (something yet to be achieved) : to achieve something great by putting an ordinary effort.

Where can it get us? Exactly where running on a treadmill can take someone: nowhere. We often come across people with similar marks (at ordinary level) through out their academic life, when intellectually they deserve much better marks. Companies that commendably become sustainable against odds and remain sustainable but lamentably remain just there, when they could have broken into the next and the bigger league.

One good thing about success is that not many people sincerely seek it. Therefore, there should be huge motivation in sincerely and honestly beginning with an effort to overcome these two shortcomings, viz. Complacence and Setting easy targets.

All the best!