LIVING WITH NATURE IN MODERN FORM - MISSION FOR THE TWENTYFIRST CENTURY
IDEOLOGY OF DIVERSITY: ROLE OF YOUTH
Article - 21
Most of the issues we have discussed so far are really of great importance to the future. Even when we have addressed issues of immediate and fire fighting nature, they are meant to save the ‘present’ in order to build a ‘future’ more systematically. Naturally youth have a great stake in these issues. They need to raise them, analyse them, understand them and accept them as a part of life- be it value systems, or new governance methods or new mindsets or technologies.
Most of the issues will revolve around understanding and absorbing ‘DIVERSITY’ as a way of life. Diversity is not just a political slogan or a convenient method of identity politics, which is engulfing India and various parts of the world. The Idea of Diversity is derived from the principles of science especially life sciences: from genes to medical sciences to evolutionary studies to neurosciences. Nature is a great experimenter and innovator; it keeps on trying and diversifying. It has developed complex connections between all of them, though at local levels there are simple principles operating.
To use an administrative phrase, Nature’s delegation of ‘powers’ up to the lower most levels is extraordinarily generous; it is very patient to allow operations at the local levels to work themselves and take decisions depending on various situations around them and adapt if necessary. Yet the complex overall connectedness and the “feed back- feed forward” systems, are also in place, absorbing the actions and inactions from all the constituents.
Very occasionally, Nature is also ruthless to destroy those elements which are unfit or which may turn out to be dangers for the system as a whole. Actually such a collapse is not all of sudden but gradual; Nature keeps on giving plenty of signals. Those creatures which pick up the signals and correct themselves or adapt to new ways survive and flourish.
IDEA OF DIVERSITY:
Human being is a unique creature which can sense these signals not only through simple biological feedback systems but also through the unique conceptualising tool called “HUMAN BRAIN”.. No doubt human brain is a product of many millions of years of evolution from reptiles to mammals to apes: But it has developed a few unique layers which allows it to conceptualise the processes of Nature: not just science, maths, engineering and medical sciences alone but also art, music, literature, philosophy, law, business, governance systems etc...
Over several thousands years of ‘civilisational’ evolution of the “modern humans” (Homo Sapien Sapien) has led to the current dominant understanding that while Nature has UNITY, it operates through DIVERSITY. Pushing ‘UNIFORMITY’ without understanding the nature of the diversities can only cause us disasters.
Modern science in every fields and also social sciences have started realising the reality of DIVERSITY and the need to preserve it in order that human beings can survive. Ancient religions had recognised these ideas much earlier. For example, in Thiruvasagam a great Bhakti literature in Tamil, Saint Manikka Vasagar describes the diversity of life starting with a simple beautiful line “Pullaagi, Poodagi,...” that is to say that he had born through various stages of life like grass, root, worm, tree, bird, animals, man, asura, deva, muni etc... In yet another place in Thiruvempaavai, he says “Bhedithu nammai valarththeduththa peivalai...” that is Parvati who has differentiated each of us and has grown us...”. Prakriti, in the Indian tradition is the creator of the diversity out of the single inert unity. It is noteworthy that modern “quantum mechanical vacuum” description of the “original space”, appears very close to this concept.
PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF DIVERSITY
Let us leave such philosophical discussions for a while, It is a practical necessity to preserve genetic diversity, biodiversity, cultural diversity etc... Even hard core business enterprises have to adopt product diversities in order to survive and succeed in the ever fluctuating global markets. Those who invest in stock markets wisely understood the critical need of diversifying their portfolio especially to survive situations of volatile market conditions.
Those who know the details of the chemical engineering aspects of petrol, diesel and kerosene production from raw crude oil will know the need to had a diversified secondary processing facility to accept crude oil from any source. The crude oil from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria, Iran and some amount from India, is not the same. There are many subtle variations. Indian energy economy is suffering not only due to imports from a fluctuating global markets, but also because many of our earlier built refineries are capable of refining crude received from one or two sources only; when there are problems in its availability, output falls! India’s “energy independence” can come only we equip ourselves to process varieties of crudes received from many different sources (as our own crude availability is very low) and also master other forms of energy like natural gas. We have now missed a diverse source available from nuclear power!
Farmers live with DIVERSITY. For them it is a day-to-day experience.
In the medical field, the realisation of the need for DIVERSITY is far better, as we deal directly with biology, which is the symbol of diversity. About three decades ago, the ill effects of treating all microbes with an ALL SPECTRUM ANTIBIOTIC which was famous half a century ago, were well understood by medical scientists. Properties of microbes are DIVERSE and better benefits are obtained when the antibiotic targets only that microbe. With better understanding of molecular processes, efforts are now on to target only the small affected part of the organ rather than saturating the whole organ with medication or surgery. In addition the effects of genetic diversity in terms of diseases or curing are recognised. So much so, modern medical researchers are hoping to have system biology 2.0 i.e. characterising each person for individualised treatment. This is because of the understanding that we are not uniformly the same. While we have commonalities, there are DIVERSE specificities which vary from person to person; they even change for the person over a period.
Neurosciences are throwing up mind blogging findings about the diversities of human cognition, mind, emotions etc. Single point uniform treatment of ‘intelligence measures’ or ‘psychological gradings or characterisations’ etc... will be dispensed with in a few decades from now. The diversity of human beings will be factored into, not only in medical treatment but also in terms measures of productivity, excellence normality etc...
Naturally these deeper understandings from scientific fields and their applications, will impact other fields like economics, business and governance systems. Economists have already started understanding the complexity of human behaviour in terms of economic transactions and practical applications. Earlier one point solutions like communist economy, Keynesian welfare economics, Reagan type neo-cons, middle east monarchical economics etc... are all floundering.
Severe global competitions for resources and markets will actually lead to more diversities in product ranges and service deliveries to capture many (diverse) local niche markets. See for examples the diversities in cable TV channels available to the customers even in rural areas and the mobile phones. (We should hope that in India we do not lose out on mobile and TV channels with the current SINGLE POINT mantra of MAXIMISING GOVERNMENT REVENUES from spectrum!)
Governance systems are slow to change. Those in power and/or belong to the classes of power, will resist changes. This is also derived partly from our evolutionary inheritance. Changes are resisted; lives of mutants are made difficult.
But all over the world, there is an assertion against the MONOPOLY OF POWER. Will they all lead to more decentralisation, localisation, and graceful accommodation of various standards of public governance or will they lead to one form of monopoly being replaced by another? It is difficult to answer.
But with increasing economic growth, the number of middle class persons are going up all over the world. They get educated. Also ICT and TV (media and cyber world) lead to their exposure to many different ways of life. Pluralism, (acceptance of diversity) and sharing space with diverse persons and ideas (inclusion) are gaining ground.
Even amongst those who propagate pluralism and inclusion, there is a severe competition between ideas and for recognition. Many of them would like to push their view points being the ultimate truth; the ultimate way of life. We see this happening in our day-to-day lives. We see how ‘democratic debates’ degenerate into ‘petty partisanism’ (worse still personal lobbying!)
Many TV channels and media revel in pushing single point mantras be it in advertisements or in their so-called panel discussions. It is now widely accepted that media also suffers form malices like paid news, lobbying, character assassination etc...
HOW TO PREPARE THE YOUTH FOR THE ERA OF DIVERSITY?
It is incorrect to lump the youth into a single category. There are socio-economic differences; youth of the very rich classes have their own ideas of power; many of them may belong to a category “If you don’t have bread, eat cake!” Again middle class is several layered. Even rich are several layered from the sophisticated upper echelons, to neo-rich, rural rich, contractors, traders etc... each having their own diverse world views. Below the middle class there are seamless diversities of people with multiple identities based on caste, religion, language, degree of poverty, tribal origins, etc...
If the educated youth from all these layers come to realise the glimpses of the above diversities in India and similar diversities in the world, they themselves will find many solutions adaptable for the diverse population.
Today we try to project a non-existent single India of 1.2 billion hearts, a few tens of Icons from sports, film, business and political world. Many slogans, we raise are from the past or from the current West. Many middle class morals which are projected are Euro-Victorian ones which have broken down in the countries of their origin.
In this context we should understand the generational gaps in India. For simplicity, I categorize as under:
Generation1: All those who were around 20 years of age at the beginning of the 20th century. They were around 30 to 40 years when the freedom struggle picked up great momentum. They had a single vision of throwing away the colonial yoke. As to the India’s own socio-economic development or strategic position in the world, they gave little thought, as they were busy with freedom struggle. Vague ideas were around the terms secular ‘democratic’, equality’, ‘self-reliance’, ‘one-nation’, ‘peace’, ‘non-violence’ etc... Post independence, many of them from Generation 1 got into positions of power.
Generation 2: Those who were around 20 years when India got Independence. They were the really young resurgent Indians who had been fired with a great vision of building modern India with its own unique heritage. They did wonderful tasks in the field of politics, education, business, arts, etc... Many of them are now around the age of 80 years (nearing or crossed) They envisioned a SINGLE UNIFIED INDIA where all are equal and where all will benefit from the Independence. A number of them would see that most of their ideals of unity and uniqueness lay shattered or floundering. A number of persons from this Generation also flourished in the ‘power-games’ of the independent India!
Generation 3: Those who were 20 years of age around the start of 1970’s. They were the ‘mid-night children’. (or close to it). They picked up lots of ideals preached by Generation 1 and Generation2. Images they saw, in their minds of an India, when they were children and were growing up started showing many cracks around late sixties and seventies. Power politics and hypocrisy of persons from Generation 2 confused or disillusioned them. Many of them sought pastures abroad especially USA going for studies and later settling down. Those who had technical skills and lower end education went to the Gulf countries and earned better money. A large number of persons from Generation 3 had to stay back in India. They mostly tried to get into government jobs. They continued with the dream of self reliant and prosperous India, mostly insulated from the developments around the world. Within the cocoon of Govt and licence-permit-quota Raj, they adapted without any external competition and created a slow moving and even internally corrupt India. Most of them turned cynical! They lived in an India of scarcities and made it also a virtue!!
Generation 4: Those who were in their 20’s around 1990’s. They were born into an India of scarcities and their childhood was not as much filled with hopes as it was at the childhood of their parents. Their parents had to struggle in getting admission for them in schools and colleges and for them to get jobs, which were scarce. Private sector even around 1990’s was not the best option and the parents who belonged to the Generation 3, saw Govt job as the only safe option. Some luckier ones sent their children abroad; around 1980’s most elites (even those who were in govt services) tried their level best to send their children abroad for a degree and subsequent job! They had lost much of hope about life in India.
But the opening up of the economy provided a large segment of Generation 4 youth some better paying jobs with the opening up of economy and the resultant super speed growth of IT, and consumptions sectors.
So Generation 4 who will be around their forties now has seen lot of good things in life. Their childhood or teenage memories of shortages (in almost everything) have gone. They created CONSUMPTION boom in India in which their parents of Generation 3 also participated. Many in Generation 4 went abroad and settled abroad. This generation created Indian Energy in all over India and abroad. With their energy, they pulled along many persons from Generation 3, who also became rich; but these persons carried along many habits of license-permit-quota-raj such as privileged access leading to various corrupt practices including crony capitalism. Political system also benefited in this mode making India one of the most corrupt places in the world! But still the speed of economic growth partly masked the deficiencies of the system.
There was no time for most of the persons in Generation 3 or Generation 4 to think holistically: money making, power seeking and consumption became ends in themselves.
Most of those in Generation 2 who are still surviving, could not well grasp these fast movements. A very few wise among them tried to establish some idealistic ethics in the society and economy (with limited successes). Some in Generation 2 were also drawn by the lure of power and money.
Generation 5: Those who were around 20 years of age around 2010. These persons are born in the India which had removed at least part of the severe economic fetters. Right from the childhood they had more to consume, more options. Their parents also had more to consume and more options., Their parents had better incomes and did not have to stand in queues for telephones, cars, two wheelers, LPG cylinders or ration shops for sugar etc... Not even large queues in cinema theatres. But probably for the nursery school admissions or at college levels their parents had to go from pillar to post! This Generation 5 has seen competition in various spheres. They relish to compete too. Even in villages the youth of the poorer sections of the society of this Generation 5 had more aspirations to consume, much more than their parents or grand parents can imagine. Most of the rural youth (especially males) of Generation 5 migrate to cities even tolerating the conditions of slums in towns/cities.
Generations 4 and 5 have seen much of the DIVERSITY in action, but the slogans they get charmed are with single point slogans: ‘India super power’ ; ‘Developed India’, ‘Global leadership’, ‘Green’, ‘Organic’, ‘Euro Standards’ and still narrower single point slogans. They are too busy, partly coping with new standards of economic efficiency at work as well as severe problems of Indian infrastructure: traffic jams, power cuts, water scarcity, admissions, corruption at almost all levels even to do comply with legal processes such as paying tax, getting registration etc...
There is an all round cynicism. On interesting feature (amidst all these problems) they have retained two Indian uniqueness.
- their palate for Indian ‘masalas’ and food and
- an universal faith in God and worship albeit in different modern ‘quickie’ forms.
Otherwise in many other aspects, the earlier generations will abhor most of their ways of life, even while enjoying the fruits of their hard work!
We need to address the persons from Generation 4 and 5 to adopt the IDEOLOGY OF DIVERSITY and talk in their languages (lingo, twitter, SMS and what not!). We need to make them excited about creating a NEW CULTURE OF ACCEPTING NATURE’S DIVERSITY AND ENJOYING IT.
We need to emphasize the real FACT, that such an approach will SIMPLIFY their lives and improve their quality of life. Unnecessary struggles to enforce an unreal UNIFORMITY will only make every body unhappy. We have explained in the earlier articles about how the LOCAL COMMON GOODS AND GLOBAL COMMON GOODS are interconnected.
Also such an acceptance of and living with DIVERSITY, does not destroy the ONE-INDIA concept (eventually even ONE-GLOBE concept) but strengthen it. Indian civilisation is enduring for several millennia because it discovered the beauty (and reality!!) of DIVERSITY and embedded it in every walk of life. So many languages, cuisines, art forms, governance forms, rituals, pedagogic forms, schools of thought, religions holy places etc... It is necessary for us to rediscover them in the modern context.
Wise and still active Generation 2 persons can do that with ease, as they can now take a detached view. They can address Generation 4 & 5 persons in the modern forms. Generation 3 persons, really the children of Independence are a mixed lot; many of them have lost themselves in their share-the-spoils game of post-independence polity and governance. Their situation is well described in a recent article (May 29, 2012) in Indian Express “Sins of littleness” by Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Still, if they are ready to shed their past and develop moral courage, they may be able to reach out especially Generation-5, who have more or less a clean-slate-memory of India’s recent past.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE?
- Basically the IDEOLOGY OF DIVERSITY, should shun the ONE-SIZE-FIT ALL concepts of the past which are being touted now at the time of deep crisis for the Indian economy, society and polity, through high pressure media hypes.
- As a corollary, all over-centralised solutions for India need to be shunned and real local governance systems need to be attempted.
- On the economic front, pure copy-cat versions of Western forms of capitalism or welfarism need to be avoided. While competition, entrepreneurship and free operation of market forces are vital, let them not be obsessed with a couple of indicators of macroeconomics stability, which are really meant to de-risk the global. capital. For India, faster economic growth is vital to generate employment for people. Similarly European versions of welfarism also do not suit India where there are too many poor persons,. It will lead to ‘doles’, favouritism and focus on vote-banks. It will be a ‘crony welfarism’. We need to make our people truly independent by giving them skills and opportunities. They should learn to compete with DIVERSITY OF SKILLS and win a place for themselves. That will release the DIVERSE energies of India.
- On the cultural front let us rediscover the traditional syncretic cultural milieu of India. In addition to the use of English to acquire modern knowledge and skills, our GENERATION 5 especially need to be masters of (not just literate) one Indian language; languages help discover the real roots of one’s civilisation and society. They can then converse with the BULKY BASE of ordinary Indians and discover their diversities. Let those in Generation 3, help the process by bringing out ancient treasures in their languages as Arulchelvar N Mahalingam has been doing for Tamil. LET THE NEXT TWO DECADES BE DEDICATED TO THE RESSERRGENCE OF ALL INDIAN LANGUAGES (not those which are scheduled but all existing and nearly extinct languages).
Generation-5 and some of Generation-4 will truly discover the DIVERSITY, that is India and adapt them to the modern findings of science and technology, as we have elaborated in earlier articles. They will find the seamless and syncretic connections between the past and the emerging future before them. We don’t need to preach them or give specific capsule commands.
Are we ready?
I appeal to all the persons from Generation 2 to 5, to start a new movement of REDISCOVERY OF DIVERSITY.
(Y S Rajan)