I can safely predict that in any discussion about India’s many problems two statements will be made by someone which will receive unanimous assent. The group will then terminate the discussion and life will go an as usual. This happens no matter what the problem and no matter who the ‘ intellectuals’ involved are, with rare exceptions of course.
The two statements are
1] it is all because of British rule. They plundered our great country, introduced an education system that has cut us off from our roots and made us a nation of clerks.
2] It is all because of our corrupt politicians—these scoundrels. Wish I could hang them all from the nearest tree/lamp post.
Now in a recent symposium when I heard these statements I –who had gone there merely as an onlooker—asked for permission to take the floor and speak about the THINKING behind such statements.
Here is the gist of my speech
‘I am a student, teacher and author of thinking skills. I take the liberty of examining the thought processes behind the two statements that have been made here.
Firstly let us look at the British rule argument. What has prevented us from reforming our education system in the last 6 decades of self rule? Have we as a nation not benefited from English language education? Our claim to being an IT superpower is entirely based on English language education. What prevents us from reading English language translations of our ancient texts so that our ‘roots’ are intact?
2] There is evidence to believe that IN THE LAST TEN YEARS THE AMOUNT OF ILL GOTTEN MONEY STASHED AWAY BY OUR POLITICANS AND CROOKED INDUSTRIALISTS IN SWISS BANKS EXCEEDS THE TOTAL AMOUNT LOOTED BY THE BRITISH IN OVER 200 YEARS— SAID TO BE A TRILLION DOLLARS !
Hence there is little point in constantly talking about and blaming the British for our ills.
As for blaming politicians that is little that we as individuals can do except when we exercise our fanchise.
The point I seek to make is this—WE HAVE A TENDENCY TO INDULGE IN LAZY THINKING WHEN WE PLAY THE BLAME GAME AND WHEN WE TALK OF LARGE VAGUE ISSUES AND ABSOLVE OURSELVES OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO THINK AND ACT FOR OURSELVES AT A SIMPLE PRACTICAL LEVEL.
What prevents us from asking what we can do at our level towards the solution of our many problems?
Let us see what people elsewhere have done in other areas and achieved great success and change.
I am reminded of what the founder of the legendary coffee house chain said about his masterly success in setting up the STARBUCKS chain, that is the subject of many a case study. He has encapsulated his philosophy in the title of his book
‘ ONE CUP AT A TIME’
What lesson does this hold for each one of us?
The lesson is this –EACH ONE OF US OWES IT TO OURSELVES AND OUR FAMILY AND COUNTRY TO REFORM AND CHANGE — ONE FAMILY AT A TIME.
Forget about grand reforms that will cleanse society, ask not about sweeping changes that will eliminate corruption. Just start with your family . Begin by teaching and practising some simple lessons like
RESPECT FOR LAW ,ORDER AND RULES
RESPECT FOR EVERY HUMAN BEING
And other such values that we find missing in our national life.
Why are we lazy thinkers? I have a hypothesis that I offer for debate here.
In the practice of Hinduism I notice that we function at two levels. At one level we are deeply ritualistic. Thus we have a rule for every situation—don’t go for a haircut on a Friday, don’t cut your nails on a Thursday, don’t eat potatoes on amavasya, don’t read a book on Saraswati day, gamble on Diwali but not on other days , etc etc The manner in which each ceremony is to be performed has been laid down in excruciating detail thousands of years ago and these are not to be modified despite the passage of two or three millennia..Thus no mercy was shown to me when I had to perform many strenous ceremonies—at risk to my health -when my parents died. I sought relaxation in view of my health condition . I was told that ‘ God would be angry’. An absurd argument.
On the other hand we also indulge in talk bordering on the immensely vague and nebulous—advaita, dwaita, vishist advaita, the formless form, the sourceless source etc etc .The upshot of this is that an average Indian, a Hindu to be precise ,can be totally procedural or devastatingly vague. This prevents s sharp thinking that can lead to solution finding .
Solutions often lie in the area BETWEEN THE TWO EXTREMES OF DETAILED PROCEDURES AND VAGUE GENERALISATIONS.
The Hindu finds it hard to function in this area.