An Inconvenient Truth

There are inconsiderate human beings that occupy this planet in every village, town, city and country. Even so, I wouldn’t be straying far from the truth when I say that we Indians occupy a special place in the pantheon of insensitivity. We are a nation of uncaring, indifferent boors, whose lives are only occasionally punctuated by those (increasingly rare) Satyameva Jayate moments, when we sit down and pretend to care about our fellow citizens.

The Inconsiderate Indian

Our indifference manifests in countless exotic ways. It could take the form of spit impelled out of a window of a moving bus or car. It showcases itself in how we drive on the other side of the road, passing those who wait patiently for the light to turn green. Our selfishness blossoms when presented with a long line in front of a small counter with a harassed clerk, and plots clever ways to cut through and get around the indignity of waiting. Mindless road/traffic planners, rude hospital staff, robotically insensitive school principals, gossiping colleagues, uncaring airport staff.. The list goes on. So, it should come as no surprise when our leaders display the same inconsideration that we have so carefully cultivated amongst ourselves. Yet, it surprises us when we hear that our ministers have been pilfering from us, promoting their sons and daughters and circumventing the laws of the land to suit their purposes.

There is one potentially redeeming aspect of the Inconsiderate Indian, which suggests that this condition might not, in fact, be incorrigible. Our strain of inconsideration largely stems from indifference and mindlessness, and is less insidious than its cousin variety that breeds on malice and ill-will. We’re not a malicious people, by and large. But, we, surely, are dim witted. Mindlessness and indifference are progeny of foolishness. In fact, that may be the best piece of information we have at our disposal. That we are mere fools and not evil monsters like what the chinese system has perpetrated. Of course, the worry remains that our behavior is not really borne of our idiocy and it reflects our true selves. In any case, idiocy, in my book, is a far lesser crime compared to malice and leaves room for hope that we may yet overcome this failing someday.

Why are we a nation of dimwitted fools?

Never mind Viswanathan Anand. Never mind that Silicon Valley genius engineer, who invented that clever thing that lets us search the internet. Never mind Homi Bhabha. Never mind J.C. Bose and C. V. Raman. Never mind that ours is the land of Buddha and the Vedas. Never mind the nostalgia from having invented zero. Make no mistake about it. We are a nation of fools. There’s no dearth of evidence or fools, to support this hypothesis, in our otherwise lovely nation.

So, what’s the solution?

This is the tricky part. There are two reasons why this is tricky.

The first part of the trickiness has to do with the possibility that there may exist no solution. There is no magic wand to wave or potion you could force down throats that could rid us of our insufferable mindlessness. I like to think that if there was one, we, in spite of our stupidity, would have found it by now. These sort of things, especially those that involve senselessness, take time to work through. The process of working through stuff is called evolution. Unfortunately, the way evolution seems to be working at the moment, it appears to be favoring the fools. One hopes that this trend will correct itself. If not, we will extinguish ourselves and the problem will solve itself.

Second, I cannot, in good conscience, issue a clarion call to corrective action to you, my reader. For, it would somehow imply that you, the reader, are part of this clan of fools, a notion which seems at odds with the fact that you are a What Ho! reader. What Ho! readers may be misguided. But, they are erudite. They like the finer things in life like What Ho!. They may be many things. But, they are no fools. I say this with sincerest respect and in the fondest hope of retaining your patronage.

Seriously, why are we a nation of fools?

Even a tiny North African country with 10 million people and nothing more than sandy deserts, has found a way to build roads, run hospitals, operate shiny airports and promote civility. I think, the truth is that we, at some fundamental level, seem to revel in our foolishness. We call it jugaad. We call it ‘street smarts’. Our brains work overtime to figure out detours. We are a nation of arrogant, self-centered people which believes that its brand of perverted intelligence is somehow superior because it helps beat the odds. We are a society of fools that celebrates the most ‘jugaadi’ fools. I, for one, take no pride in our jugaad. To me, jugaad is a symptom of how low we have fallen. It is a sign that evolution is favoring the energetic fools amongst us.

The smart thing is to take the straight roads and drive faster. Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten this inconvenient truth. How about more sense and less jugaad?

18 Replies to “An Inconvenient Truth”

  1. First of all wholeheartedly agree that we as a nation are in deep trouble, not only because of our leaders but because of our own callous selves. I don’t think we are a nation of fools. It could be a byproduct of our apathy, but we are no fools. We will plot and plan to make bucket loads of money the wrong way. We will find loopholes to earn our 10% or much more. But, we won’t try to find ways to live morally. You rightly said that it reflects in our civic sense, the way we talk, conduct ourselves, stay away from taking action etc. The only thing we do well apart from jugaad ( I agree it is not something to be proud of) is yap, talk and forget and sleep well.

  2. You’ve summarized it even better, Rachna. By foolishness, I refer to this short sighted mindset – of taking the detours or short cuts to the nearest bounty and touting it to be some sort of superior intelligence.

  3. we are a country who believe in shortcuts and may its because of our third world status.
    Given the same conditions, many countrymen would
    behave in the same way.when there was Katrina in US, people looted and didnt share with fellow countrymen.
    When there was a riot in London last year, people fought, killed each other without any ideology.just for the fun.

    But in India whenevr the need arises we rise on the occasion.be it floods in Mumbai or any rail accident or anything..

    so wouldnt say all is lost…
    And this generation can change a lot, if they work towards it….but sadly most of them want every luxury in their homes instead of worrying about others…

  4. a meaningful article written in a not too heavy-hannded manner. could never agree more. congratulations…

    the largeness of the problem(s) at hand overpowers outcry at the individual level causing one to become vulnerable to a state of angst, to a state of ‘throwing hands in the air’. some of my ‘general’ observations on how things function at all levels and spheres in our country include the following:

    1. there is a general sense of disregard for rules or codes (moral as well as pragmatic) that have mutual/collective utilitarian and environmental benefit..
    outcome: inconsideration & corrupt practices

    2. there is general lack of trust or faith among people. in a selfish world, one can seldom expect to be trusted or to trust anyone. the real challenge is ‘how willing we are to trust’.
    outcome: a perceived need to be protective of one’s survival.

    3.the third point may sound either too naive, but the focus of subtle emotional energies of a majority of the population gravitates towards a cult attitude & idolatry. haven’t our minds been swayed enough by stars, and brains been washed clean repeatedly by political orators? people have become passive recipients, not proactive contributors. in the road to future evolution, we may forget we were vertebrates once…
    outcome: apathy, which again is a result of wasting & exhausting one’s energies on urgent but unimportant things. and our nation is full of it.

    4. lastly, there is a general lack of sense of responsibility as well as ownership for actions and their consequences. we see it in every election campaign. we see it in every street /locality /local governance.
    outcome: lack of commitment & follow-through

    However, not all the troubles in the world are enough to break down the human spirit and its fortitude. It is important to recognize challenges as they exist in a brutally honest way. there is no running away from them. We may not expect from only leaders (at work, home or state) a demonstration of ‘leadership qualities’. Every individual is a leader unto oneself.

  5. Actually, Individuals are becoming increasingly sensitive – but only to their own selves. I think they have misinterpreted the truth of Sanata Dharma that asks people to turn inward. Thus, they have made themselves the center and the boundary of all their sensitivity. You have rightly identified this as Selfishness and Self-centered behavior. Cartoon was very apt!

  6. I agree!!! Another viewpoint stating the same conclusion…

    I would say individuals are really high on their intellect. For example a person bypasses the red signal because heshe would like to save time. Jumps the queue because heshe would like to save time. “Jugaad” to get the things done faster in hisher advantage. This means they are highly intelligent.

    But what happens to the aggregate intelligence of the societythe country?

    When every single individual starts being highly intelligent in their own world the aggregate intelligence of the system reduces because they are not following the established protocol… ignoring what the big picture is…

    We become fool as aggregate…

  7. It is pertinent to note the ethnicity of the culprits of the incidents you have mentioned. One thing that stands out is, they are all of third world stock. Coincidence? I believe not.

  8. “Every individual is a leader unto oneself” – very well said! If we can truly internalize the truth in this statement, things will take care of themselves.

  9. Perfect. You’ve described it a hundred times better than the article! Individually “intelligent”, but fools as a whole – sums it up.

  10. This is, may be, one of those paradoxical situations where the law of aggregate stands defied 🙂

  11. The article makes some valid points but frankly, it has become “fashionable” to criticize “bad” Indian things. Agreed, we display an ample amount of stupidity but so do other nations. Didnt Americans give a second term to Bush? And what about the Greeks, Italians and Portuguese who cant seem to understand that austerity is the only way to revive their economies and are hell bent on protesting against those measures? How about the Islamist countries who revel in repression?

    Look, we aint perfect. Period. Get over it and do watever you can to change it. Otherwise, its just a bad case of couch activism.

  12. Mayank, you make a good point about couch activism. I took a look at your blog, which is not bad. For a guy who rants as much as you do, your objection to my (mild) rant is surprising 🙂 cheers man.

    ps: the americans, greeks, italians and portuguese have roads without potholes in their countries. the day india gets there, let’s compare our stupidity with their stupidity 🙂

  13. That's the same line voiced by the previous generation. If anything has to be changed, it has to done by us before our time ends and we should leave a good legacy for the future generations. Soon after freedom, the first crop of politicians, many of whom had made great sacrifices to free India were a fairly clean lot. But soon enough, with state controls, mediocrity reigned. Otherwise educated and conscientious bureaucrats started kowtowing to corrupt ministers, who became more corrupt with time. I don't have any idea what these guys will do with their loot. It might last several generations for them even if they choose to splurge.

    Here's where Anna Hazare comes across as a guy who is serious about changing things here and now. His methods may be questionable for a democracy, but there is no other choice. I say this because our democracy has been subverted by our own leaders to perpetuate their rule and their corrupt ways in one form or other. The least we can do is to close ranks and support Anna to shock the government to action and to rectify. But which criminal will be his own judge. Which politician will eschew the policy of self-preservation? End result: Jan Lokpal bill will never get passed in our parliament.

    You say there is no solution. I beg to differ. There are solutions … it might have to be a bit more radical, outside the purview of a parliamentary democracy.

  14. Give us public toilets and we’ll try not to piss on your gods on your Walls. Till then.. well yall can cover your eyes and go fish. #theekhai

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