Friday, April 03, 2015

India did not have a culture

During the height of UPA corruption, there were a spate of opeds from very intellectual people that often argued that we were corrupt as a culture. The headlines and analysis went something like this, South East Asia (a lumpen term at best) is the most corrupt area in the world (or thereabouts).

As speculative and random as this is, the self loathing of some was used to extend it to the next level. It was, somehow, therefore, used to justify corruption in the then UPA government.

Here are a few samples, thanks to the memory of the internet.

Are Indians endemically corrupt? asks a blogger who is known to be neutrally aligned to UPA.
Why does corrupt India grow fast? asks an eminent columnist I used to respect once upon a time. And it is fairly obvious that a non-corrupt can grow faster.

This is just a small sample and you will find eminent people appearing intellectual on twitter by making such statements.

It was during this time that I was engaged in debate with a gentleman who shall go unnamed, obviously. And as the attention of the nation was focussed on corruption, notably the 2G and other scams, we ended up speaking about the corrupt government. And this gentleman went to use theories like the ones expounded above and tried to prove that corruption does not matter, but actually communalism does or something along those lines.

The line of argument he took to prove this was that Indians are endemically corrupt. That the culture of India is corrupt. That this is how we are. Of course, he included himself in that circle. This sounds fair and reasonable especially considering that he indicted himself in this process.

But it is not that straightforward if I put in some more factors into this equation. The said gentleman then went to add that until European values were instilled in India, the country was like this only. Now, on further investigation, European means Christian values and it takes the road the Britishers came in with - to civilize the natives. That means, pre- Christian, India, and its Hindu culture, was a barbaric culture that deserved to be civilized. Needless to say, the gentleman was a Christian who took much pride in denigrating anything that was remotely good about India before 'Europeans'.

That means, our sages and seers from the ancient times - those who gave up everything in search of self realization - from Buddha to Ramakrishna Paramahansa to Vivekananda were insignificant. Our entire independence struggle and its leaders from Tilak to Gokhale to Rammohan Roy were insignificant. All our brave kings from Shivaji to Ashoka were all insignificant. All the teachings from time immemorial are insignificant. Indeed the post freedom struggle generation - an entire generation that lived on 'Gandhian values' of honesty.

This argument stunned me and I did rebut it quite forcefully, but the argument did stun me as to the kind of thinking we have encouraged about ourselves. Well, you can't blame the gentleman for it. And even if the said person was a Christian, I have heard enough Hindus (usually educated) espouse similar argument systems. Our education system, largely European, teaches us very little about ourselves, except in a passing cursory  way.

(More about this is another post - what is worth thinking about it is that there are elements in our society that hate everything they are. A culture of self loathing. Leading to what?)

So, well, what you can do is to educate yourself and your kids about Indian culture. Perhaps the only culture that actually wishes well for everybody in a prayer as opposed to asking their god to take care of his followers!

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina indeed...

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