Sunday, June 18, 2017

A comment by Namit Arora about India

I read only a couple of pieces by Namit Arora. Today, I saw a comment by him on his Wall which seems relevant to me and which jells with my experience in South India, particularly with the Kamma community. This comment is in  cost about the survey More Than Half Of India's Youths Want Military Rule, Ban On Inter-Faith Free Mixing In Public, Survey Finds. In the discussion:
Ali Minai If true, this is interesting in that younger people in most of the wod are becoming MORE liberal and cosmopolitan. Why is India moving in the opposite direction?
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June 10 at 4:51am
Namit Arora Ali, that's a good question. But even if this survey is correct, I’m not so sure that India is moving in the opposite direction.  Civic sense was always terribly weak in India, given its strong historical investment in things like respect for authority, hierarchy, endogamy, nepotism, social conformity, religious taboos, family honor, etc. Add to this its very weak sense of the individual and his/her fundamental equal rights and dignity. In fact, the substrate is still quite feudal, esp. in the north. But having said that, I think it's likely that *on the whole*, Indians have more civic sense now than in the past, except it’s clearly far from enough for this day and age. They're simply coming from a much worse place, and most are still too ill-equipped to be good citizens able to do their part to make a decent modern society.

India’s huge diversity and syncretic culture were once natural bulwarks against fascism / majoritarianism but diversity and syncretism have eroded as new axes of identity mobilization have emerged (nation; a more aggressive Hinduism; etc.). Today’s mass communication, higher per capita incomes (freeing more people from basic struggles to focus on things larger than themselves), a truly shoddy school system severely lacking in critical thinking or civic education, unscrupulous demagogues, and the rise of unmet aspirations and competitive stresses of modern life have transformed Indian society (a million youth enter the job market every month; jobless growth is a big concern in India right now; many traditional sectors of industry have seen massive job losses)—and all this has made a large section of the youth more vulnerable to becoming part of various ‘banalities of evil’. It doesn't help that the country is now run by artful demagogues and unimaginative technocrats singularly ill-equipped to notice anything amiss. 

To your comment right below, I think only a few key Indian leaders and a tiny percentage of citizens stood for a liberal, secular democratic ethos, at least in principle if not always in practice. The masses never had much affinity for a liberal, secular, democratic ethos—that’s very much a product of modernity, to which India is very much a latecomer (modernity is coming on its own slow and imperfect pathways, with all the attendant risks of derailment and massive pain en route; clearly, this is no time to be sanguine).

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