India is caught in a vice-like grip between two mental failures, or cultural failures.
The first is socialism which is showing its true colours even as I speak – as India refuses to budge towards liberty. All ends of the spectrum in India (from "progressive" Gujarat to West Bengal) have shown their firm opposition to the (extremely limited: just 51 per cent) FDI in retail. The reasons being given by everyone are totally ridiculous, but that's exactly the point. It is a mental failure.
No amount of reason can correct mental failure. A disease of the mind.
I believe Nehru caused everyone in India to get infected. That's my hypothesis. Either way, that's the reason why Rajaji failed, Masani failed, and I'm failing since February 1998 – to budge India towards liberty. From Narendra Modi to Mamata Banerjee: all are Nehru's godchildren.
But there's another pincer that supports India's persistent failure to be free.
Although I've referred to the self-regard aspect of liberty in BFN and many times earlier, the recognition by Deirdre McCloskey that no "standard" economic of growth fits real data, and that we need something different, has prompted further thought in my mind on the concept of dignity.
And yes, dignity (or, rather, indignity) is the second pincer that is holding India back.
The design of Indian language gives away this dirty secret.
One can address people in three ways: a) with dignity, b) as slight inferiors, c) as inferiors, in ALL Indian languages. And if you add "ओए" you get a fourth level of indignity.
India has modernised largely where English has entered the mind, for Indian language COMPREHENSIVELY CHAINS the Indian to his past.
English has this remarkable inability to distinguish different forms of "you".
If I say: "You clean this place!", that sounds really difficult. So I am likely to say: "Can you clean this place?" or, more likely, "Can you please clean this place?"
This makes a huge difference. The person who hears me say this understands that he/she is an equal. Equality is inbuilt into the English language.
But Hindi has at many ways of saying the same thing, each with different quantities of "dignity". I won't list all these ways: just add "कृपया" where possible, remove "ओए", etc. You should get well over 25 different ways of saying the same thing.
Thus, the expression that accords the greatest dignity (say 100 out of 100) is: क्या आप इसे साफ़ कर सकते हैं?
Surprisingly, adding "कृपया" ("please") to the sentence lowers the level of dignity accorded (to, say, 80 out of 100): "क्या आप इसे कृपया साफ़ कर सकते हैं?" (this is because of the implication of patronisation.)
And so on.
THE WAY THINGS ARE SAID, AND BODY LANGUAGE
But of course, the way all this is said adds another (rather complex!) layer to the precise valuation of dignity accorded. The Indian is finely tuned to sense the QUANTITY OF DIGNITY accorded to him both through language and body language.
Body language and tone is REALLY important in India.
The way you look (there are 100s of ways of looking at others), the way you offer something to someone (there are 10s of ways of offering things: when the left hand is used to offer something it generally implies an insult!), the way you speak, the tone in which you say something, the way you move, the way you point fingers. All of these matter!
India is a MINEFIELD for the unwary. You can insult people in a jiffy if you don't understand the messaging of language AND body language.
English, on the other hand, is far more difficult to deploy as a measure or mechanism of dignity. It is a very blunt tool. Therefore, perhaps, it has allowed equality to grow (unintentionally?) below its feet.
I change each time I land in India. There is an instantaneous valuation exercise underway. The way I am treated, the way I treat others. Everything becomes different on landing in India.
I'm sure there are scholarly analyses of this issue somewhere (I've got to explore this literature closely), but one thing is clear. There is now a very strong finger of suspicion in my mind that India's CULTURE OF INDIGINTY is a key barrier to India's prosperity and well-being.
Much of this is closely associated with the caste system but it is not just about the caste system.
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