It is time we stopped getting awed by the West
The other day, one of my students who was in London for her summer internship, was talking about its tourist spots. She said the so-called change of guard at Buckingham palace was lousy and many of them were pot-bellied and walking out of step. Having earlier witnessed the beating the retreat ceremony at Delhi and also the show at Wagah border, she thought these were far superior spectacles.Another student, who was in Paris, said so much is made of that “stupid” steel structure called Eiffel Tower, which is neither fascinating nor awesome.
The only interesting thing about the tower, he said, is the Somalians and Algerians selling knickknacks at the entrance in their colourful costumes. It’s the same with the so-called “ancient” Churches (some 500 or 300 years old) in Europe, which are only tourist attractions today, when we have thousand-year-old functioning temples.
I find the youngsters are more forthcoming and less awed by the West and its institutions, structures and people. To me this is very interesting and important, because whether it is books or buildings or works of art, or universities, we generally assume that the western world produces the best and hence crave for their recognition.
That is why, a deputy, assistant, acting, under (you can add more) secretary — generally called a side-kick in Bollywood films — like Robin Raphel, who knows as much about India as I know about the mating habits of flying cockroaches, gets immediate darshan with our Prime Minister. Of course, one could argue that even our Prime Minister can meet such a “high ranking” official without appointment in the US given our efforts in globalisation.
But, there is no denying our tendency to practise shashtanga namaskaram (complete prostration) when we meet “experts” from multilateral institutions or from the US or Europe. Some of them are ex-plumbers or carpenters masquerading as “economists” or “analysts” or “financial experts,” etc. Unfortunately, we do not have the habit of asking for the resume of any white man or woman (since it is assumed by definition that they are ‘experts’) while for some of our “senior economists,” multiple copies need to be sent in advance for Fund-Bank meetings.
We, along with China, are the fastest growing economy in the world and our markets — both product and capital — are eagerly sought by global players. Global capital, along with domestic agents called India Inc, whine and throw tantrums periodically to get more benefits. Actually, given the age structure in Europe or USA, it is funds (pension), which are desperately in search of markets that are relatively high performing.
We need to develop some sense of self-dignity and feel a healthy contempt for others. Note that it should be a healthy contempt born out of our innate sense of understanding of our civilisational role. We should be in a position to retaliate and aggressively stress our point and if needed stand steadfast till our view is agreed upon. To start with, we can recollect the quip by Mahatma Gandhi when asked about western civilisations — “it is an interesting idea.”For instance, broadcasters BBC and CNN, etc always mention about “Indian controlled” or “administered” Kashmir.
We need to mention in our TV about “London controlled Ireland or Wales or Scotland” and also “Washington controlled Texas or California” since lots of Texans or Californians are not particularly happy with Washington. These two were annexed by the USA. This is not only in Doordarshan, but also should be on other foreign broadcasters in India , since in China, Murdoch TV has cringed and accepted that nothing linked to the F word (I mean Falung Gong) will be mentioned. We need to arm-twist all foreign broadcasters or print media, etc since they need our market.
It may not look very rational to talk of Scotland and Texas in such terms, but whoever told you that this globalisation business is about rationality? It is simply about our ability to show our power and self respect. Similar fashion, we need to create a “Global Citizen’s Human Rights Council (not the pink variety created by the government), which should send notices to Italy and EU about the treatment of “Romas” in their countries; also, the issue of treatment of refugees in the Sangahtte camp. We should be asking the EU commissioners to attend these council meetings in Eluru or Ratlam.
Identify some “experts” from these countries and pay them to travel to India and get their views, publicise it in all papers and through the Net. We, as an ancient and living civilisation, should be more concerned about such Himalayan human rights abuses perpetrated by Europe on the nearly 10 million Romas and other refugees. Note, we have and had millions of refugees from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, etc at different times, and all of them were taken care of even though we are a poor country.
Why should Italy or France or England not show at least that much generosity? Basically, we need to be extraordinarily proactive if we want to be a player in this globalisation game. Incidentally, the maximum number of human beings has been slaughtered by the many -isms (Nazism, Fascism, Communism, etc) of Europe in the last century.
We should make the West feel continuously and constantly guilty and keep them as accused. Some abuses, some aggression, some tantrums, some threats, some childish behaviour, some anger and some shouting on a regular and continuous basis has to be done. Then and then only would it be a two-way street. After all, we have been much more “global” in terms of our civilisational past. We have given “space” to invaders and marauders and also to many persecuted and oppressed groups such as Jews, Parsees, etc from all over the world. Our trade with East Asia was thriving, much before the modern European history started. Hence, we are not new to this globalisation business.
We should make it clear that India is not just a market, but a living civilisation. We need to play our cards with a healthy contempt for other players. In other words, we should start setting the global agenda. Take it or leave it. That is it.