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Telangana & pre-modern promises : T K Arun జనవరి 2, 2010

Posted by Telangana Utsav in agitation, Andhra, Articles, Congress, corruption, Culture, Economy, elections, heritage, Identity, politics, Rayalaseema, Sonia, TDP, Telangana, Telugu, TRS.

Telangana and pre-modern promises
TK Arun
Economic Times December 17, 2009

Every child who’s read Alice in wonderland knows that saying what you mean and meaning what you say are two different things. So do the political parties that supported a separate Telangana till the Centre said it was willing to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, but then turned against the move when they saw the reaction on the ground.

The Telugu Desam Party is the lead proponent of this art of instant change of heart. How do these parties still hope to be taken seriously by the people?

Hypocrisy is common in politics. But complete hypocrisy would be exposed and rejected. So, if some forms of hypocrisy is consistently tolerated by the public at large, there has to be some reason why this happens.

Probably because it’s part of the wider Indian culture to not really expect people to mean what they say. The hostess who piles food on the plate of the guest who protests that he cannot possibly eat any more but proceeds to polish off what has been served with relish is a good example of this diffuseness of commitment in India that borders on hypocrisy.

The hostess knows the guest doesn’t really mean what he says anymore than it’s her mission in life to nurture the guest to her own financial ruin. But they implicitly owe it to each other to strike that pose that fetches that appropriate reciprocal reaction. Neither means what he/she says, but together, they have made the right impression on each other.

Take the case of the IIT alumnus in the US who’s been sent to jail for threatening dire violence against the Bush administration. He probably didn’t mean what he said. Indians implicitly understand this, that he was just trying to create an impression. But you can’t expect the Americans to believe that you don’t mean what you say as a matter of routine.

When you use a word like doublespeak to describe this attitude that is comes naturally to the typical Indian political party, which stands for perfectly contradictory things with perfect natural ease, it sounds very harsh. It actually is too harsh. A more appropriate term might be pre-industrial.

The industrial age heralded precision. If you want a metal something to be machined to a thickness of seven microns, you say it has to be machined to a thickness of seven microns and what you say pretty much means that it has to be machined to a thickness of seven microns.

When such precise actions preponderantly fill your life, you acquire the habit of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. In pre-industrial cultures, there is great latitude in locating the precise meaning of what you say.

Since about 70% of Indians still live in rural areas and 61% of the workforce live off agriculture and allied activities, their attitude to precision is pre-industrial. Obfuscation is not just a contingent hazard, but often a welcome way to avoid conflict.

Precision leads to binary choices, and binary choices potentially lead to conflict. Fuzzy boundaries of what you mean and don’t mean avoids explicit choice and, therefore, conflict, and allows life to continue without change. Fuzziness of language has allowed caste inequality and iniquity to continue for ages in India.

Advaita means non-duality. The philosophy asserts unity between physical nature and the spirit or atman, between the individual spirit and the cosmic spirit. Where is the scope for caste discrimination in a society guided by the principle of Advaita?

Yet, Hindu traditions, supposedly anchored in Advaita, also involve vicious caste discrimination, completely negating all notions of the unity of everything animate and inanimate. Only pre-modern fuzziness of words and their meaning would have permitted this contradiction to sustain as long as they have.

It is perhaps not accidental that Kerala’s pre-eminent social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru, who questioned the caste system based on intellectual resources drawn from within the philosophy of advaita, towards the close of the 19th century, also exhorted his followers to promote modern industry.

The only political party that has been completely consistent on forming small states has been the Communists. The communist ethos is that of industry, of binary logic (notwithstanding that some individual communists have, of course, evolved to the higher stage of fuzzy logic).

The Indian economy is growing, essentially on the strength of industry and services. These modern economic activities call for precision in thought and action and correlation between the two. The language and culture of modern India will not tolerate the pre-industrial fuzziness bordering on hypocrisy that still dominates the discourse of most political parties.

Scientists in India who build rockets that target the moon still seek to avoid the inauspicious time when the mythical serpent Rahu swallows the moon, for scheduling the rocket launch. Such pre-industrial dichotomy is also under assault, when buses today go up in flames in Andhra Pradesh, against the hypocrisy of parties that say one thing and mean something else altogether.



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