Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Being Indian - Part 2 - Power

I have continued reading and making notes from the book Being Indian by Pavan Varma. The chapters are very long and wordy and take a while to digest. Here are some points that stood out to me from Chapter 2 which is titled Power...

The pursuit of power is an important undertaking for Indians. They respect the powerful and will cooperate and collude with those they perceive as powerful for personal gain.

The caste system began as a functional way of categorising people but overtime it has completely degenerated into an inflexible tyranny.

Projection of power and status are related.

Corruption is not only about material gain but also hierarchy and status.

Without power moral worth is not affirmed and corruption is a form of exercising power.

Indians have individually developed finely tuned skills to locate a persons exact status in society. To meet someone without knowing of their status is like entering a pool without knowing it's depth.

Indians ask increasingly intrusive questions to determine status. Then a person will know where they stand and how to act so that the accepted lines of deference, distance and familiarity are not crossed.

How well a person speaks english indicates social background. This leads to people who do not speak english well choosing to speak it often leading to the spread of poor english. Personally I have seen a lot of this especially when someone who has not mastered english as a second language then goes on to teach it to others leading to poor pronunciation and sentence structures. However I have the utmost respect for anyone who has the persistence to master more than one language.

If a person knows or is related to someone important they must reveal it asap. I do not think this is unique to Indians, though in western cultures it is perhaps not a 'must' but is generally made known.

Indians have a radar like sensitivity to other peoples importance or lack of. A skill that I am developing but I don't place it on importance rather just understanding how they fit in with other Indians and how they will be treated.

There is always an acceptable reason for foul play or corruption and deception is acceptable when the enemy is stronger. The end justifies the means.

India has no developed indigenous ethical system. There is no uncontested definitions of right and wrong; the only concern is the end result.

The power of position is more important than the strength of convictions. Private beliefs are not expected to come in the way of personal benefit.

Hinduism has an air of moral superiority yet hindus feel it is no contradiction to their immoral actions. Any action that is considered wrong in one text is lauded in another.

Flattery must not be subtle, it must be obvious and excessive. Also, indians are known for their bizarre exhibitions of loyalty.

The bedrock of relationships between master and slave is distrust and envy- the primary enduring emotion of Indians.

Altruism without a self-serving ulterior motive is deeply suspect.

A rising star receives much adulation but a fallen hero is condemned.

Esteem is related to status and is easily detected by other Indians.

How did corruption become so rampant in a country which prides itself on its moral heritage? It is because unethical conduct is not considered wrong in an absolute sense. There is never any remorse or guilt for playing dirty but rather self congratulations. Even if caught being corrupt an Indian will never admit guilt.

It is all about the end result; ethics and legality mean nothing on the journey.

Politicians are attracted to the rewards of democratic process not democratic idea.

It is not the pervasive poverty or illiteracy that allows politicians to get away with corruption. The people, no matter what their position in society, value effectiveness over principles.

Indians look up to powerful leaders even if they do not agree with their actions. It is just because they exude power.

Among other aspects democracy has survived in India not because India is democratic but because democracy is an effective tool in the pursuit of power.

Before signing off I just want to reiterate that the observations and generalisations  are not my own but rather those of an Indian National. Also these are generalisations; there are always exceptions to the rule, and I know plenty of people that are!


Chris said...

I read Varma's book before I arrived in India and I have to say it's helped make sense of a lot of what I have seen here. I love that he turns a really unflinching eye on his own country and says things that could only ever be said by an Indian.

Enjoying your blog by the way!

louisejourdan@gmail.com said...

Thanks for the feedback... inspired to put together the rest of my notes and finish the series.