The news from Iran is getting grim by the moment. The deep division in the Iranian Regime is now in the open. I am optimistic that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the Iranian Regime, and its power will prove to be fictitious like that of other dictatorial regimes of the past. An iconic figure - Neda - has emerged in her death, an young lady shot by the hired assassins of the state, and hopefully the amateur images of her dying moments will stir an otherwise indifferent world into action.
The lesson that the world's dictators don't seem to get is that technology has moved forward and the usual methods of gagging - banning the journalists, stopping the newscasts - are no longer good enough. As Iran continues to dominate Twitter and the blogs, and as the street videos shot on mobile phone keep leaking out on the Internet, the evil men of Myanmar will surely call the Iranian Elite to offer an word of advise - we told you to keep Internet out!
We have seen this before, and it is being proved again now - that technology shapes our politics more deeply than ever. One can possibly argue that the modern democracy owes much to the broadcast media, the newspapers primarily. It is well acknowledged that the TV changed democracy permanently, and the advent of JFK, the undoing of Nixon, the rise of Reagan and Clinton, and to the modern day, David Cameron, has a lot to do with how TV shapes democracy. But it is not yet acknowledged how deeply Internet is changing our societies and polities. Indeed, I have read the curious trash of 'The Cult of the Amateur', who argued that the Internet is destroying the traditional media and therefore news gathering and analysis. I just hope that Andrew Keen is in audience when this Iranian crisis is playing out, when the dictators have effectively blocked the traditional media, but melting away in the face of mobile phone cameras, tweets and blog posts.
The dictators will never get it, and so would not all the 'broadcast' politicians. Barack Obama's inaction in the Iranian crisis is baffling. He seems to think that making a statement will allow the Iranian authorities to see the American hand in this crisis and crack down. As if they don't seem to see it already and are handling their demonstrators with kid gloves. It is a shame that while people are being killed, the global guardians of democracy will stand by and watch silently. In fact, one is bound to suspect that the silence of the American Administration comes at the behest of its Middle Eastern allies, dictators themselves, who would love to see the Iranian regime fold, but are deeply fearful of the street protests themselves.
India, as usual, has nothing to say. Indian Government projects itself as the great and the good at home, but it is uncertain and unprincipled when it comes to standing up for anything. So are China and Russia, which are clearly on the wrong side in every struggle for democracy and will do everything to keep the Iranian regime. But, I think, all of them are making the same mistake - they underestimate the power of the crowd united by technology. They don't seem to get it, as the ruling class, all over the world, believe in controlling the information. This may have been a modernist thinking by itself and one can trace its roots to Alvin Toffler's theories about centrality of information in the modern governance and foreign policy, but none of that will prepare a new President or a Prime Minister for an age when street videos and expense claims can be posted on the Internet in a matter of minutes.
The other thing the Iranian Regime completely missed out on is women. In their zeal, they wrote them off completely. In Iran, the women are still half the worth of men, but the Ayatollahs clearly did not realize that the women are some times smarter, more determined and stronger than men. Women, as we hear, are leading the protests, and that can not be a good sign for any of those Arab despots and their friends in the west.
Of course, we will now see a brutal crackdown in Iran. The regime is mortally wounded, and now it will come back with its revolutionary guards and all the works. There will be massacre on the streets, which we will have to see on grainy videos. Egged by its past-sell-by date Arab friends and the Chinese and the Russian bully-boys, Britain and America and all the other states will stand by and let it happen. But, then, the wheel of history has now turned and this will only buy some time for the dictators in Iran. This is the third thing - after technology and women - that is against them : time. They have already shown they are weak, dithering, vulnerable and good to go. They will soon be over, in palace intrigues and internecine feuds.
The dictators don't seem to get this. Dictators all around the world - in Egypt, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, Zimbabwe, and in various other African states - will soon have to bow out to the power of crowd, empowered by the people to people connection and shared ideas. The change has only accelerated by the onset of global recession and the destruction of the cosy collaboration between the rich and the powerful. And, if the leaders of the democratic world don't wake up soon and do their bit, they would commit a monumental blunder and miss one window of opportunity they had to restore sanity, human respect and democracy at the heart of the world's most troubled region - and they will have to live with its consequences forever.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.