It is always fascinating to talk about globalisation, because it is never real or sincere. Embedded in popular imagination with metaphors of a flat world, it only represents an ideal few bankers would like to believe in.
There was a time when the poor was global, and the rich was local. Global was called International then, as the nations, aligned with their landowning rich, were still at large. The changes in the last thirty years, as the Western nations claimed an irreversible victory in the battle of ideas, and we allegedly arrived at an 'unipolar' world, happened primarily through the rise of global money and global media, undermining the nations as they had to queue up for financiers' money. In this new world, Rupert Murdoch could tell a British Prime Minister to go to war in Iraq, or George Soros could bankrupt a nation overnight. In a strange reversal, suddenly the poor is local and the rich is global, and international became a somewhat out-of-use concept.
However, the term international, much favoured by many modern writers, isn't exactly an equivalent of global: It had an underlying conception of a human future which is missing in the way global is perceived. International was about rising above the differences, of languages, religions, and climates, and forging bonds across borders; global is about reducing the differences in a factor of money and applying them on that great level playing field, the spreadsheet. One could say if international was driven by modernity, an expansion of our perspective to embrace complexity, global is post-modern, atomised, reducible to consumption habits and simplified to the level of our basic needs and desires. So, being international meant understanding the beauty of Indonesian cuisine and relishing it alongside the Thai, the Burmese, the Malaysian and the Vietnamese, but in a true global sense, these should all be flavours added to a Big Mac.
I am indeed old school: I was born in the wrong decade, and grew up in the wrong city, steeped in the wrong ideology: I never learnt to love globalisation. In fact, it never arrived before I forced myself into a journey - of being international, of connecting with other people and of a search for common humanity. For me, this was about freedom - of being free of narrow perspectives that localism invariably impose. Being a traveller was a badge of honour for me. Living and studying at different places was the height of my ambition: This was about being more of the human I wanted to become, and getting rid of some of the pretensions that invariably grows if one never travelled.
However, it is an issue of timing that I got caught in the globalisation creep. My international journey, unknowingly, became a global career, something that is portable not in the sense of diversity but commonality, not for its flexibility but invariability. In short, this is just the opposite of everything I believed in. In this construct, even being human meant something different from what I started with: It was not about having the universal and noble sentiments to rise above our physical limitations, but the opposite, the very absurdity of noble sentiments, usually shaped by our unique cultures, at a time when our physical innards are similar and the way to meet their requirements could be universal. In short, I ran away from my parochial comfort in search of an international experience, but ended up in a world of global money.
As with many things, I should accept this now as the spirit of our age. There is no escape, it seems, from globalism. Not at least as long as one's world is limited by the English language media; the world outside seemed to have been obscured by an Anglo-American ideology which has won, self-declaredly, the bid to define what globalisation should mean. It is a strangely varied simplicity, a Rumsfeld-Dimon-Murdoch complex, unified in a common code but infinite entertainment. Signing up to this, whether in a shop on Oxford Circus or in a small town shopping mall, is the best one can do. The margins, those not yet into the party, are crushed into despair: Witness in my small suburban community just outside Kolkata, where the mechanically reproductive music and culture now dominated its local life, alcohol changed from being a symbol of non-conformism to a symbol of status, the local art of making pancakes gave way to enthusiasm about consuming burgers, and where, a disconnected minority, mostly old, are left out to ridicule and irrelevance. The aspirations of reaching out have been crushed to acceptance of a way of life, defined at a distant centre, and conformism, particularly at the margins, seems the safest way to live a life.
At the same time, however, I make the opposite journey. I have travelled from periphery to the centre, but as with Jules Verne's characters, it is only after reaching the centre, one truly appreciates the varied beauty of the periphery. My interactions with globalisation give me, hopefully, the escape velocity to return back to periphery: Once the commonality of human consumption has been understood, the variability of human experience should, must, be explored. Becoming human no longer remains about coming over to find commonalities, but, in an age of ubiquitous commonality, doing just the opposite, of discovering the human strains in the boring provincial lives, of leaving for an endless return journey, a discovery of humanity in its variety and richness.
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
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
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.