I maintained social media silence on the playing out of the American election, despite the alluring narrative of this being Wall Street versus the world. Despite, admittedly, there was much at stake: If Wall Street could impose its views of the world on America, the World would have been in line, with the guns and bombs and enough American young men still ready to sacrifice their lives without really knowing why. While I got up early enough on Wednesday to catch Obama give his victory speech, and exclaimed on Facebook that he seemed to have got back his oratory just in time, this was very different from what I did four years back: Sat through a night of vote counting, in a hotel in the middle of a business trip, just because I hoped that this President would be different. In 2008, in a world of continuous war, terrorist attacks and recession, I needed the hope as badly as anything: I surrendered my sense to the blind belief that if someone looked different, he must be.
Obama turned out to be a disappointment, but that's partly my, our, fault. He behaved like an American President that he is, upholding American national interests and playing within the constraints of American realpolitik. The euphoric vision of a world statesman, climaxed with a premature Nobel Peace Prize not long after he assumed the Presidency, started fading in the first contact with reality: Guantanamo Bay remained open, the assassinations continued as usual, the banks world over acted with impunity and the rich became richer and lazier. But, all of this could have been, should have been, well foreseen, but for the naive hope that we harboured. As the events unfolded as expected, we looked intently for the signs of doubt in the man himself, arguing to ourselves that despite being the most powerful person in the world, the President is only a victim. I believed too much into the narrative I constructed myself.
Indeed, in the election, President Obama was the least worst choice, and therefore deserved to win. Governor Romney, apart from being propelled to the Republican candidacy by the Wall Streeters who saw him as one of their own, did not really know what he stood for. Admittedly, that's not a bad thing for a politician, but he didn't behave exactly like the boss: He sounded too desperate and mostly clueless about the job he was applying for. Besides, it was rather improbable that a candidate like Mr Romney, unquestionably a plutocrat, will be elected by the Americans in the middle of a recession and when the banker's social prestige is at its lowest. So, while the President evaded answers, prevaricated on crucial decisions, and remained partisan and quite narrow in outlook, Mr Romney looked like a loose canon in search of a target. He was not the person even the Americans could vote for.
So, despite that the best man may not have won - because it looked more of a puppet show than the battle of men - the outcome should give me that catch-all consolation typical of middle class life: It could indeed have been worse. The Americans prevailed, as they can always be trusted to after all options have been exhausted, as good old Churchill hoped for. The speeches have been made, full of the same old rhetoric that gets spoken election after election, no matter which country. Hope, now dime a dozen, has lost its redemptive shine, and become a trinket to be handed down to the voting public with a make-believe 'yes, we can' slogan. One more time that the cans have been kicked down the road.
There will be much read into the results now: That Americans have changed and become much liberal; that the tea party madness should now recede, Israel may see sense and climate meltdown may be contained; that democracy beats the money and power, and therefore inherently regenerative. President Obama will now make promises to be decisive and wind down the wars as he promised. Some of it will happen, but most, including the structural changes for the sake of a sustainable society and a cooler planet, will not happen.
The rhetoric of fairness, justice and opportunity, will be paraded around, without conviction, courage or commitment, by politicians, but that does not necessarily undermine what these sentiments mean. One must remember that hope wasn't meant to be a good thing when it was sent in Pandora's box; it was meant to be a way to ensure suffering. Real change comes from necessity, not hope. So will it be, as people will march for democracy and for rights in different places and will be shot at, imprisoned and tortured all over the world, in the belief that things would change. This election, Obama's victory and all the rhetoric around it, is inconsequential and will always be so. All wiser, I have now come to see that these elections didn't really matter.
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
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
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 was gui
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
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
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, as
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
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.
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.