How does it feel to be in the middle when average is over? The middle classes know: They feel squeezed, and clueless, as the fusion of ubiquitous globalisation and pervasive automation push the economies to the tipping point of making people in the middle redundant. The middle class values, of moderation, patience, of deferring consumption and long preparation, continuity and persistence, are all baggage in this brave new world of superstars. Bragging, not modesty; consumption, not savings; street smarts, not preparation; opportunism, not commitment; the things that win are instinctively abhorrent to the middle classes - or, the old middle classes, more correctly. They have been left behind, comprehensively and irredeemably, in the world we created.
But this means more than just the decline of a class of a people: It may mean a change in the way of life. Civilisation is a big word, but it is not altogether inappropriate to say that we did build a whole civilsation around the emergent middle classes in the last 150 or so years, which now lay wasted. The reasons are far too numerous, though the global equalisation of consumption leading to scaling of production, hollowing out of the traditional organisation structure, process driven management leading to automation of great many tasks, and the value system that put corporate profits ahead of stable communities, have gradually led to a superstar economy: Few winners, lots of losers, and no place in between. In a world where 150,000 people Kodak goes bankrupt and 13 employee Instagram is ever ascendant, there is no place in the middle.
Besides, there is a political dynamic to contend with too. It seems that the death of petite bourgeois is linked with the death of its supposedly great enemy, state socialism. With the failure of an alternate state form in Soviet Russia, the roll-back of welfare state became politically possible in the West: All those middling professions which lived in the safe shadows of the great state started disappearing just as soon. In fact, the greatest prosperity of middle class in these modern times is precisely in the land of the cultural revolution, where a great state looks over intently over all activities.
But if the state made the middle classes, middle classes made the state it was, as they did with all the institutions we know: Our universities transformed themselves from bastions of piety or privilege to the factory of possibilities, a middle class mantra; the banks found nirvana in mortgages; the royal suppliers lost their place of pride to department stores; and paperback fiction and Coronation Street (and its likes) took over the high culture and dinner table conversations. The world we live in, all its artifacts, is steeped into a vision of middle class life: The same redundant, ineffectual, pervasive, boring life.
So, for the opening question - how does it feel like - the answer perhaps is that being middle class today is like observing one's own body after death: As a ghost, one should feel totally ignored and redundant, watch life going on without slightest trace of concern or consideration for the person departed, new relationships forming and old ones falling apart around the emptiness one left behind, so quickly that one may feel their existence made no difference. If such an imaginary position was ever possible, one would have watched their possessions taking a new form, an old favourite discarded, a silly junket taking over a vantage point in one's own room, a new life emerging almost in a vacuum. One may resent it with full knowledge that such resentment is as redundant as one's self; one may be amused but such amusement is also meaningless. And, while such ghostly existence is only an imaginary, that may be exactly what being in the middle is like today - to see one's own institutions, language, values and cultures moving on as if by themselves, morphing into something previously unknown, in a form whose only intent may be to make its own lineage redundant.
Change is good, perhaps. Nostalgia is a boring game old men play, perhaps. The ineffective but pervasive, intrusive but insensitive, repressively colourless middle class life is perhaps dead for good. But in the brave new world of constant change, there are not many winners: Rather, those millions of the middle are now dispossessed, not just of what they owned, but their dignity, just like that ghost who fell short of redemption and was forced to observe their own bodily demise. Indeed, such things happened before, an entire way of life ended, and the middle classes were the people ascendant then: Then, too, ghosts were invoked to describe the feelings (read Walter De La Mare) and the house of memories is still celebrated in popular culture (watch The Grand Budapest Hotel). However, it is time to turn a new page and write the obituary of the middle class now. It would be like walking through a grand house with many clocks all of which stopped working at various times for the want of wounding, or walking through a vast unread library whose books are dust-covered but untouched: It is time to start mourning what we all were meant to be.
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
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
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.
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. Reli
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
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
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.