Speechwriters never get the credit they deserve, but they have changed the course of history more than once. The metaphor of an 'iron curtain' or the uncertain promise of a 'tryst with destiny' etched in people's minds a concept that would become permanent by the power of imagery, even if the reality may have suggested otherwise. Fast forward to the society of ours where sound bites and TRP points trump any real experience, the speech writers are enjoying unprecedented powers to change destinies of nations: This comes with a huge responsibility that most are not even aware of.
So, for the future speechwriters, following the case of the person who would have made the Leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, David Cameron, promise to bring down immigration to 'tens of thousands' might be beneficial. Exploiting the resentment about immigration when an open-door policy had resulted in a surge of migration to Britain and the economy had just turned south was a smart political strategy; even Britain's gaffe prone Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was trying to champion 'British jobs for British workers' then. The genius of Cameron's speech-writer was to go beyond the vague promises and to distill the discussion down to a number range, which sounded reasonable. It was satisfying to all: It had a 'rivers of blood' smell in it but none of its nastiness, as well as a certain tangibility packaged with an appropriate vagueness. It was one of those triumphs of rhetoric against which no claims of logic, as many did dismiss the promise as an impossible target in a modern open rich economy, would ever hold. It captured the resentment of the people, the usual tortured anguish of any people faced with globalisation, and allowed them to indulge in a reasonable xenophobia.
After he won the election, Mr Cameron set out to make good of the promise with all the sincerity of a politician who owed his success to rhetorical flourish. He went after soft targets, international students, and made tough gestures, like putting up a stern-looking (though utterly inept) Home Secretary. He sponsored mobile billboards in black and Asian neighbourhoods offering voluntary deportations: The meaningless of the exercise being irrelevant in the context of TV crews it attracted. He promoted a vision of a British society with horses, pubs and ales, consistent with his native Oxfordshire country, but a far cry from London's working class suburbia. And, it did work - as the international students were suitably discouraged from coming to Britain, allowing some of the other country's education systems, like Malaysia's, get some unexpected windfall. However, the overall migration number refused to budge, just as the critics said it won't.
So, came desperate times and desperate measures: The idea of a 'Fortress Britain' was a slippery slope, much easier for any opposition to exploit than anyone on government. Mr Cameron's TRP sensitivity was a great boon for more xenophobic opposition, who did not have to necessarily maintain the dignity and political correctness of a Prime Minister. The fact that Mr Cameron made it a game of mere rhetoric, and not of any principle or practise, suited them very well: They embraced the horses, pubs and ale Britain, true to Mr Cameron's vision, and left him to play the catch up game with London's famously multicultural Square Mile as his baggage.
The migration numbers kept rising, despite all the sternness of the Home Secretary and increasingly desperate tone of the Prime Minister, who seemed to be forever in the search of new villains. The South Asian students were replaced by the Romanian Gypsies, and in time, even the Polish, Spanish and Italian workers came to be blamed. After the students, the government tried to stop the refugees, despite indulging in various interfering wars in different parts of the world, which invariably left the humanitarianly assisted countries in more inhuman conditions, and encouraged even more people to leave. The government then zeroed on economic migrants, claiming they come to Britain for benefits, not for jobs. Indeed, none of the migrants coming from outside the European Union have any easy access to benefits, and as one thing leads to the other, Britain is now threatening to leave the European Union and to risk it alone in an uncertain economic world where size matters over most things.
This may be the story of self-destruction of Modern Britain. This can be perhaps seen as a jurney fro one speechwriter's glory to another: The vivid imagination of the Iron Curtain made Britain relevant even with its dwindling imperial assets; the clinical precision of 'tens of thousands' may now return it to a certain kind of deserved senility. As every society around the world ponder over globalisation, the seize of Britain from inside should serve as a cautionary tale; and indeed, every politician beholden to television would strive hard to avoid being a prisoner of campaign promises such as Mr Cameron's. And, perhaps those who care for Britain would desire that Mr Cameron sought some counsel from his deputy, Nick Clegg, who managed to renege everything that he ever promised and still kept a straight face. For Britain, that abominable position may be infinitely preferable than letting a speechwriter wreck its future.
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
Italy recently apologised to Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and the Second Word War and offered an investment deal of $5 Billion over next 25 years towards reparation. This is largely symbolic, and investment deals could have been done without adding this moral halo . But the apology itself is an important step. The key question is one of principle, indeed. It is about whether the occupying countries do accept that their colonial exploits did enormous harm to the occupied, and whether they are ready to accept the responsibility. As the world becomes more sensitive towards the wrongness of occupation [even George Bush was heard saying that occupation of Georgia by Russia is unthinkable in the 21st century!!], and the world justice system gears up to try the leaders causing genocide and violence, paying for past crimes - including occupation - becomes ever more relevant and important. There are several issues which are still hotly debated - slavery, for example,
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.