One of the great contrasts between India, the world's most populous democracy, and America, one of the oldest surviving republics, is the differing approach what, paraphrasing the Founding generation (of United States), should be called the "Fear of the Caesar"!
The American approach to this is perhaps best captured in the story of Benjamin Franklin. When a reporter asked, "Mr Franklin, what did we get - a Monarchy or a Republic?", while he was coming out of one of the meetings of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin reportedly answered, "A republic, if you can keep it!"
That fear of a Caeser, a strong leader who would undermined the republic, persisted. Another story, later recounted by Jefferson (told to Benjamin Rush in 1811), described a dinner that Jefferson hosted for John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. Three portraits adorned Jefferson's room, and Hamilton reportedly inquired who those were. Jefferson said they were of the three greatest men ever lived - Lord Francis Bacon, philosopher of science, Sir Isaac Newton, the renowned scientist, and John Locke, the philosopher. To this, Hamilton paused for some time, and replied, "the greatest man that ever lived, was Julius Caeser!" Jefferson was recounting the story purportedly to make his point about the fear of the Caesar - Hamilton and Jefferson clashed frequently on how much power the Federal government should have.
Jefferson, the Republican, had good reasons. The only republic to have existed in the comparable geographic scale of the 13 colonies of America was the Roman Republic, which was usurped by the Caesar! The French Republic, which would tear itself apart and then turn into an empire under Napoleon, was still in the future, but would add to the fear of the Caeser in the United States. This would come up again and again in the American politics - for example, when the rumours that Ulysses S Grant would be seeking an unprecedented third term spread - and despite all the limitations of the system, of all the antiques of the Congress in the past or in the present day, the American republic survived with the healthy fear of the strong leader.
The post-colonial republics, in Africa and Asia, were often very different. They would often seem to display a distrust of the abilities of their own people, the same people that was said to be founding the state, and seek a strong leader, a father figure, to lead them out of misery. Many of them were founded to democracies, but most of them looked up to the political model of the Soviet Union, led by a citizen elites and strong leaders. American democracy was respected, but its republicanism was not. A benevolent Caesar was an integral part of the imagination of these states, and many of them indeed fell into the hands of Big Men, as in Africa.
India had a slightly different path, and its democracy survived and prospered. It is a great source of pride for Indians, and a guarantee against instabilities, and justifiably so. However, Indian Republic never built enough safeguards against an aspiring Caesar or been paranoid about one lurking in the corner. Instead, Indian political debate was almost fatalistic, based on the assumption that Indias diversity would automatically protect it from the dictatorships, somewhat oblivious of diversities of other nations that fell into dictatorships (China and Russia are great examples) and the potency of division and conflict that could effectively put minorities in power (the plain old divide and rule, which kept the British in power in India for two centuries). When a Senior political leader in India made the point about India not having sufficient safeguards against dictatorial leaders (he made explicit reference to the one time, in 1975, when the Indian Prime Minister declared emergency and suspended democracy and its institutions), the furore was telling - of a Citizen Elite caught in the act, as it appeared!
A lot of conversation in India today is about development. It is an urgent issue for a poor country like India, where most people are young and looking into the future. It is also fashionable to see China as the model of development, and ascribe Chinas extraordinary rise in the recent decades to its totalitarian politics. But this is a simplistic and wrong-headed view, which overlooks many economic, cultural and political facts. India can not be China, and has never been anything like it. Indeed, nor can India be like the United States, but it is surprising that the history and polity of the early United States do not get attention in India. United States is indeed a great example of a country which freed itself from the Colonial rule, and created a durable Republic. This, more than the economic affluence of either United States or China, should capture imagination in India, because development of the kind India needs - one which will benefit a large number of people in a large and diverse country - depends on the rulers of the country remaining accountable to the people they rule. India should remain in fear of the Caesar, and there are lessons to be learned from the history of the United States.
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
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.
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
I spent the last week at the Ideas for India conference in London. This conference had different strands, and brought the diaspora Indians, India watchers and a number of delegates from India together. Because Rahul Gandhi chose to attend - a rather last minute thing which changed the published agenda somewhat - the media narrative revolved around his 40-odd minutes of talk. And, of course, a sense of discomfort hung over the whole conference: A wholly new thing for me and it shows how much India has changed. Somehow, the people in India seemed to think that no conversation about India should happen anywhere else in the world, a strange thing for a country which is anxious to assert its global importance. Additionally, anything outside the official channel is seen as conspiracy. Gone are those days when the presumptive opposition candidate, the current Prime Minister, could freely interact with the diaspora Indians and slam Dr Manmohan Singh's lack of initiative; today, this wou
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.