There is so much being spoken (or written, or broadcasted) about US Presidential Election! I kept quiet, because I knew how embarrassing it is for my American friends and colleagues this discussion is. I am from a country which voted in a demagogue accused of genocide, and live in a country which just kicked the chair voting to undermine its own economic model: I know it hurts!
But what spurs me now is the latest twist - the 'locker room' tapes and the outcry since then - as it gave me, I believe, something to add to the conversation. With Donald Trump's ascendancy, there was always this shock and the outrage, in media and in educated public: Now, it has spread across further, in the Republican establishment. The politicians are lining up on TV to do what politicians do, stating the obvious in a solemn and ridiculous way - "I have three daughters, a wife, five sisters and a mother" - denouncing Trump's bragging of his predatory ways with women! Everyone seems to think that this moment is extraordinary, this has never happened in American Election or in the Civilised world, and this would pass. And, this is where I thought to interject my cautionary note.
The point is that this is neither extraordinary, nor it will pass. One could say that it was never as shocking as this, but for an Eighteenth Century gentleman, that Jefferson, then "young and single", tried to seduce John Walker's wife, only to be spurned as it must be added, was news (which made newspaper headlines almost 40 years after the fact, in 1805). And, indeed, our ability to define what is extraordinary should be called into question if it is only now - after an year of enduring the racism and sexism of Trump - we have started to feel shocked! That the Trump campaign has dismissed the outcry as 'political correctness' is surely opportunistic, but as befitting of this ironic moment, indeed politically correct: That Trump was saying these things in 2005 is perhaps less significant than what he was saying on the Campaign trail in 2016!
And, it would not pass. There are plenty of examples of democracy producing an unexpected winner, and even if Trump does not win, he had surely skewed the political landscape. Just as Brexit vote made the openly reactionary Theresa May Government in Britain look reasonable, Trump's rise has already shifted the political platform and next time around, even Ted Cruz may look lovable. In this, perhaps, there is something we can learn about democracies: That it, by itself, can produce surprises - often does - and it is not what happens on the election day, but what comes after that defines its survival.
It would indeed be a tragedy if Trump strides out to give a victory speech on November 9th (which, incidentally, is the centenary of the now-forgotten October Revolution in Russia), though one would expect this to be otherwise, a customary concession call or, with Trump, a claim of a stolen election. But, if that happens, that may as well be a Historic moment, just like Hitler being sworn as German Chancellor, away from public view, on 30th January 1933. A casual reading of History would suggest that this was still a democratic moment - he was the sworn enemy of democracy but he still led the biggest party in Reichstag with the highest share of popular votes in a country with universal suffrage - and it is only afterwards he fulfilled his agenda, with the active collaboration of the Country's military, judges and professionals. Democracy did not fail itself on that day in January 1933, but it was presumed to have failed - and Hitler's murderous purges and campaign of terror was given way in the next 18 months in order to achieve a complete transformation of the state.
We can indeed do better than that, and Founding Fathers of the American Constitution did foresee this eventuality. However, this principle of checks-and-balances was constantly being undermined, and particularly since the rise of the 'National Security' state under Presidents George W Bush and Obama. So, if Trump wins on November 9th, he would have more powers and precedents of abuse of Presidential Power than the Founders of the United States would have envisaged. In this, and not in Trump's misogyny per se, lies the greatest existential danger of American democracy.
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
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.