Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Other Side Of JNU

First off, this is not about the “sedition” issue. Law making only on assumed/perceived intent and never on action is not admirable modern 21st century trait. I’ll post my political dissent note after I address the main topic of this write up.

This is about JNU because one of the details that surround it is that all/most of the protesting students were MA/PhD students in Social Sciences. It seems like their parents never told them that an MBA, Medicine or Engineering is the ticket to real money and career. After all, what good is studying sociology, society and politics with that focus unless you teach it? That too, at the fag end of your education when it’s supposed to define what you do with your life. Aren’t the ones who teach the same people who are absolutely hopeless at doing the same thing (http://zenpencils.com/comic/124-taylor-mali-what-teachers-make/)? Doesn’t studying to eventually teach create an unnecessary industry for these useless courses? They could also join an NGO type institution that studies people and culture? I mean, what RoI and big pay does that bring? Perhaps we can do something more productive with ourselves that debate things like society, politics and sociology. 

Well, maybe, just maybe it’s because we got the tables turned to begin with. Let’s define the categories here. There’s the Social Sciences/Humanities folk (History, Economics, Sociology, English and the types) and there’s the Sciences folk (BSc, BCA, BE, BTech and their consequent masters fields). They’ve all done 12 years of a factory-set education where they’ve been drilled with more of the latter (technical knowledge) and less of the former. More so, we’ve been filled with a truckload of knowledge that makes us say things like “Which school did you go to?”, when someone doesn’t know something that everyone knows because most of us are supposed to have gone to school, however irrelevant what we learnt may have ever been to life that matters. It’s strange that we’ve had to create a separated (now justified to become mainstream) knowledge system in order to justify a hurried approach to learning which we refuse to dispose.

We’ve spent all those years learning more about science, maths and physics than about people, culture, society and life. Agreed, these are things we observe and learn from the world around us, not things we need to be schooled into. But these are also things we need to introspect and examine on a critical basis. While we do some of it, and earn acclaim for courage to challenge society and bring about good change, that remains in project work. They may as well be allowed to reap some benefit for you.

All of that attention to introspection sadly only gives way to an importance of economy over society. We end up studying further with the sole focus of becoming something when we grow up. Our education has a pre-cost economic/financial value more than being filled with values itself. And everything has values. No one creates values. They exist, just like we have parents of a certain kind who live a certain lifestyle and just like our first view (and referral point) of society is. This will always be our primary viewpoint of them unless/if/when we find them destructive to ourselves.

When we prioritise economy and innovation over society, people and values, we create zero space for something that we find that we (surprisingly) have a missing appetite for which provides balance to everything. For example, a highflying engineer who has broken industry records who won’t allow his daughter to prioritise an education over marriage or a nation with scientific achievements (which it revels in) that kills over things such as meat eating. An economy without ethics and a market without values, the ethics and values which we have not deliberated upon enough to go ahead in consensus first, is detrimental by nature. It leaves with you with an identity crisis that you don’t recognise, and one which you will refuse to admit when it hits you. All you will do is say that you’re right and make sure you get the satisfaction of that being grandly accorded to you, whether you do it by via state force, a stick or mob frenzy.

In JNU, the issues that were raises were fall under exactly these: ethics and values. The essential ones, dissected and laid bare to see what they’re worth (or whether in that form they were worth a lifetime of following and swearing by). Maybe with a little passion and bias towards one side, but would you be one of the few who prefers a stance distanced from passion? And that’s all just style and statement. Most of the truth is in what’s left after the issues have been cut apart and whether they’d still command your respect as a whole, or in part, and why. 

We wouldn’t have to debate all of this if we were all in such a celebrated hurry to turn all our young ones into achievers of innovation without being good receivers and keepers of values first. Having spent no time for the latter, the cognitive dissonance rules the dialogue, if you can call it one, of what values must be and what mustn’t. What’s more is that these values too guide our innovation and economy. Though they seem uninvestworthy by educational institutions that want to impress uninformed parents who don’t understand the whole ecosystem that their child will play a role in when they take up further studies and career, and are overlooked for market movements, they are worth far more. Why? The peak of the mountain you wanted to reach all along is not the place to realise that deep down inside you’re made up of nothing you’d respect (that’s unless you’re in a state of self-denial and you go on a rampage to protect your half-built identity).

We wouldn’t have to pretend to know and be right, if we did a lot more arts and humanities first. We’d learn about culture, society, people, values, languages and so much more. We’d interact and cross-interact till we influence, understand and learn from each other what’s best and what’s most ‘us’—individually and as a people. If you want a united nation that you don’t want to unite by force, you have to allow us to grow up as one. You don’t just ‘become’ united in a second with one kind of unity that does not involve *everybody* else. Each one. The terms of that unity are only consequential. Agreeing to disagree comes in where it fits in. Maybe India is is not your India, or even my India. Let’s go see what piece of the puzzle we’ve missed out and let’s allow it to teach us. Don’t teach it what it should be. Instead discover it and let it help you too.    

There are enough working adults in the world to keep it running when it has to be run with Pythagoras Theorems and Nuclear Fission. Even those are best guided by a good set of values and ethics. The kids will get there as they grow older. The technical stuff will work its way in if we let supply and demand of the curiosity of knowledge work its way through to the system freely and define it. We may even bring the system down to give root to a better one. But a system that gives you a generation with no root in values, ethics, people and society will always topple when they’ve reached the top they are working towards and realise that. Have you ever seen a falling tree fighting silly-ly? I’m sure it’ll be a sight as entertaining as the silly logic of the people opposing all of this “anti-nationalist” talk.  

Even if we end up with no system (which seems our greatest worry for those who want change), they’d actually be learning better and more and in a way that’s a thousand times more relevant.  

My note of political dissent: Given the events that have happened at JNU, and my continuous reading of them, there was nothing with wrong what happened. The event was held in honour of a Kashmiri poet’s work, and linked issues were raised which is not objectionable at all. The objectionable slogans were raised by outsiders. The ones arrested have no provable charge, and sedition is a law that belongs to tyrants that appear in whichever form of mildness. The present government has not yet publicly come out as one, and I don’t think they intend to. Anti-nationalism is not a thing, except being a sentiment, and one that’s not supportable in the form it’s being enforced by the proclaimed “nationalists” with the diversity of views (values, ethics, society, people and culture) that is representative of this whole nation’s diverse people.