Obsession For Perfection (Part 2)

Ever since our childhood, we were told that India (Here, I am referring to the India of the medieval times which included almost all of South Asia) is a great country. But, when the reasons for its greatness were explained, we were told mostly of the times when India was called the Golden Bird, of Nalanda & Texila, of our trade during the medieval times, the exemplary architecture, our achievements in mathematics & science etc.

I agree that the aforesaid factors put us on the world map in those times but what about the present? In a list released by The Guardian of the best 200 global universities in 2012, not a single South Asian university figured. So, how can we ignore the present and take pride in the past? How does it make us great?

The things happening around us may not be the best things that we might have imagined for ourselves and the country. But, regardless of our wishes and hopes, they are happening. But it does not mean that we have to put up with them. So, how to find out what exactly is wrong with us?

When anyone raises such questions, everybody’s favourite punching bag is the Bad Politician. If you are of the same opinion, I agree with you but not completely. The Bad Politician cannot be solely blamed for everything because they rise from among us. Behind every politician, there are hundreds of thousands of people supporting him/her. I believe that there is a deficit in our own set of moral values.

Very often, people are heard complaining that we do not have honest & efficient leaders anymore. But my question is, ‘How else will it be?’ In the past, we always voted for people or parties that endorsed a certain religion or caste. Honest and meritorious people were always shooed away just because they put performance above petty politics.

As a child, I was always told that Western traditions & practices were inferior to that of ours. But it is only in countries like the US where you see a man from a very humble background become the president of his country and call the shots. It is only in the US where you see a 19 year old teen start a dotcom company and make it the largest social networking site of the world. It was possible because they had the freedom to think, innovate and act. Unlike South Asians, they did not have to constantly look behind their shoulders to make sure that the so called ‘elders’ are not unhappy about their free-thinking & innovations.

One of the most prestigious prizes given for innovation & original thinking is the Nobel Prize. If you look at its distribution, this difference becomes clear. In chemistry, out of a total of 152 prizes, 54 went to the US, 27 to Germany and 25 to the UK. In physics, out of a total of 182 prizes, 79 went to the US, 23 to Germany and 21 to the UK. In medicine, out of 186, 89 went to the US, 24 to the UK and 15 to Germany. Whereas on the other hand, equally powerful economies like Japan and China come nowhere near to this Western troika. Why?

If you think about the cultural differences, it becomes clear. In Asia, a culture of compliance is inherent everywhere. Questioning existing wisdom of the ‘elders’ is looked upon as a grave crime. Innovation, by definition, is to question the existing way of things. In this part of the world, very few possess that kind of courage and those who do, are persecuted to the maximum.


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