Saturday, October 31, 2015

Education is not a panacea - I

In the  documentary Ram ke Naam, the sensible statements were often coming from those with little literacy and the medieval statements were often being made by the educated.  ('Education' is a flattering word to describe what is imparted in many schools and colleges in India.) Many of the vicious, misogynist, jingoistic comments by trolls on Twitter are by college-going students. Educated, middle-class people take great pride in flaunting their religiosity and finding modern ideas in ancient texts. Meera Nanda points to the peculiar mind-set of many Indians who have an inferiority complex with respect to Westerners which causes them to wear a superiority complex. As she says in Geek Nation by Angela Saini:
'For an ordinary believer, it's just faith.  They don't need to explain it. But there's a certain class of people coming up that need to justify their faith, who need to somehow intellectually put into words why they believe. It's more of a disease of educated people.'
Educated people have the same biases that everyone else has but are often in a position where they can cause much damage. The female-male sex ratio looks worse in some of the more developed parts of the country. Dowry pressure is quite common among the educated. Many of the educated rich seem to have an attitude similar to a comment I heard by a character in a novel by Kiran Nagarkar, 'With great fortitude we bear the misfortunes of others'. Caste, class and regional feelings are very much present among the educated. A Lancet study pointed out the disturbing possibility that recent increases in literacy and Indian per-person income might have contributed to increased selective abortion of girls.

In this video, Ashis Nandy says that more than 95% of the causalities in riots have been in cities, where the majority of the educated live, and not in the villages, where the majority of the population lives. These riots are orchestrated and  directed by the educated. The instances of public apathy, where lots of people look on with exemplary restraint while atrocities are committed in front of their eyes, seem to happen mainly in cities. There are many regressive practices in villages but these sordid realities of cities also cannot be ignored.

Incidents of drunk driving where poor pavement dwellers get killed and the educated perpetrator walks away without remorse happens in cities. There were many insensitive reactions after Salman Khan got convicted in a hit and run case. The most appalling comment was made by the singer Abhijeet, a person who one would have thought was educated enough and well-travelled enough to have some idea of the harsh realities outside his cocoon: 'If a dog sleeps on the road, it will die a dog's death. The poor and homeless must not sleep on roads... I too was homeless once, but never slept on road.'

I heard in a talk by the Dalai Lama that over 200 million people were killed by violence in the last century and most of these were at the hands of educated people. Educated people seem to be more likely to drool over terrible weapons that cause immense destruction somewhere far away and over the costly ceremonials of state power. I was shocked by this report that there is brisk sales of Mein Kampf in Delhi with some management students seeing it as "a kind of success story where one man can have a vision, work out a plan on how to implement it and then successfully complete it".  If education is only about learning skills at the cost of basic human values then there is something rotten at the core of modern education.

Educated people often say that Human Rights groups should not interfere with the working of security forces especially in remote areas. They are ignoring the fact that without checks and balances any group, whatever its ideology, becomes coercive. It is human nature. As Primo Levi says in The Periodic Table, ' is a centaur, a tangle of flesh and mind, divine inspiration and dust.' It is the job of Human Rights groups to ask questions that security agencies find uncomfortable. If they have an amicable relationship with the security agencies, it means that they are not doing their job.

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