Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Duties of the Majority and the Privileged

There are different kinds of groups in a nation. The extremes are – the majority and the privileged on one side AND the minority and the underprivileged on the other.

If you see it as a vertical ladder in terms of possession of wealth, access to opportunity, level of education and standard of living, on the bottom rung is the minority and the underprivileged. On the top rung is the majority and the privileged. The other two - minority and privileged, majority and underprivileged come in between.

Let me give some examples. The Whites in USA are the majority and the privileged. The Muslims in India are the minority and the underprivileged. The Jains in India are the minority and the privileged. Coming to Hindus in India, it depends on how you look at it. The upper caste Hindus are the majority and the privileged, while the lower caste Hindus are the majority and the underprivileged. Some people may conclude differently on this. Let me clarify. For example, taking Brahmins alone, one many hastily conclude that they are a minority but that’s NOT how it should be seen. They are the upholders and representatives of Hinduism, and hence, though their exclusive percentage may be low, they still represent and comprise the majority group which includes all Hindus. It’s akin to Anglo Saxons in USA whose exclusive percentage may be low but they still represent the Whites in general belonging to the majority group.

Most of my stand on this blog is the result of my thought process outlined below. This is what I believe in; and this gets reflected in many of my blogs. I have seen myself as majority in India and minority when living in USA. Through some of my experiences I have some insights into what I call 'duties of the majority and the privileged':

Duties of the Majorities and the Privileged

It is the duty of majority in a country to make concessions to the minority and this might mean giving more room to the minority to make them feel secure. Sometimes, one has to dole out extra concessions and reserve opportunities for minorities. We can't apply 'equality' rule here to snub all such concessions. Equality does not mean we don't have subsidies or concessions or quotas to different groups. Equality should be applied at an individual level- it means the government and the law will treat an individual the same whether he is a farmer or a billionaire. But as groups, we are never equal in a country.

Similarly, the privileged have to let go of their monopoly over access to opportunities and education and start making concessions to the underprivileged, pay more taxes to compensate for the underprivileged, and take responsibility to uplift the underprivileged.

What I say may sound idealistic. But it is not. It is actually being selfish. But it is being selfish in the long term, unlike the selfishness of Indians (and many other cultures) which is usually quite myopic.

The majority will not be able to enjoy their fruits if certain minorities are suppressed and marginalized. The sufferings and frustrations of these minorities will come back to haunt the majorities. There will always be friction and that friction will not allow the majorities to enjoy their narrow-term successes. For the majority to see a sustained growth and success, so that there is calm, peace and good standard of living in a country they have to accommodate the minorities as described above.

The same argument can be extended to the privileged groups.

Many majorities and privileged communities believe they can perpetuate their dominance by creating little ‘islands of excellence’. They believe they can keep these minorities and underprivileged out of their islands. They create gated communities, gated universities, and gated businesses and believe they can live happily ever after without getting disturbed by the minorities and underprivileged. That is an illusion.

We see privileged classes in India reluctant to extend reservations in education and employment opportunities to the backward castes. We see the majorities reluctant to extend concessions to Muslims in India.

And I think that this myopic selfishness will spell doom for everyone. I believe in the above duties of the majority and the privileged and it gets reflected in many of my blogs.

8 comments:

  1. Dear Sujai,

    In an ideal world, your comments make sense; unfortunately, reality begs to differ. When you can use a blanket categorization and say that the upper caste hindus are privileged, please think about poor temple priests (who are upper caste hindus) who have hardly 2 or 3 dhotis and who struggle to raise their families. Hence, it would make more sense for the government to base the reservation criteria on economical backwardness.

    Ofcourse, the right course of action would be to ensure that good primary and secondary education is provided; but, the government would like to wash off their hands and not take responsibilities. It is easier to take food from another plate and hand it to your votebank rather than sow seeds.

    Sad, but very real...

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very dear Sujai:

    What you explain is a static view assuming minorities remain minorities, privileged remain privileged. What changes do you offer in your approach to make it an adaptive dynamic approach? An approach that takes into account the fact that a son of a once underprivileged District Magistrate does not need the same level of reservation and protections. What happens to the son of a Brahmin who is underprivileged?

    Regards,

    Darpan.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You have a very nice blog. Please keep it up and by the way, your paintings are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "...possession of wealth, access to opportunity, level of education and standard of living..."

    I certainly agree that anybody possessed of these characteristics is privileged. Those who are deprived of these, underprivileged.

    Where we may disagree is on neatly classifying Brahman/ FC into the former category, and OBCs into the latter.

    regards,
    Jai

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am not classifying individuals here, but groups. When working with groups, we do not take into consideration exceptions.

    That's why I gave some examples.

    When we say Bangladesh is poor nation, it does not mean every individual living Bangladesh is poor. There might be some people in Bangladesh who are richer than the richest in Europe.

    Just because Ambani becomes the richest person in the world does not automatically make India the richest nation in the world.

    Also, such categorization of groups is not a snapshot taken at one point of time. It is a generalization that takes into account trends in the past coming previous generations.

    If we get into all the nitty-gritty details, no classification can come out.

    That way, Bangladesh should never be considered a poor nation because so many rich people also live there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Sujai,
    I have recently started reading your blogs, and hopefully add my views in different places. Your write up is very interesting and thought provoking.
    Regarding this blog, Its very true, but you are more abstract. It doesn't matter anyway, one who gets the gist of it will get it, and one who don't get it are the ones who are not concerned about development of our country. Especially people who went abroad and so.. busy saving every $. Whomsoever I meet, I try and talk about development of our country and small service we can offer in that regards, voting, political corrections needed, village edcuation, information centers and any such social work, everyone try to be safe and don't think its worth giving $10 toward any organizations engaged in social service. even when they don't have to go and physically do anything. It is a 'hard work without attaching expectations of fruits to it' and Indians, today's Indians won't do it. They have reached the epitome of selfishness. They think its cheap if they don't spend lavishly in restaurant, or on branded cloths, cars etc.. but they act cheap in doing or donating for social cause. And some times even if they do, they want to just throw some money to show off.. but not take time out to do any such work. There are good number of people who don't understand the benefits of petitions, or bills or making movements to compel the govt to bring new policies and acts in place. These things are doable with still a normal life, and not some freedom fight where you have to leave your job, life and sit, but no one conceives them as possible movements. And these two guys already started what about Brahmans!! What about them?? they never realize, in-spite of having one dhoti or two, but if he knows someone is a lower caste person has fallen down he wont even lift him up cuz he can't touch him. .I keep wondering in what way Brahmans (financially backward ones) want to associate themselves with other backward classes and how they want the community and everyone else to help them when they still live with so many false prejudices and so far away from backward classes who are also suffering just like a poor Brahman, they want a different platform which uplifts only Brahmans, they don't want to come under the umbrella of lower caste back word people's support. They are only angry cuz you called Brahmans privileged.. but the irony is no matter they are rich or poor they want to stay privileged and yet want to be considered underprivileged and given all the support given to any underprivileged group of people.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Sujai,
    I have recently started reading your blogs, and hopefully add my views in different places. Your write up is very interesting and thought provoking.
    Regarding this blog, Its very true, but you are more abstract. It doesn't matter anyway, one who gets the gist of it will get it, and one who don't get it are the ones who are not concerned about development of our country. Especially people who went abroad and so.. busy saving every $. Whomsoever I meet, I try and talk about development of our country and small service we can offer in that regards, voting, political corrections needed, village education, information centers and any such social work, everyone try to be safe and don't think its worth giving $10 toward any organizations engaged in social service. even when they don't have to go and physically do anything. It is a 'hard work without attaching expectations of fruits to it' and Indians, today's Indians won't do it. They have reached the epitome of selfishness. They think its cheap if they don't spend lavishly in restaurateur, or on branded cloths, cars etc.. but they act cheap in doing or donating for social cause. And some times even if they do, they want to just throw some money to show off.. but not take time out to do any such work. There are good number of people who don't understand the benefits of petitions, or bills or making movements to compel the govt to bring new policies and acts in place. These things are doable with still a normal life, and not some freedom fight where you have to leave your job, life and sit, but no one conceives them as possible movements.

    ReplyDelete
  8. These Brahmans are so funny, they run everywhere when someone says they are privileged class, they already started what about Brahmans!! What about them?? they never realize, in-spite of having one dhoti or two, but if he knows someone is a lower caste person has fallen down he wont even lift him up cuz he can't touch him. .I keep wondering in what way Brahmans (financially backward ones) want to associate themselves with other backward classes and how they want the community and everyone else to help them when they still live with so many false prejudices and so far away from backward classes who are also suffering just like a poor Brahman, they want a different platform which uplifts only Brahmans, they don't want to come under the umbrella of lower caste back word people's support. They are only angry cuz you called Brahmans privileged.. but the irony is no matter they are rich or poor they want to stay privileged and yet want to be considered underprivileged and given all the support given to any underprivileged group of people.

    ReplyDelete

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