I have come up with this article thanks to Siddhartha Shome. The discussion I had with him recently in
Siddhartha has raised an extremely important and interesting observation. According to him (not in his words), Indians have a peculiar way of looking at pursuit of knowledge. For most Indians, knowledge is directly proportional to one’s age or one’s qualifications. Therefore, it is a given fact for most Indians that a Professor knows more than the student, an older man knows more than the younger man, a boss knows more than the subordinate and so on. There are no arguments about it or doubts about it. This is a cardinal rule applicable to all domains of knowledge.
From this discussion, I come to the first law of Indian Idiocy.
1. Knowledge depletes with each generation.
One can extrapolate the above observation to say that Indians also believe that our older generations knew much more than what we know. For Indians, knowledge keeps depleting with each generation, not increasing as is conventional wisdom in the West. Indians believe that our ancestors, during Vedic times, knew almost everything. They knew how to solve Quantum Physics, knew how to build airplanes, knew how to build an atom bomb. In fact, their knowledge was infinite. As generations went by, our knowledge kept reducing.
In a local sense, a professor will always know more than the student – forever. A parent will know more than the kid – forever. And so on. So each subsequent generation knows lesser compared the older one.
Taking the cue, I wanted to explore few other observations and codify into laws. Here’s the second law of Indian Idiocy.
2. Wisdom is Knowledge.
For most Indians, Wisdom is nothing but Knowledge itself. And knowledge is directly correlated with one’s education. And education is directly correlated with one’s degrees. For most elite and urban Indians, there is no difference between knowledge and wisdom. They are synonymous. Hence, a PhD is supposedly wiser than a Masters Degree holder is wiser than a Bachelor’s Degree holder and so on. At the bottom are the rural (and therefore 'illiterate'). Invariably, all those who went to IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, etc, are all wise for the rest of their lives.
One educated NRI (non-resident Indian) I recently met in US was of the opinion that giving voting rights to Indian illiterate and rural people was one of the worst mistakes
Though I found his idea utterly ridiculous, I described it here for a reason. That’s because the above sentiment is shared by many Indian elite, urban and literate in different shades, may be not so grossly, but may be little subtly. Look at the present campaign by TOI called Lead India. It is nothing but a reflection of this sentiment held by most urban people. All those who got selected are urban, well-educated and comprise mostly upper caste, and Hindu. When describing them, TOI uses many words and sentences to talk about their qualifications, which college they went to, which MNC they worked for, etc. According to me, most of them have completely vacuous opinions on socialism, on caste-issues, on secularism, right to vote, coalition governments, etc. In my opinion they are inane and downright dumb. However they seem to reflect the sentiments of these urban Indians very well that Wisdom = Knowledge = Education = College Degrees.
Here’s the third law of Indian Idiocy.
3. Experience is Age.
Older a person, it is naturally assumed, the more experienced he is. Even if that person has not traveled anywhere outside his city, Even if that person has not met people of different cultures, even if that person has not tasted different cuisines of different lands. Just because he is old, he is considered more experienced.
A friend of mine, to counter this notion, said, ‘it is not experience, it is the capacity to experience that should matter’. Two people going through similar situations can come out quite differently just because one had more 'capacity to experience' than the other.
For most Indians, a person sitting under a tree all his life meditating is vastly experienced and wiser than a person who has sailed oceans and seas. No wonder, we have codified this law into our religion itself- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, before he left for
A note on methods of learning - as I see it:
A person can learn through three different ways
1. Through books and other sou
2. Through experiences of others- which includes discourse.
3. Through one’s own experiences.
Knowledge is a combination of all the above three. We cannot say which one is better than the other. It is usually sum of all the above three in various proportions.