Sunday, September 12, 2010
Telangana 61: Survival of the Fittest
One Andhra Commenter writes:
Tell me if you know of a genuinely hard-working guy who is unemployed? Opportunities are for everyone. The fittest always survives. Others make excuses...
Many people who have absolutely no clue what Evolution is or what Darwin’s Theory is often swear by ‘Survival of the Fittest’ argument. First, Darwin and evolution scientists prefer terms like natural selection, sexual selection, etc, to explain the drivers for evolution instead of ‘survival of the fittest’. Second, Survival of the Fittest amongst humans stands as a discredited notion that spawned fascist movement of the early 20th century resulting in more than 50 million people dead. Right now only Aryan supremacists believe in this. The concept was used by White Europeans to legitimize their slavery of the ‘inferior’ races, spawning discriminations based on race, ethnicity and sex, and colonization of ‘uncivilized’ countries.
To swear by ‘survival of the fittest’ is no longer proud thing to be, the way swearing by Nazism is no longer proud thing to be. But India continues to be an exception. Here in India you will find a great fan following for Adolf Hitler, and the educated and the elite swearing by flawed and misconceived notions of ‘survival of the fittest’.
Humans fight ‘survival of the fittest’
Contrary to what most Indians believe, humans consistently fight natural selection, the natural order that drives evolution. Humans fight the order of nature and that’s what makes them humane. We don’t let our weak die, even if they happen to be beggars or homeless, or even our enemies. We take care of our weak; we hospitalize them, we use medicines, we use inoculation, we use vaccines, we use artificial organs, and we do surgery. Even the weakest of humans gets a chance to reproduce and thereby contribute to the gene pool. The weak doesn’t get eliminated as is done in natural selection. Instead, even the weak humans continue to add their gene content to future generations with equal vigor.
We don’t abandon our weak kids on the street, and say, ‘well, that’s survival of the fittest’. We don’t let our weak fend for themselves saying, ‘well, that’s survival of the fittest’.
Modern nations, the modern concept of civilization, the modern tools of democracy, the modern concepts of humans as citizens with inalienable rights and not as subjects of a tyrant, the modern notions of equitable distribution of wealth and equal access to opportunity, the modern idea of inclusive growth to bring in a harmonious society, the modern values of equality before law, justice to all, liberty for everyone, go against the archaic and discredited notions of ‘survival of the fittest’.
Open competition where all resources and opportunities are up for grabs is a myth which has relevance only in limited context in the civilized world. Modern nations are formed going against that open competition when we say we are going to keep Indian government jobs only for Indians, and when we are closing the competition to foreigners. When we demand British leave India so that Indians can rule for themselves, we are no longer practicing ‘survival of the fittest’. When we say a state gives preference to government jobs to its people, when a nation allows only its citizens to represent their sports team, when we say a company should be registered in a country if it has to operate in that country, when we say that IT companies like Infosys gets tax breaks so that they can compete with foreign companies, when we give SEZ with tax breaks and power subsidies, we are going providing protections, safeguards, and reservations. Nations are built on the concept of giving preferential treatment to its people over others. States are built on the concept of giving preferential treatment to its people over others. Otherwise, Tamils would take up all government positions in Orissa completely depriving the local people jobs in their own state.
When a bank gives loans preferring the local companies over companies of other regions, when we give reservations to our lower castes, when we promote women in our companies, when we promote diversity in our organizations, when we give reservations to handicapped, when we reserve seats for disabled, when we give up our seats to the old people on a bus, we are going providing safeguards and protections, treating people differently, based on their identity, sex or handicap.
Modern nations do not follow ‘survival of the fittest’
Modern nations are built on the premise that all people irrespective of their race, color, sex, region, language, religion, get access to basic amenities and basic opportunities. There is no race for getting these basic amenities. Getting basic education is not ‘award of excellence’ that a person wins in a race of survival of the fittest. Instead, a state guarantees a basic education to all its citizens, irrespective of how strong or weak they are in the gene pool.
We have had wrong education in this country where the elite and privileged think they are elite and privileged only because they won a race. It makes them feel good about themselves, and helps answer their insecurities, give excuse for their apathy, legitimizes their greed, and continues their hegemony. But they do not understand that the entire history of humankind has not favored those who were strong on an individual level, but only those who were strong at a group level, those who could subdue other groups through their show of strength.
A smart, strong and highly capable black person would have lost out of to a foolish, weak and incompetent white man in 1700s, and the only reason being that he was Black, belonging to a group that didn’t wield enough power, while the other person was White, a group that wielded all the power. Natural Selection should have favored this Black over this White at an individual level. And yet that does not happen. That’s because humans resist natural selection in their own way.
Andhras who keep insisting that Telanganas lost out the race because it was all about survival of the fittest should tell us why they got separated from Madras State citing they would lose out to better educated, more politically empowered Tamils. Why could they not demonstrate their survival capabilities staying in Madras State and competing with Tamils? What made them demand a new state?
Recently, Prof Kodandaram in his speech at IISc said that empowerment of certain group is dependent on their ability to negotiate with modern political and democratic institutions. That means a group which has a better ability to negotiate with these modern institutions wins over another group. Therefore, the group divisions, such as states, should take this into account while forming states. Regional identities and special recognitions can be maintained within a state as was done with the experimental state called Andhra Pradesh.
Gentlemen’s Agreement, Article 371, Mulki Rules, were all promised and agreed upon to protect Telanganas against Andhras because it was clear even in 1956 prior to formation of Andhra Pradesh that Andhras were well equipped to negotiate with the modern political and democratic institutions because of their long experience with educational and political institutions under British Rule.
It was clear from the beginning that it was not going to be an open race inside Andhra Pradesh. It was clear from these promulgations and agreements that certain protections were awarded to people of Telangana, not because they were incompetent, lazy or drunkards, not because they had low IQ or less intelligent, but because they belonged to a group that had handicap to successfully negotiate with the modern political and democratic institutions of Independent India.
Telanganas lost out in the race not because of their incapacity or incapability as individuals but because all Andhras reneged on those promises, because Andhras flouted all the agreements. When elite companies like Infosys asked for tax breaks to compete with global companies, how can an ordinary Telangana person be deprived of those safeguards to be able to compete with superiorly positioned Andhra?
When Telangana lost out to Andhra in this race, it is not about ‘survival of fittest’, but it was a gross violation of everything that modern civilization is made of. It is inhuman. It is uncivilized. It is barbaric, uncharacteristic of modern world, the principles that made humans humane. Citing ‘survival of the fittest’ to rationalize Andhra’s hegemony is equivalent to Spanish rationalizing conquest of South America with brute force, that of Whites wiping out Natives in North America and Australia, and that of British colonizing Indians.
It’s high time Indians abandon using the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ to rationalize their hegemony and make way for a modern and civil society based in modern values and principles where access to basic education, employment and resources is not a case of ‘award of excellence’ but an equal ‘access to opportunity’.