Sunday, February 9, 2014

Is Satya Nadella's Success a Slap at India?

Amidst the general Indian celebration of Satya Nadella’s ascent to the top of Microsoft R. Jagganathan, Chief Editor of First Post, has put out a classic piece of feel-bad journalism.

He thinks it is a “slap in the face” for India because Nadella succeeded not here but in another country.

He thinks if “Satya Nadella had remained in India, he would probably be working as a coder in Infosys or TCS. Earning a high salary no doubt, but an unlikely candidate for CEO.”

Between the headline and that final indictment comes a relentless flow of negative observations about Indians.

No Indian science Nobel laureate since independence is a citizen of the country. We “kill future heroes.” Only one per cent of applicants get into IITS and IIMs because “our system is designed to keep people out, not get them in.” It is because only “superlisters” get into those institutions that they “shine no matter what the quality of faculty or the curriculum.”

That exclusivity “comes from our caste system, where castes try and keep others out.” India “encourages talkers rather than doers.” That makes us "obstructionist rather than problem solvers. Our politics is about name-calling and running others down, not about doing something yourself.”

We do have "rare achievers" like Election Commissioner TN Seshan, CAG head Vinod Rai and Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan, and we celebrate them "so highly” but call them “dictators.” That shows we “prefer autocratic rulers rather than democratic ones.”

“We are risk-avoiders rather than risk takers.” That is why “when our kids want to become artists or cricketers, we tell them to forget it and study for IIT-JEE or CAT, never mind your own passion.”

“We celebrate mediocrity … Our system kills initiative… Our successes are more the result of accident than real effort.”

Two things are obvious from this obtuse, self-hating flow of calumny.

The first is that it comes from a man who obviously has never personally achieved anything real -- he could not dismiss success so lightly if he had.

The second is that Jagannathan is deeply dishonest in ignoring what is undoubtedly the most corrupt, imitative and third-rate area of our national life, the “elite” mass media.

The criticisms he makes are meretricious. As I have pointed out in an earlier response to feel-bad journalism, India is hardly lacking in homegrown successes.

What we lack is a media establishment capable of seeing and celebrating the great positive elements in Indian society that have allowed us to maintain our independence, democracy and traditions through a period of stress and danger unprecedented in history.

Those qualities are not abstract. They are the daily realities of hundreds of millions of individual Indian lives, endurance, ceaseless effort, equanimity in the face of high risk, love of family and a clarifying sense of the sacred rooted in ancient history but perennially renewed.

When combined with professional skill and high intelligence, it makes for a Satya Nadella.

To see the lack of similar success for many with shared qualities in India as a slap in the face of an anonymous "system" is typical of our deracinated "elite" media. It is based on the stupid and dangerous presumption that our society can and should be an imitation of the United States.

I have split my life in almost equal halves between the two countries and know they are fundamentally different.

The United States is the most modern of social experiments, founded in a written constitution just past its 225th anniversary (2012). It has been a work in progress, evolving towards the ideals of human freedom and democratic governance until the Ismay-Churchill coup of 1946 empowered an unconstitutional "military-industrial" establishment. With Edward Snowden the fight to regain constitutional America has been joined, and it will unquestionably be won. 

India is a society that has evolved for many thousands of years, its castes rooted in tribes that unified under the philosophical recognition of a common sacred reality. It has seen many ups and downs over the millenniums, and  is now in a period of renaissance that Guru Nanak set in motion over five centuries ago. That upsurge won Indian political independence but has not yet returned our society to its ancient capacity for original thought and social adaptation.   

Although the Indian Constitution borrowed heavily from the American, the challenges we face are far more complex than in the United States. While seeking the same democratic life we must move the whole complex apparatus of our ancient society without permanent injury to the many groups unable at present to defend their own interests.

That is what makes India "inefficient" in Western eyes; it is what offends the murky interests behind Narendra Modi; it is the reality that the bought and sold analysts of our "elite" media do not see.

Unless we have inspired political leadership, the current situation will lead to violence, for there is a great deal of unscrupulous greed closing in on India. An example is the Essar Group (the Ruia brothers, whose initials, S and R make up their corporate name); its "BPO unit" in the United States is staffed predominantly with American servicemen who could at some point generate a Blackwater type private army. Some years ago, an Essar employee was caught with money for Naxalites, and before that, the corporation helped insert Vodafone into the Indian market using black money and avoiding taxes. Clearly, the brothers let very little stand in the way of making money.

If the so-called radicals and corporate mercenaries engage in an escalating conflict India could easily end up like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a variety of militias fighting endlessly for turf as corporations steal our resources and ruin our society.   

Jagannathan and his tribe will probably see that as a necessary step to "development."

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