India & Innovation

Edit: This Article has been Published.

The bourgeoisie in India is under severe attack from all fronts. Social, Cultural, Economical, spiritual, you name it. Transition is the culprit attacking it - this transition is ever elusive and perpetually conclusive. As the clouds of an international economic crises loom above us, its seems as if at any moment it’ll tap on our shoulders to announce its formidable presence- and the worst thin is that few of us actually know how bad the real news is, we’re not that well-educated yet. Meanwhile, situation with Pakistan could have been better. I mean its all just a lot of fingers resting on a lot of triggers. Social triggers, namely the good old trio of Poverty, Corruption and the infamous lack-of-political will. Cultural triggers belong to the bigger guns like gay-rights - they’re going to be a huge issue once people start tumbling out their closets, which, I assure you, is just a matter of time. The second big gun is terrorism; cultural because its not here to stay - that much is certain, but it’ll take its own time to ‘disappear’ as it floats on at a cultural speed, economical triggers are already half-squeezed and lets not even talk about the spiritual triggers at this point, I’ll discuss them at a later stage. Also, why terrorism is ‘floating at a cultural speed’ is quite a different topic, it shall not be discussed here.

The next logical question to ask oneself is what does the bourgeoisie have to do with it all? I mean even after feeling morally responsible by generally being respectable, tax-paying citizens, the bourgeoisie finds itself in quite a rut. A rut of political impotency, cultural-menopause, social-syphilis (contracted from the west) and a spiritual AIDS. The bourgeoisie realizes, nonetheless, that it cannot solve new problems with old tricks but the problems it faces are so new and formidable that we haven’t the time to build tools to solve them. Innovation, as its popularly called, is the process of building these new and better tools to solve newer and ever complex problems and therefore it’s a necessity, not a luxury. The responsibility of constructing these tools, in our country has somehow found the shoulders of our not-so-urban bourgeoisie and this is how they fit in the whole scene. The accurate perception of Indian bourgeoisie and how it thinks isn’t all that obscure because their number has grown quite steadily and people look up to them because they’re educated, if nothing else.

The bourgeoisie logic until now has been one that sees invention as the daughter of necessity, instead of how it really is - the mother of innovation. Think about it, because of computers (invention) we are now processing more and more data personally and professionally then we ever could in the past (innovation), how do you deal with so many passwords, emails etc. if not by evolving? Evolution is nothing if not a stage in our capacity to innovate. But the bourgeoisie dilemma is a genuine one too, it complains of the instability and insecurity it faces every single day, how is it to evolve if there is no free time? No, not Sunday. By free time one intends mental leisure, not physical one. Sunday a physical day of rest, but the young Delhi girl isn’t completely unafraid to walk on the streets in broad daylight. The goons don’t take Sundays off and perhaps that’s why they’re against the idea of her wearing skimpy clothes or making out in full public view. Their logic seems to be, “bring back old culture and the old problems, these new ones are not our job”. They deserve all the pink lingerie they can get. The right to experiment with clothing is the first step towards allowing innovation to happen, if ideas stay inside the head they become what Zefrank calls “brain crack”, so the first thing to do is allow miniskirts and Mohawks. Inalienable and fundamental as this right should be, it should come with a tag “participate, don’t just stand there and tolerate”. Tolerance is an old solution to an old problem. How long will we Tolerate gays and goons or miniskirts and Mohawks? The feminists never talk of Tolerance because its not an issue for them, no one wants to be tolerated.

Remember the Directive principle about Fostering a Scientific attitude? I don’t need any statistical data to prove that our educational system does not foster any remote sort of scientific temperament at all. One look at the ratio of number of engineering colleges that opened in the last month to the number of patents registered in the last one year validates this theory. We have more engineers than we have jobs for them and still so few innovators. More IITs and IIMs are an old solution to an old problem. More technical workforce and followers of management thought will soon be deprecated simply because they have imbibed values that automatically reject the radical and adopt the regular. The problems that we face are anything but regular, we need a new milieu, a new paradigm to solve the technical and scientific challenges including issues like intellectual property, Bio-ethics, Nanotechnology etc. The way out is simple, spend more to inculcate science at primary and secondary levels of schooling - make world class TV animations for kids and adults alike, encourage the use of video games by opening educational game-kiosks in slums and villages, make textbooks even more attractive to the young minds (there’s been some progress here but we need to up the ante). So, the second step is foster scientific attitude, but the obvious question is do we have the money?

As soon as the talk of money comes up, everyone starts eying the subsidies as if that were the real threat, but those are not the real threat. The real threat is from the leech-like schemes that we have implemented to no avail, the real threat is useless spending on American education, the real threat is from buying more of those bombs called Collateralized Debt Obligations or other bombs like it. Steal out of these dead investments and others like it, and push that money down the education system’s inlet pipes to see the overall quality of education improve. Steal out of the defense budget and talk not of “Grass-without-roots” but of the “roots-without-grass” - the honest civil servants which are present throughout the bureaucracy and have some radical ideas to implement if given the nod and resources, or sometimes just the resources.

That the industry has much to do with education has already been demonstrated wonderfully by the IT crowd. The key idea here is that they could use computers because they knew English, they were educated. Entrepreneurship today is not seen as it was seen 10 years ago, the era of manufacturing and other traditional forms of commerce associated with Indian market have all given way to the blue and white collared employees living in a very “flat world“. The fundamental problem of living in a flat world is the fear of falling off over either side of its surface. It is this fear that has gripped us and forced us into submission and rendered us docile enough to follow. Entrepreneurship needs innovation which needs courage and risk-taking abilities of a magnitude previously unheard of. Facilitation and encouragement of the said risk taking abilities should be the primary task of any government regardless of whether its “rowing” or “steering”. This can be done in at least two ways:

Firstly, put measures in place to check brain-drain. This could be achieved partly by following the ideas given above (more room to experiment, development of scientific temper) etc. and facilitate little revolutions of thought that actually encourage mind-muscle over body muscle…encourage thinking, start media campaigns that make research an interesting career choice. Even in some Indian states like Goa, freedom of “thought” is given preference and it reflects in the state’s adoption of weird, quirky, creative artists and boosts tourism by a certain level because it provides a spiritually free environment aside from the scenic beauty. Other states should adopt this model because, as one famous Punjab university professor (who eventually migrated to America) once put it, “Brain-drain is better than Brain-in-the-drain”

Secondly, there’s the issue of the Spiritual AIDS that we have contracted that needs to be resolved. This is something crucial if innovation is ever to become a way of life for us. This inability to innovate that we are facing right now is the sole symptom of a deeper, more profound problem with our society-in-transition. It reflects the workings of a capitalist ideology, which we received as a free gift when we started following the American way and dreaming the American dream and this ideology is the only thing that’s bad about American brand of capitalism. It stifles self-growth and encourages reliance and dependence, making our economic “immune” system totally dependent on the global economy. In such an equation of dependence any talk of self reliance and sustainability makes no sense and we have to resort to the old technique of spending more than we could on calming people down and blowing the deficit to bits and pieces. In trying to save the deficit, we end up ruining the employment or inflation statistics.

The spiritual crises stems from the hypocritical dichotomy of cultures where, in order to preserve our own heritage, we’re unable to fully adopt the means of cultural production from the west. This results in an ideological schizophrenia that’s debilitating and paralyzing and therefore leaves little room for innovation - entrepreneurial or otherwise. If innovation is the essence of all development, then it shouldn’t be dependent on anything else - not even education. This is the key to solve this dilemma that our generation currently faces. We cannot better the education standards unless we spend more on education but innovation isn’t the prowess of the rich and mighty alone. Therefore, there is an urgent need to separate the idea of innovation from the idea of better education for education teaches us to follow but innovation causes us to lead. Sustainable growth is a direct product of sustainable innovation and there are a lot of examples of east Asian countries innovating their socio-economic systems despite an evident lack of available funds.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the single greatest source of innovation of any kind is ultimately leisure. As already pointed out, leisure does not mean a time to rest but instead a breakaway from the routine drudge of engagement in our daily lives where we blindly follow targets in hopes of achieving them before deadlines. This may sound a little radical at first but if investigated closely, we realize that all innovation ultimately happens when the mind is unburdened with the everyday tensions so that it can freely contemplate on the larger issues. Article 311 of the Indian constitution does exactly this by providing the Civil Servants of India a constitutional security of job because if they themselves are always worried and insecure about putting food on the table for their families- they can never provide a sense of security and complacency to the people they are in-charge of. Policy makers need to take heed of this fact and promote “Special Innovation Zones” where people can think and implement newer and more radical ideas after careful brainstorming. It is said in the Bible that if the blind lead the blind they both end up in a ditch and the clarity of vision amongst westerners has been continually an issue of doubt and suspicion -especially after this economic crisis which is a direct result of negligent policies. That we need to become independent in our mode of thought is an evident truth, but this shouldn’t mean that the urgency involved with innovation is foreboding in any sense. I mean the world isn’t coming to an end anytime soon, is it?


suraj sharma said...

yes, i was naive back then.

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