Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bigness and Smallness

Acceptance of inequality seems to be easy when it is everywhere

Who is big? Who is small? But seems it is pretty seemingly obvious when something is called big or small. Through proper channels! To the extent where you want to know the full form of a word! First ask your colleagues (in your cadre) and then, the next in the pecking order and then, the next! Oh, you didn’t know this! (Never mind if the subject of this arrogant question ever had a chance to know) “You there! Do you know this?” (All the while it was obvious that she/he didn’t! Still!) “Well, this is what it is! So simple!” (You didn’t even know this!) ~a constant superior smirk~  The oppressor becomes the oppressed? A cycle, you say? It is a necessary evil? Necessary for what? To get things done! Isn’t that supposed to be more important? Ok, what does getting things done result in? A greater purpose achieved through a group of people working together like a machine! And what does it all boil down to in the end? Never mind! 

We hear some voices or rather whispers against gender inequality. Why not over ‘general’ inequality? How different were the caste hierarchies of so called yesteryears from organizational hierarchies of today to the extent that they promote inequality so blatantly. Both are dominant forms of people’s institutions. But it’s everywhere! So, it’s fine! And moreover, that’s how it works! You can’t work without it. It’s in our culture. Even the management theories preach it. We need it. Never mind if the culture promotes inequality. When the same thing happens in gender, it’s a different issue altogether, since it is still talked about, it is in the open, so we agree with them. But yes, we are against the caste system. 

Broadly, then (and even today in implicit ways), for example, the dominant Varnas: Brahmins, Kshyatriyas. Vaishyas, Shudras and broadly, today, in the organizational hierarchy: Chairmen, CEOs, Managers, Technicians, Clerks, Peons. How different? Maybe, one would argue, and yes, very rightly, that the first set of classified groups have been given the opportunity to redistribute themselves in the second classification irrespective of their identities from the first classification. Hurray! You now have a new nomenclature! But hey, we just can’t do away with the hierarchy, one above the other is the guiding principle, it’s in our bloody culture, sorry not my intention but you see, culture, can’t be changed so easily! Similar discourses about culture have sustained gender inequality for quite some time before questions were raised and whispers became voices though still not widely accepted. 

Okay, I hear you say - but it’s just functional, differently qualified people just doing different things. So, why do they have different privileges, why are some considered superior to the others as a rule, the way they address each other, the way one talks to the other, the way one sits in an office, the way one asks permission from the other to enter, the chairs, the tables, the rooms, the physical spaces, the bathrooms, the vehicles one gets, the access to information, the way one’s interpretations are privileged over the others, the power to be called to one’s room, who stands up first, who sits last, who waits for whom, who wears what, who decides when. A whole culture is taking shape now! 

Inequality in the caste system was justified by who you were born to, a brahmin’s daughter = a brahmin. And today, inequality in the hierarchical organizations is justified by merit. Starting from schools and colleges. Above 90%? Please sit here. 60%?sorry, higher fees for this dull head and please sit with the others in that other room there, no but you’re not good enough for being coached for this competitive exam.  

Oh how do we organize ourselves then, do we not? I recall from a college interaction. You drink coke, so someone has to supply it right? Hence it seems, whatever they do, whatever form they operate in, whatever their structure, whatever inequality they promote, all is justified if you want to continue to have your coke! Never mind if production of coke could be done in alternative ways. And then I hear, enough of this ideological talk. You want to change something, go to the top and change it! So, there you go! All the way to the top! Only then can you change it! Change can happen only if you are at the top. Down below can only nod! And there you go justifying the very structure that is problematic!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Non-Professionals

The suppressed creative potential, the burdened souls, handcuffed in shame; insulted by those favoured by the arbitrary logic of the market: the twice born, the lucky few who got into those fancy places, made fancy contacts, came out with degrees with fancy names that can assure their entry into fancy places paying handsomely and thus, felt it is all right, that they made it there, they had it in them and they deserved it all through, they were born like that to be what they are one fine day, it was just a matter of time before the series of "you are the chosen one" events happened (chosen by the invisible hand!). And those who weren't part of the race, who didn't quite understand the market dynamics of who is privileged by it or just found it too arbitrary are told you are lazy, you are incompetent, shameless, a burden on your parents, what use are your so called creative scribbles if they don't sell in the market (Market is the arbitrary God that has the sole right to give the verdict and it is final, unquestionable. Put your complete faith in it or be doomed!).

Maths, physics, chemistry? No? Not interesting? So, what say, Biology? No? Lets try commerce then? No? Well, you are good for nothing then. You want to live like a beggar, dependant on somebody all through your life? How will you take care of your parents, your family? It is your fault! All your fault! You never worked hard!

Now that I have vented it out, coming back to the extent of injustice that kills and dulls down several minds, we can take up a simple exercise. If we enumerate the several occupations that a person can take up (assuming that a person does the same thing all one's life which is however quite a brutal assumption), how many do we arrive at? Let us scale it down to 100. Now, if we enumerate the number of occupations that are favoured by the market, how many would they be out of 100? 5%, 10%, 15%? Lets be a little 'market friendly' and put the figure at 20%. Still, 80% are doomed. They have to convince themselves to like one of those market favoured occupations or feel a low self-esteem, looked down upon for no fault of theirs, to live with the idea that they were never meant to be anything that is considered something.