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!


  1. If you have a better way please explain. This structure isn't just at the wish of someone , this structure works.Its always good to talk Socialism, but in reality it doesn't work. Its not just in humans its how every creature in this world behaves from a bee to the lion.

  2. Even the caste system worked, and it did so for a long time. And even the caste system was considered quite relevant and 'natural' drawing parallels to animals.

  3. Yes it did till ppl know the reality of caste system..