Reclaiming Intent

Dr. Rajiv Trivedi

It is said that words profane an idea. As our restricted technological advance commits us to human communication through imperfect linguistic expression, we conduct ourselves thus. It is this elasticity of language that accounts for greater use of fuzzy logic in all human affairs. So while most people use this phrase to describe a process in which the direction of brain-drain changes, I use it as an appeal to change the nature of such a drain.

It all began with quantification of human being. For some time, it seemed a good thing as historically, human being had been treated as less than that. But while in the past, it was a product of instinct-based more-barbaric-than-civilized society; in the twentieth century it was a conscious act to place human-beings at certain pre-conceived levels. More than anything else, this century can be adjudged as being consumed with the process of evaluating man. For the first time in his history, man had focused his eyes away from gods and heavens towards his own tiny but real existence.

Quantification, thus, was a natural consequence of his rational mind. Far more, when it began to yield political and commercial gains! Education brings an individual mind nearer its potential and collectively, it brings minds together. Faith, universal brotherhood, truth, duty and so on have been ideals of Christianity, Islam and many other religions. However natural curiosity and its intellectual equivalent, ‘Rationality’ began to paint the world in fresh colours during renaissance. Superstitions were questioned as were sacred truth. Industrial and then technological revolution changed meanings and relationships. The philosophical leap from monarchy, plutocracy to democracy, empowered the ordinary man. Poets equated the ordinary with noble and sublime. It was no longer a shame to be plain. Plainness even became fashionable.

After the Second World War, more and more nations gained freedom and sovereignty. They came together to collaborate towards progress. And through peaceful means! It was a welcome change. Welcome in this instance, because change traditionally has held negative connotations. A change in the routine cycle of seasons implied drought, or excess rain! Human machinations added war to famine and flood that disturbed the routine rhythm of existence. So change was taboo. IGRMS10It was opposed to divine attributes — omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, eternity. In his search and worship of perfection man had accepted permanence as a virtue. Material attributes which contributed to permanence were hailed as positive values — strength, solidity, unchangeable. Gold attracts man as ideal currency even today because it has the ability to retain purity. Ancients hailed it as noble metal. Purity in mind and body were equally desirable — they strengthened a man’s character. Any change from the ideal routine was liable to bring corruption. It was this natural resistance to change that helped sustain unjust practices and rulers. Art itself glorifies the stillness of perfection when it upholds, “Art is long, life is short”.

The ideals of democracy took half a century to translate into concrete reality. ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) squeezed the world into a small ball (or plate as Thomas Friedmann would call it). The world in its present flattened shape indeed offers everyone a level playing field. This is equality beyond our dreams. Now anyone in the world may sell his wares to anyone in other part of the world. The young Indian graduating out of a prestigious institution (read IITs and IIMs) was quickly grabbed by global employers. Initially it seemed a good thing but soon the idealists began pointing out that the prestigious institutions equipped these young men on funds generated by Indian tax-payers while these young men and women instead of staying at home flew to foreign lands and utilized their skills in improving conditions of other nations. It was very selfish, they said! It was outright unpatriotic and anti-nationalist. Thankfully, the number-conscious politics found these protestors unworthy of serious attention and no law or regulation forcing these youngsters to stay back was enforced. Starting with sixties and seventies, this export of Indian brains began to turn out a boon for the nation in the final decade of twentieth century. While the quick-thinking, dedicated, innovative and loyal Indian workforce had been serving the world for half-a-century, it was only with advent of computers and its attendant problems that efficient genius of Indian minds was globally recognized and acclaimed. The rapid advancement in technology was both cause and effect of the efficient Indian workforce and now the offshore wealth being brought home as remittance to parents and family clearly proved that it was not draining away of resources but a collective gain.

So excited was the nation through this profiteering that it began to start as many institutions as possible which could send this bread-winners to distant lands. Setting up IITs was a bit costly, so it was decided to start engineering colleges. The demand from foreign shores was for a particular skill-set, so the great nation of philosophers began to espouse those ingredients in its educational curriculum. It was only through active quantification that material need for human automatons could be met. In the twenty-first century, when India had been firmly identified as the largest market for consumption of global goods, some of the competent work-force was employed within the country. Thus, some of the young achievers did not have to fly away from friends and family and could now enjoy best of both worlds. They received hefty pay-packets without sacrificing the home-cooked delicacies. This reverse trend was termed as ‘Reverse brain-drain’. That is about the end of it. Getting exponential salaries by a chosen few for an uncertain period of time at costs not calculated has neither reversed the phenomena nor has it returned our ancient glory and strength. True equality involves empowerment on several levels.

When human beings are cut, dried and packages as goods, it does not benefit humanity. Whereas in past, the Indian youth headed for places where his brilliance was graciously accepted and received encouraging work environment, now it was content with mere compensation for his skills. It was not to drain out his talent, but to enlarge his brain that an Indian genius eyed the foreign shores. The focus has, sadly, shifted. Not merely because of youth themselves but as a result of how the present society has come to view them. With alternative education systems (till, date they still have not aimed for complete respectability by disposing of their nomenclature as coaching / training institutes) succeeding in pulling the wool of greed over parents’ naturally pious, loving eyes, every child is now a potential source of revenue. They publicize the myth that every child can be turned into top-gun. The society hypnotizes itself that through turning its human beings into human-resource, it shall gain beyond its dreams. Difference in education, wealth, esteem and level of ambition can not be mitigated by a magic wand. The brash denial of discrimination has resulted in rejection of the sacred and elevation of the profane. Economic growth today dominates all else. It presses other disciplines into its service. Idealism has been stripped away to reveal its material essence. A doctor with noble dreams but no medicines is futile and helpless. Far preferable is a para-medic with supply of analgesics and anti-biotics. Don’t educate a doctor and buy medicines instead. This kind of simplistic logic does not take one far. The flattening of the world has changed established equations. The world is once again the primitive forest where savage alone survives. It is this period of initial barbarism that feeds on social, cultural, religious and ethical, aesthetic values of all societies and nations. Even though it seems that this neo-barbarism shall annihilate all virtue permanently, it is not true. Granted, after destruction of established norms, it shall require quite some time for the next phase of civilization process; but mankind shall civilize. That is why I say Reverse, Brain-drain!

Good Point: Not everything is effortless or even as valuable

 

With focus on utilitarianism and profit, efficiency has become the password. None can deny that with change of perspective, the nature of action may be interpreted differently. Within a moving train a ball may roll backwards as perceived by passengers inside, but from outside its movement in the forward direction has merely slowed down just a whit continuing in the same path as earlier. Restricting our sensibility, curiosity and a desire to experiment, when we agree to channel our energies on a single direction despite our apparent gain, on the whole we stand to be losers. When we stop reading poetry, have little time to develop taste in music or art, how can we ever find time for independent thought with which we may create our own personal philosophy? Without philosophy no moral code can subsist. Without a common morality or ethical consensus, a society can never enjoy harmony. Acrimony in society leads to unrest, aggression and violence. This destroys peace of mind as well as harms material growth. So while in this scenario the end result is same as (if not worse than) that in traditional society, which gives equal weight to personal, economic, social and political growth the precious resource – man – is the chief sufferer. Along with man, all his ideals of perfection, freedom and friendliness also take the brunt of narrowing the mind for a short-termed, narrow goal. For man is not only a unit for his personal or social productivity, he is also the unit for human civilization.

The present endeavor of a few to wield power over many by turning the masses into consumers and producers, shall reach its breaking point. Any activity beyond its normal pace is liable to generate some form of energy. Rub your hands and warmth is produced. Rub more vigorously with a stick and you start a fire. Consume at increasing pace and you heat up the planet. The prevalent philosophy of dreams fuelling desire, which results in beyond-satiety consumption that in turn presses the consumer into willing servitude, creates a profitable chain. However, the profit of worker-consumer turns into consumed goods leaving him little time and strength to enjoy his life. Once all his dreams are realized, he realizes they weren’t worth dreaming in the first place. Whose dreams were they anyway? With little intellectual or spiritual worth, these dreams turn into desire spent. In the world of transience, how can the dreams be ever-refreshing and invigorating? That too when he has denuded the earth, turned it into a wasteland with non-bio-degradable and radio-active garbage, used up all its water and heated up the planet? Today, it is not philosophers and ascetics, but nature itself that warns human civilization to reduce its pace of unnecessary consumption. ‘Minimize one’s needs’ is a mantra given by mother earth. To heed, we need to hear and understand. Education provides us with language to understand such truths.

The current scurry for select courses in a few promising sectors provide a welcome change to Indian students who traditionally underwent a period of unemployment after finishing their studies. New and upcoming service industries gobble up students before they even finish their courses now. Some of them travel to various parts of the world which welcome these proficient young workers. Technology has reduced burden of innovation, creativity and discretion on part of the individual, so almost anyone is employable at most levels. A chosen few decision-makers are made to labour for years before they are granted the promised place. By and large, the youth is being urged to go for short-termed, simple courses that give them a passing acquaintance with a given area and are employed within that sector. The average age of employee is considerably low and therefore the sector benefits by their youthful energy being pressed into its service. However, the skill one acquired gets dated and soon the person is forced to retrain.

True education gives one the ability to control one’s environment harmoniously — the person moulds according to need and is able to change his working conditions for the better through genuine concern, dedication and innovation. Through its special integration of various systems Indian has nurtured a thought process which brings about cohesion between man and environment. As a result an average Indian child grows with internalized values that equip him with a holistic vision. Western education is intense, yet flexible. It studies things in great detail from a certain point of view. Some parts of modern education are multi-faceted at best. They too lack holistic vision. The traditional completeness of Indian education should not be undermined with expedient narrow fragmentation.

A reversal of the mentality which looks upon the brain as a short-termed resource for consumption like a cake of soap or tube of toothpaste is urgently required. In the country where every speck of matter is endowed with a spiritual identity[1] as well, where all actions are viewed in light of karmic balance of deeds extending beyond a single life-time, the human brain was the repository of power that creates the universe[2]. Over the years we have undermined this power and devalued the brain. In reality, this is how we have drained away its potential. In the pursuit of material gain, we have drained away patience, tolerance, affection, altruism, imagination, creation and joy lusting after ambition, greed, self-centeredness and immediate satisfaction of desires. We no longer remember that Patanjali established Yoga as a practice to still the turbulent mind so that one could easily find the pearl lying at the bottom; its best use today is as an alternative mode of physio-therapy. Music no longer is liberation of the soul, it is used a shield against the noise of other’s existence so that one may hide within the shallow confines of unawareness. And though it has been borne out that reliance on processing power / brute strength can not match ordinary common sense, predicts Kurzweil that machines would overcome human brain in 2045 thus mitigating the difference between the two. So, till they overtake him, the machines would become human. Yet, the sci-fi scenario is filled with machine caused apocalypse: man fears the ‘intent’ of machine. Is it not his own weakness that he transfers to the other?

Opening up of Indian education thereby is the need of the world. The deep, independent western scholarship would certainly charge the Indian mind. Greater however would be the world’s gain through this as it learns that knowledge not only kindles an individual’s mind but also integrates him with society, that character is not to increase one’s susceptibility but to act as anchor during stormy patches of life. Indian education has always steered clear of the paradox of hedonism. Intrinsic value is nurtured not through material price but through material sacrifice. Indian education is not meant for the individual alone but for perpetuation of eternal values through the individual. If only Indians and the world realize this truth, the process of draining the brain would be reversed.


[1] कण कण में ईश्वर, divine presence in every atom

[2] शब्द ब्रह्म: ‘Word is The Brahma’, अहं ब्रह्मास्मि ‘I am the Brahma’

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