Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Changing morality of humour

Saw this movie- 3 Idiots the other day. Its an interesting movie and can be discussed on a number of lines. For example- What makes it a hit, The use of emotional moments, The actual issue on education that it deals with, Super performance of the artists, Average music scores etc etc.

I feel like expressing my thoughts on the changing morality of humour over a period of time. In the years to come i will try to keep pace with changes and how they stand on the axis of time.

What struck me in the movie was the fact that it didn't have any bounds on what can be laughed at. For one, funny teachers (or masterji) with a chari in his hand has been a subject of humour since b/w movie days.
  • A paralytic father being shown in a humorous way
  • Friends poking fun at each others parents
  • Poverty in the home of one of the characters has been depicted humorously though actually speaking there is really nothing humorous about poverty or else people would have loved to experience it regularly
  • Middle class norms have been very blatantly laughed at e.g. daughter waiting to get married for want of dowry
  • A speech where the word 'balatkar' (meaning rape) has been inserted in the wrong place excites huge laughter in the crowd
  • Ritual of immersion of the last remains of one's life
  • Certain social beliefs like wearing rings for a safer tomorrow
The acceptability of humour in aspects which actually are not fundamentally humourous can mean the following:
  • Increasing acceptability of humour in 'holy cow' areas indicates mark of a more broad minded and liberal society. Assuming that society is equally broadminded when something it holds dear also gets scoffed at publicly
  • Mark of a society that needs to just let-go when it comes to entertainment
We are talking about shift of times of mid 50s when there would be a seperate comedian in the movie accompanying the hero. The hero would always be wise and responsible like Guru Dutt (how can he be a subject of laughter? :))  to gradual shifts where the key protagonist becomes comical like in Chupke Chupke, Andaz Apna Apna, Golmaal or Namak Halaal to raw below the belt humour which is quite common these days to broad based humour that we see in a movie like this one- where anything can suddenly inspire laughter.

If this movie is just an indicator of the two factors stated then probably it seems innocuous. But does it also somewhere serve as an indicator of a society which is gradually losing its sensitivity. In a metropolis, witnessing insensitivity is a norm. In fact seeing display of sensitivity becomes an event especially in public places. Can we imagine the impact of such humour on kids?

Or does it somewhere imply mocking of the shells that have enveloped and defined our identity since several years of hollow unchallenged practices like women should not be financially independent, an economy growing at 2.4% for decades hence majority remained poor etc.  Does this humour somewhere echo with the changing mood of the economic growth of the country and the upwardly mobile youth of today who wants to laugh at his own past and just come out of it? Is that the right way to do. Is there a moral question that we can't skip answering?

As someone expressed in an article that i read, are we also, in the process somewhere becoming part of the larger joke or probably it just means that the author of this blog has a weird sense of humour.

Anything can be true :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Which way will the Lotus tilt?

Being the only national party in the opposition, it is very important for BJP to get its act together. Since its clear defeat in National elections in May'09, we are yet to see any concrete change in the outlook of the party. Leadership roles have been revisited but the its connect with the RSS ideology has not gone through the lens of critique and objective enquiry.

In this recent speech of Mohan Bhagwat, where he makes some pertinent points on the issue of identity based politics (ironically) and also on the fact that we should learn to milk nature for our economic needs but not exploit  it. The same point on the attitude we need to have towards nature has been expressed by eminent international thinker like Fritjof Capra in his book Network Connections where he makes a strong case for nature to be seen and related to as a mentor.

But at the same time, the comment can actually be made without talking about the Hindu culture or else criticising the Western style of living. The moment religion is interspersed with political debate at any level, we run the risk of losing the capacity of our own eye for loopholes that exist in our own backyards. Not all Hindus in India believe in a life of 'thoda hai thode ki zaroorat hai'. In fact you will find the most greedy and selfish of people thronging temples at specific occasions - in all parts of the country. If religion and its implications on behaviour are not at all clearly expressed in our social behavior then who are we to criticize  certain other group.

Are the principles of democracy an Eastern product? Are the principles of economics that sustain the society today an Eastern or Hindu principle? Where does the fountainhead of technology and high quality education lie? Why doesn't BHU produce the most excellent scholars?

Secondly, the more you try to talk about religious stand point in things, people would tend to ignore you in the name of being communal though there may not be anything communal in the particular thought- just like the thought on sustainability. Also, why is the party not able to understand that the youngster today one doesn't seek too much to get into understanding religion (which has other negative implications) and secondly, he is not really able to get too excited about religion based hysteria that has been very successfully generated by the same party in the past. This can surely be stated about the youth which is staying in the metros. The reasons for this are umpteen, primary being the lack of capacity of this hysteria to bring about fundamental change in our economic well being.

Nitish Kumar has learnt the right tune for Bihar and no wonder he got recognized for his efforts and his life now is going to be much easier if he only plays the tune of development in the way that he has been doing. Its going to be really difficult for the opposition to challenge him.

While at the same time BJP is not really recognizing the vantage point from where it needs to really challenge Congress. Its struggling with its legacy and is not able to realize that the strategic repositioning may call for questioning some very fundamental assumptions. The risk being that if the same is not done now, then 2014 results also may not be too different.

BJP needs disruptive change. Though politics in India has never been about disruptive changes. How to make it happen is the biggest question for Gadkari as he assumes a very important position.

To me it appears the most difficult leadership problem for BJP at this stage.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hillary Clinton's speech on US approach towards the development sector

This speech by Hillary Clinton given at Center for Global Development makes some very important remarks on the way US intends to approach development challenges in countries which is intends to support through its various programs.

I really liked some of the points along with the q & a at the end of the session:

  • Important to understand how to channelize the dollars. To new countries or to countries which can act as regional anchors to development
  • The importance of understanding the context of problem in each geography and to come out with local solutions. There is no formulaic approach to development
  • Model of development based on partnership and not patronage
  • Engender local leadership
  • Not to help those who are able but not willing to help themselves
  • Aid chases need while Investment chases opportunity. Hence have a keen eye for investment
  • Work together with agencies so that we don't become redundant or duplicative
  • Work so that the 3 Ds of Development, Diplomacy and Defense get reinforced
  • Convergence of areas where the organization would focus its resources and skills
  • Looking at development not just from a moral stand point but as a strategic, economic imperative important for global stability and sustainable growth
  • Investment in technology and innovation
  • Further focus on women and girls since they are key to social, economic and political upliftment

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Openness towards private sector expertise

Have a look at the following postings in key Government positions that have been confirmed in the last 8 to 10 months.
  • Dr Sam Pitroda - Head Knowledge Commission and former head CDAC and other important institutions was appointed by GOI as Advisor to PM on Innovation, Infrastructure and Information
  • Nandan Nilekani- Ex CEO of Infosys- Chairman of the committee responsible for the implementation of UID program at a PAN India level 
  • Kaushik Basu - Former Chairman of the Department of Economics, Cornell University, US. He was also the Professor for Centre for Analytic Economics and Program on Comparative Economic Development at the same university.- Chief Economic Advisor to GOI
  • Arun Maira- Ex CEO Boston Consulting Group, India.  - Member Planning Commission and recently appointed as the Head of the committee required to figure out changes that need to be brought in at Planning Commission to make this very important division of policy formulation more effective
  • Subir Gokarn- Former Chief Economist for Standard & Poor Asia Operations along with other private sector portfolios- Deputy Governor RBI

There are few inferences that can be drawn from the above:

  1. Indian government is opening its minds to get quality talent from lateral positions
  2. The private sector leaders are willing to occupy highly responsible positions in government divisions
  3. Positions at the top in governmental divisions will be more attractive for private sector high performers as compared to middle rung where there would be a lot of sloth, inefficiency and also low income opportunities
I guess its a welcome sign on the part of the government to show indications of getting expertise from areas where government surely needs specialists as against the the generalist babus. A big change which is yet to be seen in the government human resource approach would be when the policies would allow people from the private sector to actually move in to government sector and vice versa. This osmosis might allow a lot of best practices of the private sector to be shared with government bodies and would help in strengthening the human resource machinery which is far from perfect requires fresh ideas and energy at various levels. The challenge would also be to make the culture at governmental divisions attractive enough for people who are more comfortable with the MNC work culture and professionalism.

The pace of change is too slow to be noticed or talked about but the fact is that these may be good trends which might gain momentum in the years to come.