Every day we read the news papers. And hiding somewhere in some obscure corner are the horrible and tragic news.
We commute for work or travel for shopping and we have to deal with nuisance or tragedies like,
- The news of a young life taken away due to drunk driving.
- A young man killed in a drunken brawl or a fight over petty issues.
- News of rape and continuing abuse of some young girl.
- News of Eve-teasing of young girls leading to her suicide.
- News of teenage bike robbers just for the high.
- News of employees kidnapping their bosses for ransom or siphoning off money from their workplace.
- The behaviour of people on the roads. Haphazard and dangerous parking, using mobiles while driving, vehicles filled with humans over and above the capacity of the vehicles, occupying two lanes on an empty road, etc.,
- We see People jumping the queue at the banks or petrol pumps.
- We meet people everyday who will abuse you at the slightest of provocation.
All this is symptomatic of
- an extremely self centred behaviour. It’s as if for Indians other Indians don’t exist. It’s a me and myself mentality. There is a total lack of awareness about others and a disdain for civic rules.
- This also suggest an entitled mentality. There is an astounding lack of empathy which manifests in the above mentioned ways.
This has resulted in
The society is slowly losing its thin veneer of harmoniousness, spirituality and righteousness.We are we behaving like barbarians on the streets and in the society. We are good fathers, good husbands and good parents at home but on the streets and in the society as general what is happening to us. We the ultra conservative people, religious to the core, swearing by spirituality everyday and caring family people at home are changing overnight into demons.
This change is in the works since a long time. Since the economic boom of the nineties. So what has changed since nineties? The most important change that has occurred since nineties has been the gradually increasing presence of private education. The education sector till then was dominated by government and government aided schools. Now the ratio has reversed. The private schools and colleges form the bulk of the education sector.
Now how does this affect everything.
To think in a proper perspective we need to understand the old educational institutes. They were mostly government or government aided. So fees were nominal. Any student irrespective of his economic or social background could take admission in these institutions. That led to the classrooms being melting pots of different flavours. The sons and daughters of businessmen, government officers, teachers, rickshaw drivers, vegetable sellers, hawkers, sweepers, etc., used to study together, play together and eat together. They used to go to each other’s houses for religious functions. They over time came to know each other well. Subconsciously the limitations and the capabilities of each other percolated in their brains. They came to understand each other’s situations and came to respect each other for it. Jealousy was minimal and not the norm. Fights and arguments were there but not very frequent.
This coeducation of students of all classes, castes and religion led to fostering of a sort of unity and sense of belonging among the students, which stayed for life. That lead to these students not harbouring narrow and negative views about each other. The social biases and prejudices were kept to the minimum. Because of exposure to a lot of diversity these kids grew into mature adults. And as these students grew up to form a part of society they carried their views they had gathered in their formative years in to their adult life. Leading to a more our less harmonious society. Though unequal but harmonious and peaceful.
Now juxtapose this to the recent scenario.
- Students Educated in Private Institutions:
Privatisation of education has led to the rise of fancy schools some like luxury five star hotels. But overall these schools have been designed on the western public school concepts. The infrastructure and manpower costs and lack of government grants, means extremely high fees. Some schools even keep fees high to maintain their exclusivity. The kids in these schools are a pampered lot. With facilities better than homes and teachers fawning over them and exclusive trips to NASA and Europe these kids are led to believe, that they are special. The schools also fostered a sense of superiority in the kids, by alluding to the status of the students on the basis of his/her school. They instil a false sense of importance and self worth in the students. These kids start looking down on other kids who are not at par with them.
2. Students Educated in Government or government aided schools
Now the kids whose families could not afford the exorbitant fees, studied in government or government aided schools. But that didn’t prevent occasional interactions between these two classes of students. May be at matches or at social functions or in the neighbourhood. And these interactions though not hostile were not amiable also.
The interactions between the students of both groups
The private schools students twitched their noses at the mannerisms, behaviour and lack of finesse of the students of government schools. The government school students could never come to terms with the high and haughty attitude of the private school students. And the distance between the two started widening. Biases and prejudices started taking roots in the minds of both classes. And these were being carried forward in their lives. Due to lack of diversity and diverse experiences while growing up, these kids grow up to be very immature adults. Always jumping to conclusions at the drop of the hat. These kids have grown up into adults with extremely strong societal biases and prejudices.
The result of the differences in education on the students perspectives about each other
These differences keep on widening as they grow up. Rather than coming closer, these different groups start drifting apart. They start looking at their differences minutely rather than looking at their commonalities. They start blaming each other for their problems in life and the problems of the society as a whole. Each group holds a grudge against the other. And as they grow up and face different situations their views start hardening. This may be one the cause for the lack of harmony and peace among individuals and groups. And it reflects in their day to day interactions with each other. Each small conflict escalates to a bigger one and further strengthening their biases and prejudices.
For example consider the scenario at any generic office space. I drearily that this an example and not a norm. The atmosphere at these workplaces is stifling with overbearing bosses educated in elite schools and the employees educated in government schools. Employees understand their bosses or coworkers within the context of their own biases and prejudices which leads to a very vitiated and hostile workplace atmosphere. From this example, one can understand that different social backgrounds leads to the various components of the society not understanding each other. This has also led to adverse labelling of entire groups of populations. Forgetting that it is the individuals who are important. It is the individuals who need to be understood and taken into account.
Additional impact of social media
Add to that the impact of social media, which led to fringe thoughts becoming mainstream instantly. Then there are closed groups on basis of religions, castes and language on the rise. The thoughts and ideas exchanged in these groups are extreme and as they are not countered they can be taken as gospel truths. That further lead to hardening of minds. Enhancing the existing biases and prejudices. Leading to suspicion and doubts in everybody’s minds. And the society as a whole is divided into two or more different strata who are totally ignorant about each others thought processes, desires, inadequacies and struggles. Not an ideal situation.
With this perspective, try to understand the first part of this write up. The rise of accidents, antisocial behaviour, bad civic manners, white collar crimes, casual misunderstanding leading to discord and arguments to fights and murders, etc., one can understand that the narrow minded self-centredness and self preservation at all costs can lead to most of these crimes.Crimes like accidents and accident victims not being helped. Workers abused by their bosses or employees cheating or turning against their bosses. Instances of the bosses or their kids being kidnapped for ransom by employees or money being siphoned off by the employees from their place of work are symptomatic of selfish and self-centred behaviour.
All these can be reduced by just understanding each other. Understanding each other’s needs, motivations and greed. But grown up minds are hard to train again. They are resistant to let go of their biases and prejudices.
Though there are multiple reasons for this complex societal issue there is one important reason one can think of. The elitist education system.
We need to try to understand if the elitist education is leading to schisms in the society and widening the existing ones. We need a few more exhaustive studies to validate it. But one can safely surmise that there is a connect between the self-centred behaviour and elitist education. Elitist education gives rise to elites. Elites who are disconnected from the society as a whole. They have an entitled mindset and hence think that all the resources of the society are for them to consume. Usually this group has a very high stake in the running of the society as well as providing directions to it. But sadly they have care a damn attitude towards the smooth and disciplined running of the society. And then there is a group of people, who avail of whatever education is possible within their meagre means and make do with life. They have to live their life with whatever crumbs come their way. These groups of people are part of the system but have no stake in the running of the system. Which leads to them not harbouring any commitment towards the smooth and disciplined running of the system. We really need to rethink about elitist education in our country. Rather about the whole education system in the country. We need to have an education system which will not only guarantee employment but will also create citizens who are concerned about the civic life, human values, society and the country as a whole.
Dr Shashikant Dudhgaonkar.