If there’s one thing that I am looking forward to this year, it’s a change in our mindset. The world around us is rapidly evolving, thanks to science and technology. But our responses to many contemporary issues continue to be stereotyped and often warped by anachronistic values and judgements. Here are some areas where a break from the past would be welcome.
Move from symbolism to practice
We as a nation revel in symbolism. Patriotism, purity, virtuosity, morality, non-violence... the list goes on. We throw stones at dogs and make lives of animals miserable, while at the same time worship them. We litter public places with gay abandon, even while being obsessed with purity and cleanliness when it comes to religious practices. We value, respect and honour our national flag, song and anthem; though we waste public money and resources, and destroy public property. We need to realise that national symbols, our language and traditions draw their strength from the state of our nation and our people. Patriotism is not just about standing up for Jana Gana Mana, but it’s more about contributing to our national wealth.
End, not the means
If a signboard has to be put up at a public place, hardly any thought goes into whether people can read it or not. Either it will be positioned at a wrong place, or it will be in a language very few people can read. The typical stereotyped response often heard is: “Let people learn the language and then read it!” It symbolizes our attitude to many situations, where bureaucratic procedures, traditional concepts or misplaced sense of values take precedence over convenience and comfort of the common people.
A cliche that is merely heard, never brought about. The American equivalent is “bipartisan approach”. They don’t merely talk about it, they actively practise it. Look at the way the anti-corruption and Lokpal debate went both in Parliament and outside. We don’t have a solution to the problem everyone is so clear about. We need to change the way politics is practised in our country, all the more because in a democracy it’s the political decision-makers who are the final authority.
Separate the private and the public
A lot of public fights in our country are about personal matters and beliefs. Be it the dress we wear or the food we eat or the language we speak or the source of strength we believe in. A number of public issues are left unattended and unresolved, because there is little time or energy left after battling personal egos. The private and the public are mixed up so badly that often policy decisions are taken based on personal whims rather than on public interest.
Here’s an often-spoken about scene that typifies our indifference -- a suited and booted nouveau riche, while travelling in his newly acquired SUV, lowers the windshield to throw the banana peel on the road. Helen Keller said, "Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings."
Looking forward to a brighter and enriching 2012.