Does all success need to be replicated? Is some potential best left unrealised? In praise of un-marketing: http://t.co/P6fwE8zWtQ
May 3, 2015, 10:20 PM IST Santosh Desai in City City Bang Bang
In praise of un-marketing
In fact, the dominant ethos of business today, is not only mandatory to mop up all value that is embedded in any venture, but if possible one is encouraged to suck up future earnings in the name of valuations. The digital world is testimony to the appetite business has for earning today what a business might one day hope to earn over several years, if not a lifetime. So many financial instruments of the day collapse future potential into present profit.
The abiding idea that drives the world of business is that of scale. Success is replicated, scaled up, leveraged. The very idea of replication is that of dead multiplication, of things breeding and coming into being without having to come alive in any sense of the word. Scale comes from granting universality of access but taking away the grainy specificity of a particular experience. In doing so, ideas become products, that deliver uniformity in a way that is easy to consume. This has always been true, but has become much more so today.
In a world of this kind, the idea that there are currencies of other kinds, that there could conceivably be room for people not to extract value but to let it lie unattended, fallow would appear to hopelessly dated. But for many ventures like Ganesh Idli, value takes on many forms- the appreciation of customers who hunt down this place and come from far and wide, the pride of maintaining quality, the feeling of successfully carrying on a legacy, and the cussed insistence of doing the precisely right thing, simply because that’s how it should be done.
The quality of greatness, rather than that of serviceable sufficiency, comes from an ability to leave something on the table. Not every ounce of value is squeezed from a transaction; the price in this case bears no resemblance whatsoever to the value delivered. In this world, a product or experience cannot be fully described by what it costs- labels like high-end or premium get exposed for their poverty.
The difference is in the starting point- today we live in a world defined by the consumer- we begin with what we want to consume and work backwards, by stuffing things with the ingredients of success. This is as true of food as it is of management theory; we want to first find out what makes people consume more of some food or what are the 7 signs of effective leaders and then go ahead and recreate those conditions to the best of our ability.
The world of Ganesh Idli and its ilk, on the other hand, begins with the creator and caters first to his needs and is constrained by the limits of his imagination as well as greed. The product is an expression of the creator’s beliefs and abilities, and not a precis of consumer desires. It does both more and less, than what is deemed ideal and creates its own ethos of consumption. By foregoing the value it could extract from the transaction, it rescues us from the act of consumption, by making us connoisseurs, rather than mere consumers.
The world built around people who create as against people who consume is fortunately, not only a thing of nostalgia. One of the great advantages of the internet is that it in purest form has little regard for scale. Interesting ideas generate their own currencies and as a result, we are seeing an outbreak of creation- not only those that seek multi-billion dollar valuations, but those that put their passion out on display for the world to appreciate. Small fashion labels, sites for food lovers, archivists of traditional forms of music and dance, collectors of knowledge about traditions and customs of specific communities, the internet is teeming with those that create because they want to and not because there is a market waiting for their efforts.
The opportunity of finding meaning in acts of creation is available much more freely today. The more we are to develop currencies other than money, the richer the fruits of affluence are likely to be.
Another brick in the wall: Examinations and the child http://t.co/JFfiz0JzaC
Education has been reduced to the level of ‘teaching for testing’. The individual is completely lost. All that is visible are aggregates of a tiny part of the human capability, measured through tools of suspicious reliability
Authentic self and education
We often talk of education as being an instrument of economic development of self and society. Sometimes, we also allude to it as being an instrument to help one prepare for critical, democratic citizenship. But rarely do we talk of education being a process to help a person form his authentic self. When I talk about “formation of the authentic self”, I do not mean the oft-talked about character development and education in values. All three aims of education — economic, citizenship, and character/values — though necessary, fall short of helping one form one’s authentic self. Moreover, they can be used to work against it.
The three characteristics I would like to count as being a part of the authentic self of an individual are: autonomy, integrity and harmony. Apart from one’s intellectual capabilities, all three necessarily should manifest themselves as character traits of an individual. Further, their necessary ingredients are a deep, emotional investment as well as a dispassionate understanding.
Let’s examine these three. Autonomy means using one’s own mind in making choices whether they are personal or public. This is possible only with a robust understanding of the world and one’s situation in it. It also demands a level of self-confidence and self-respect without being conceited or indulgent.
Integrity is more than just autonomy as it involves a coherence in the results of one’s intellectual deliberations and taking them seriously while putting them in action and thus imparts an overall stability to one’s personality.
Harmony, metaphorically, may be termed as a state of internal peace. More precisely, it means an alignment between one’s emotional states, intellectual understanding and actions. I will also bring in “an absence of fragmentation”, which does not mean the complete absence of internal tension. There will always be a certain degree of tension as one constantly faces new situations and in utilising one’s emotional and intellectual energies to bear upon them. But this tension will always be confined to being within the limits of one’s strength of character. This wholesome development of an individual can be called the formation of an authentic self. Education is the primary means of helping an individual form such a self. Perhaps, it is also the highest goal of education. An alternative expression for an authentic self can be: manasa, vachaa, karmana; with the proviso that all three are governed by one’s own judgement.
Examinations and testing
So far there is no method by which to assess the development of an authentic self. The only test is life itself! Examinations are a severely limited means by which to assess educational development, even if the assessment of an authentic self is left out. First, they are limited to testing the present repertoire of knowledge of an individual; even this has severe problems of validity and reliability. Knowledge is a fully connected whole and it cannot be tested by seeking fragments of information as is usually done in examinations. Going deeper into the interconnections of concepts and beliefs of an individual is a time-consuming and subjective affair; subjective for both examiner and examinee. In order for it to be reliable, it demands objectivity across a sample of examinees. Therefore, validity and reliability vary inversely with each other. Large-scale tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Annual Student Assessment Report (ASER) can ensure a satisfactory level of reliability and validity only if the testing is limited to a very small portion of student learning. This makes them almost useless in understanding the development of an authentic self. However, to be fair, in such tests, this is not even the goal.
Competition, an endemic problem of everyday life, is aggravated through a system of testing and examination. In the name of pursuing “success”, schools start encouraging competition at the individual level right from standard one. Measuring one child against the other becomes the motivating factor in learning; in the process, immeasurable damage is done to the child’s self-image; in most cases, a child’s worth is reduced to a piece of paper signed by the class teacher. In schools, students become almost intellectual slaves, competing with each other for a greater share of the market. [...] It tears apart the coherence of intellectual deliberations, values and actions. It completely destroys the harmony between the intellectual, moral and emotional self; it makes action a random response to the contingency of the moment.
The besieged state of education is what is reducing the child’s soul into a battlefield that results in fragmented pieces of the self. The child’s aspirations, understanding, moral dispositions and emotions are constantly at war with each other. We are reducing the child into becoming fake copies of what we aspire for rather than helping the child become a master of his or her own soul. One wonders whether cases of student suicides in India and the repeated instances of shooting sprees in American schools are a direct result of this disharmony in the soul created by present day education systems! (Rohit Dhankar is professor and director, academic development at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, and founder member, Digantar, Jaipur.)
The Telegraph. Critical voice: http://t.co/fWpP2yLdUb
Individuals have opinions and in a democracy they are entitled to express them. Individuals form their opinions under a variety of influences and compulsions; sometimes even personal frustration lurks behind the articulation of the most well-intended criticisms. What is of importance is that, once uttered, the views and not the person airing them gain salience. Are those views relevant? Do they reflect the reality? These are some of the questions that demand to be addressed and the individual and his motives become marginalized.
Clearly tremendous pressure needs to be exerted on governments to move away from these regressive positions. Of course it is difficult to say whether such pressure will work on political parties whose ideology itself is steeped in a regressive thought process, but then for the sake of democracy the effort has to be made.
The Thinking Indian: Essays on Indian Socio-Cultural Matters in the Light of S... http://t.co/8XJ5k2zxNt via @amazon
This book is a result of some of my intellectual activity over the last few years. It is my humble attempt to remind my fellow Indians and all those interested in India - let us start thinking, and think deeply and widely.
It should be obvious that I am not suggesting to continue with the merely mechanical, repetitive thought that is a function of the lowest rung of our physical minds. We need not become passive consumers of information, mindlessly accepting or rejecting what others have said just because they have been given the label of 'thinkers' or 'experts' or 'intellectuals.' We must continue to critically examine, evaluate and think through all the observations, opinions, analyses, reflections that come from various sources - academics, journalists, opinion-makers, think tanks, policy experts, celebrities, everyone.
Let us start thinking on our own. Let us investigate carefully what is said about India in the social-cultural-political discourse and come to our own conclusions. If we want India to rise to her full potential we have to start thinking, freely and independently of all ideological preferences and academic theories that are currently in fashion. We have to start examining all the data points in the light of the truth of the Indian spirit. We have to start a personal journey of discovering the Indian spirit, in the Indian way.
To remind ourselves of the words of Sri Aurobindo from the same message quoted earlier: "It is the one who can fathom and learn the truth of the world by thinking more, searching more, labouring more, who will gain more Shakti."
It is with this hope of gaining more Shakti, more energy to continue my thinking and searching, and to facilitate, in some small measure, the same in my readers that I offer this book.
Pondicherry, April 24, 2015