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Monday, 13 June 2011

The perils of a "devalued" society!

Switch on the radio, watch television or read a newspaper, you see a chorus on a civil society movement or a guru egging his followers to condemn corruption and black money through satyagraha and there is a whole din and melee caused by political dialogue around the subject of graft.

For those among us who call ourselves thinkers, it is crystal clear, we have lost almost all the values that we cherished as a nation or society.  Slowly and steadily we have built a society or rather attempting to build a society which is looking to build material wealth and slackened the rules around the path of material progress.  Lenders are happy to lend without much scrutiny, borrowers are not keen to assess their ability to repay or assess the risk of income loss on account of job-loss and other unknown phenomenon.  In a growing economy everything is hunky dory until the economy is heated to ultimately melt down. We have seen this happen is other economies in the first world and the repercussions of mindless consumerism. While those nations have already built a social welfare structure including a well developed medical insurance programme, we have none to write home about.  Can our fragile social fabric take the pain of economic meltdown along with deterioration of the value system?  All the din about graft in the media are signs of rapid deterioration!

Our strength has been our way-of-life and support system built around a strong extended or joint family system, which allowed resource pooling and resource regeneration.  In the new way of things, families have become nuclear and our social welfare systems, if they exist, are dysfunctional.  In such a scenario what are we communicating to the individuals?  Every member of our society is made to believe that he is on his own and he needs to save up and the message everyone has clearly internalised this message "save up as much as you can".  There is a thin line distinguishing saving from hoarding!

There is a deep rooted insecurity.  This insecurity is driving individuals to mop up as much resources as one can, and the means don't matter.  Slowly but steadily "mop-up-as-much-as-up-can" has become a motto of people from all walks of life.  The traditional value systems around honesty, truthfulness, courteousness and generosity are steadily eroded.  Elasticity to accept dishonesty in day-to-day dealings steadily erode the foundation of true value system. Value system is created through word of mouth and significant demonstration through practice.   A father who is dishonest at work everyday, cannot preach honesty to his children.   The result is evident, there is ready justification for violation of our own values, all this leading up to large scale corruption.  The beauty is we are happy to jump queue using influence, however it hurts us when someone else does it, leaving us in the queue (sometimes for ever)!

As responsible individuals, all of us need to revisit our own values.  Start practicing them and also preach them day-in-and-out to our circle of influence to establish a sensitive and generous society. Loka samasta sukhino bawantu!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Generosity as a value...

I used to wonder, as a child, why we had a large cemented platform built outside the door leading to our small village house. I asked my grand mother why she keeps refilling the pot with water kept ouside the door. My grand mother used to say that the passers-by can have a sip, if they ever felt thirsty. On a hot summer day when an odd passer-by sat on our cement platform, she would ask us to offer water or a glass of butter milk. She would urge us to share the mango and other delicacies with a host of children from the neighbourhood. She was very nice to even strangers. She believed all our neighbours were our well-wishers and never suspected anyone to be mischievous. If she found anyone saying anything that was hurtful or mischievous, she would correct the person, if younger, or chose to ignore if elder stating the person may have had a rough time. In short she was generous and very positive.

Having spent the last three decades chasing a career and building businesses, I look back and realise that I have missed the environment of generosity and positive outlook. I wonder if things would have been different if I practised my grandmother's brand of management. She saw herself as someone who was in a position to help and she did what she can to help anyone. She never judged and hence she was not afraid of anyone.

I am convinced that the world needs positive and generous people. For every mean and ambitious human being, we need a minimum of two trusting and genrous persons. It's time we taught our children the joy of giving, respecting strangers and doing what we can to help others (including strangers).