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Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Statesman and the VIP!

My grandfather was the first VIP known to me.  All family celebrations and everything good and bad was blessed by him.  His children were the bread winners, but they brought in their economic contribution and he was the headman who ran the house.  Gifts to his grandchildren on their birthdays, even though, paid for by the parent, is passed on to the family headman to bless the child with.  Everyone waited for him to be present before a meal is served and consumed.  He was simply the leader to look up to with respect and reverence.   Every wedding invitation, including the ones of his younger brothers' children,  went out in his name.  There was no ill feeling that he was prioritized over others in the large joint family.  

The experienced elderly statesmen (the term is not gender specific), were competent leaders who managed relationships.  They were equanimous and acted as the fuse.  It will be fool hardy to believe that the "statesmen of the yore" were all exemplary and without any blemish!  Umpteen instances of blemishes can be cited, if we were to put it to debate.  But the larger good of the family and the society were at their heart.  The vast new opportunities and economic prosperity was always tempered with the traditional virtues and the common good of the extended family.  Of course, there were occasional tensions caused by the need for change and rebellion of a younger member of the family.  These were the tests that the statesmen passed by sheer grit or by superior sense of compromise.

The lesser fortunate members of the extended family were treated with compassion, owing to either goodness of other family members or the dictat of the elder statesman who upheld the traditions and ensured common good is not sacrificed in loud celebration of personal success.  There was a system of taking care of the sick among the family members.  Crisis of all nature was referred and resolved.   The younger lot stayed involved with their pursuit of professional activities, unhindered by the day-to-day incidents of hospitalization or extra attention to an errant child!  In short a well defined commune existed under the leadership of the statesmen.  

Cut to the present day, where joint families are anything but a fading memory, economic considerations have simply overtaken and colored our psyche.  Today's VIP's are those who are in a position of power generated by either economic might or political power.  So much so that the value system has been relegated to be subservient to economic priorities and political equations. The question is not one of right or wrong, it's one of social transformation post the demise of the statesman across all spheres of the society.   

As a society we have strongly clutched the philosophy of VIPism without upholding the qualities and values of prioritisation.  This is immensely manifest in the system of lowly gangsters, rapists, thieves and robbers claiming to be the new VIP's and the resultant chaos.  Our trials and tribulations as a society are clearly on account of our scepticism and it's time we took a stand and attain enlightenment.  Such enlightenment alone can preserve our freedom and peace.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Chairman!

I just read a news item on the dilema of State Bank of India on a sticky issue of how to address their first ever woman leader.  Should it be "Chairman" as the rule book says, Or as "Chairperson" as the new traditions of the society?  

I realise that professional titles cannot be gender specific.  A manager is a manger whatever be the gender of the title holder.  Aren't we collectively, consisting of men and women, addressed as "Mankind"?   In a manufacturing organization they don't have "Foreperson" or "Forewoman", the position is "Foreman" irrespective of the gender of the person performing the function.

There are naming confusions which were never resolved, like the President's wife is a "First Lady" which is a ceremonial title as a First Lady has some protocols to observe!  How do we address the President's husband?  Will it be "First Gentleman" or simply "First Man"? 

However, there are justifiable gender equivalent titles where gender differentiation is of consequence, like for example "host" to "hostess",  or, "Master" to "Mistress"!   That leads me to an anomaly which must have been the result of ill informed activism when, someone indeed decided to rename the position of "Head Master" to that of "Head Mistress" as there is a provision made to differentiate a "Master" from a "Mistress" however absurd it may sound at times.

Ultimately the culture that we adopt shapes the language we speak!   Social bias and belief based on such bias determining gender specific competencies to perform certain jobs and roles, leads to a job being titled reflecting a gender specific naming convention, eg. "Midwife"!  I remember a global customer service leadership conference of a multinational company that I was part of, where I was the lone male member!  We are living in a time when there is absolute equality in terms of what the genders  can professionally accomplish.  We cannot ever determine a specific, job, task or function as feminine or masculine, with the exception of, may be, conceiving and delivering a child in a natural manner, and there we can absolutely have gender specific naming convention.

Finally, the news article did mention that the State Bank of India board did name and decide to call their first woman Leader as "Chairman" as their policy did not offer another option to address their leader.  That's settled, then!