THE *KHOBRAGADE* IN ALL OF US
This tagline is inspired from today’s Times of India edit column.
Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat to USA, made headlines last year when she faced charges of fraud, for misrepresenting details in her maid’s visa application. The nation witnessed a sharp divide both ways – for & against.
To me `Khobragade’ as a person means nothing; but `Khobragade’ in my mind has become synonymous with a way of thinking.
Before I explain myself, allow me to quote from the Times of India articles that set me thinking.
TOI / June 2, 2014 / Radhika Vaz / Edit / Quoted
…. The urban Indian is willing to put aside all his differences to stand united with one another against his servant …. How else can we explain the support Devyani got from us as a nation …. The accusation against her is that she fudged documents so that she could import a maid, and she got caught …. And educated Indians everywhere rushed to her defense, completely ignoring the plight of her maid …. Is it because we think our servants are less than us, or because we want to keep them in their place, or both? …. In the end it doesn’t matter, we are all complicit in perpetrating social separation. The kind America experienced during segregation; the kind South Africa experienced with apartheid; the kind India experienced during pre-independence with British ruler class & we, their servant class ….
TOI / June 2, 2014 / Preet Bharara / US Attorney General / Quoted
…. That was not so pleasant, I was upset as a normal human being might be, then the accusations got more absurd, they became downright comical …. Indian critics were angry because even though I hailed from India, I appeared to be acting American, and was acting to serve the interests of America; which was odd, because I am American, and my title does say US Attorney General …. It wasn’t the crime of the century but it was a serious crime nonetheless …. State dept opened the case, investigated it, career prosecutors approved criminal charges – but it became an international case ….
WHAT THE WORD `Khobragade’ MEANS FOR ME:
Like I said in the very beginning, what Devyani Khobragade did, or what India thought about her, is of no consequence to me. That is a matter on which much has been said & done.
For me the word `Khobragade’ has come to mean `a conflict in thinking’. For me `Khobragade’ has become synonymous with the 2 demons that are forever playing tug-of-war in our mind – Loyalty & Rationality. Or should I say – Loyalty v/s Rationality.
LOYALTY v/s RATIONALITY
At a macro level – the last 6 months for India have witnessed incredible polarization of views, emotions & passions. And somewhere down the line – everything that we said, in defense or in prosecution, was tainted with a loyalty that had clearly moved away from rationality.
When we spoke for a cause or a person – we spoke with the loyalty of heightened passions – clearly stamping on evidence to the contrary & hoping that the louder our voices became, the easier it would be to drown all voices of dissent & doubt.
At the other extreme, when we spoke against a cause or a person – we spoke with the loyalty of conscience keepers, patrons of truth, moral police et al – clearly magnifying all available evidence to make it look more ghastly & more ghoulish than it may have been.
- This man is our savior.
- This man is a butcher.
- You are annihilating my religion.
- No, you are humiliating my religion.
- My religion is secular.
- Your religion is discriminatory.
- The ones that left sold our country.
- The ones that will come will make us a super power.
- That channel has sold its soul (views anti to our own).
- That anchor is anti nationalist (views anti to our own).
- This channel gives correct information (views matching to our own).
- This anchor is nationalist (views matching to our own).
- That CM must resign.
- That CM is a neighboring stooge.
- Kill kill kill. Resign resign resign.
- Win win win. Lose lose lose.
- So what if she fudged her certificates.
- Oh she fudged her certificates, drag her through the streets.
- And so on it goes on…
Either way, when our pendulum swings to the extremes, it is loyalty personified at that end – but when our pendulum rests in the middle, even for a brief pause, we have a chance at testing our rationality.
At a micro level – the % of loyalty & rationality in your day to day expressions will determine the health & length of your communication with others, and with own your inner self.
WHERE IT ALL BEGINS – LOYALTY IS REWARDED & RATIONALITY IS PUNISHED
- We are taught very early in life – *to be loyal*.
- How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: to be loyal to ourselves.
- How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: that you cannot believe in others unless you believe in yourself first.
- How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: be loyal to your thoughts; test your thoughts; and create a set of personal ideologies that result from that testing.
- How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: believe in ideas, not in people; that way you will know when to pat on the back & when to slap on the wrists.
- How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: to be loyal to the principles of religion & not religion per se.
- Yes, how I wish… how I wish…
But wishes are not horses & beggars don’t ride. The reality of our formal & informal *education*is something like this:
- Family is God. Hence: my mother, father, brother, sister can do no wrong. End of rationality.
- We grow older. My school is the best. Hence: my teachers can teach nothing wrong. End of rationality.
- We grow still older. My college, my university, my friends, my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my spouse, my child, my organisation, my boss, my job: all flawless.
- In fact, we go through workshops, seminars & training programs to further *instill loyalty* into us, until the last shred of rationality is sucked out.
- God forbid, if we dare to see the other side of the coin, then we become *traitors*.
- So what has essentially happened is: from the time we are born to the age we are today – for every show of *loyalty* we have received a reward that further pushes us to exhibit the same behavior.
- And for every show of *rationality* we have been mercilessly slapped on our wrists & branded as fickle / traitors / cheaters / defectors by our parents, siblings, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, bosses & even countrymen.
THE LOYALTY EFFECT
To sum it up: Loyalty has a *pro* word attached to it. Pro-family, pro-commitment, pro-friends, pro-society, pro-progress, pro-organization, pro-hierarchy, pro-religion, pro-national, pro-humanity, pro-God…
Oxford definition aside, `Loyalty’ is a word that has become synonymous with reverence / worship / integrity character.
So basically: Good human beings are essentially loyal; you are trained to look at the good in a person / organization / idea & turn a blind eye to the bad; you are trained not to make corrections or improvements, or else you risk slipping in your ratings.
We idolize people, relationships, institutions, organizations rather than – the values-in-a-person, the depth-of-a-relationship, the strength-of-an-institution, the learning-from-an-organization.
We become conditioned to perceive change as a threat that will shake the foundation, rather than an opportunity to strengthen the same. We become complacent because neither are we expected to change nor are we trained to tolerate change in others.
Stagnation, boredom, suffocation sets in – and loyalty will destroy the very structure that it was carefully cultivated to protect.
THE RATIONALITY EFFECT
To sum it up: Rationality has an *anti* word attached to it. Anti-family, anti-commitment, anti-friends, anti-society, anti-progress, anti-organization, anti-hierarchy, anti-religion, anti-national, anti-humanity, anti-God…
Oxford definition aside, `Rationality’ is a word that is used synonymously with cold / severe / ruthless / selfish.
So basically: You are not allowed to change your views, analysis & perception about people, relationships, organizations, ideas & ideologies. If you have believed in something or someone once, you will have to continue to exert that belief till death. Should you wish to change or modify your perceptions – the world will write your obituary.
But when we move away from this fear – we become like the pendulum of a well oiled Grandfather-clock – we develop our skills to see both sides of a person / an idea / a situation.
We learn to separate the chaff from the grain & not throw away the baby with the bathwater. We can retain what is necessary & do away with what is not; that translates into bringing change into ourselves & encouraging others to change according to their inner ideologies.
We detach ourselves from a personalized perspective & move to an issue based perspective. For eg. – Instead of: “x is good, y is bad” – we move to: “that is good about x, and that is bad about x”; “that is good about y, and that is bad about y”.
Subduing loyalty & encouraging rationality has been an urge with me from as far back as I can remember. And I have earned many tags & labels, and not so positive ones at that, on a/c of this.
But there are times when I sway heavily towards loyalty – shades of grey disappear, then it is either black or white – depending on whether I am for or against a person or an ideology. Then the suffocation with my own thought process sets in till I can’t breathe my own thoughts any more.
That’s when I take that inevitable breather. I breathe out loyalty, I breathe in rationality. And you what – it works every time.
The pendulum still swings – but it doesn’t stop at any end – it gently falls to the middle – allowing me to understand what lies in between – before swinging to the other end, for a different perspective – and then gently back again into the middle. Not a result, a process. And a continuous one at that.