Monday, August 31, 2009

Origins of Indians anti-community behaviour

This is a topic which pops up often for me, either when talking to friends or when I observe some obnoxious behaviour somewhere or when reading an article discussing it. That is, why do a large percentage of Indians, including yours truly, tend to behave in some level of anti-community behaviour. When I mean anti-community behaviour, I am talking about behaviour that are beneficial to self but clearly cause an issue or hindrance to others in the community. A lack of civic sense. Very common examples are: Jumping a line sneakily or clustering around the window trying to be first even though you just came, illegally parking in places you very well know will obstruct others, driving on the wrong side forcing opposite traffic to move over or stop, throwing litter everywhere, honking unnecessarily, speeding past pedestrians including pregnant women, elderly & children even when they are on pedestrian crossings, talking loudly in public and tourist places, etc., and yes, sometime or other I would have been culprit on some of them too, if not directly at least by looking the other way when the group/person you are with behaves poorly. Now, this kind of behaviour is there in *all* countries only in not that high of a percentage and not *all* Indians are like that only they are too few.

I am so obsessed with this topic that I immediately purchased the book "Games Indians Play: why we are the way we are" by, V. Raghunathan, academic from IIM as soon as I saw the cover page thinking, wow, now I will know it all. But, the book uses Game theory and concludes that we are like this only because it is beneficial to us! Well, duh. It never answers why in other places people are not like this most of the time, even though it is *clearly* beneficial there also! So, my search continues...

I have come across many and varied reasons or should we say excuses for our behaviour. a) Britishers screwed up our brains during their rule b) over population leading to too much competition c) suppressed sexual urges looking for outlets d) it is the only way to get things done e) our religious background with heavy emphasis on fate does not encourage community based thinking or object to the bullying person f) we are ruled by people who themselves lack civic sense and ethics so what do you expect? and so on. Each one of these can be argued for and against with examples. Maybe it is a bit of all these and others I have not listed. Whenever I have the time I like to approach a person misbehaving and question them. A true incident: elderly person was peeing under a cluster of trees inside Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. I asked "Sir, do you not know that children play here?", his response, "Are you perfect? Don't you do anything wrong? Correct yourself and don't question others!". Philosophical! So he accepts he is wrong but does not like others to point it out. Another one: People parking inside a ground obstructing games instead of outside. When asked: "Will you replace it if I park outside and it gets vandalized?". How to respond to this type of argument?

My main interest is what are the ways in which we as a community start turning it around. Again many ideas are out there .... a) start teaching early to the kids. But who? Most parents who should set the best example are themselves irretrievably unethical and lack civic sense. Schools? Some try but most schools ignore it. TV? we hardly have a single good Indian children's program which teaches civic sense. Of these I feel TV is the best medium and hopefully somebody will get to it. b) More policemen to punish the offenders. I always felt, we can have at least 200 traffic policemen who can easily get their pay by ticketing all the traffic offenders! c) Lead from the top. Our politicians setting the tone on proper civic sense by not abusing their power and following the laws as ordinary citizens whenever possible. OK. Now I am day-dreaming! :) d) our public figures in films, sports, arts etc showing the way. I know a lot of them already do but how can we impose this among them? Also, a high percentage are themselves very poor role models.

I feel that things can get better only when each and every one of us wakes and follows some semblance of civic sense and ethical behaviour and expects others they interact with to do the same. Sometimes you may be at an disadvantage when you do so but you should not let that affect you and fall into the same trap.

Please share every suggestion and opinion you may have....