Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The great Indian train journey

After decades of socialist rhetoric, our nation’s grey (and greying?) cells are now getting stimulated with tons of free-market mumbo-jumbo. Ideas after ideas confuse and confound us. The worst of these “idea marauders” is “Competition.”It is said that Darwin’s Theory of evolution is a difficult idea to grasp. Not so among our compatriots. Suddenly it seems such an obvious theory and we love the Briton for it. To all of us in the subcontinent who are happy to be fed and clothed, Darwin’s thesis rhymes simplistically, monotonously and sweetly in our ears, all suitably adapted to the local milieu.
The fittest shall survive
None but the fittest shall survive
The strong shall inherit
None but the strongest shall inherit
This blessed earth
And all the material (and non-material) wealth
The pious amongst us knoweth.
The point is we do not understand what Competition really means. For most Competition is still the zero-sum games that we all play under inadequate supply conditions, like those we experience with the great Indian train journey. The scramble for body space, leg space and luggage space all define competition for us. It is such rawest forms of human exchange that condition our idea of Competition. And we seem to have difficulty in coming out of this mindset.
The train journey manoeuvres cannot be dismissed as instinctual, unpremeditated animal action. It appears that everyone thinks he or she is being “strategic” -- making complicated calculations to appropriate maximum space, beating the slant of the sun, or making clever manoeuvres to detrain most efficiently. Behind these competitive dynamics with the “other” individual(s), lurks an investment of human intelligence no animal can match. In a supply-choked society, tactical thinking passes for strategic thinking. Business Today, August 15, 2004 posted by Sankaran at Sunday, February 26, 2006 TAPMI, Manipal, Karnataka, India

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