17 Apr

Whither Social Harmony?


Education has been held up as a single panacea for all social ills. The championing of education, with valid merit in most cases, is universal and profound. The many advantages and the many positive externalities make education seem like the single shining point of light in the midst of gross societal chaos. In India it has taken curious routes – this championing of education – and the following random points are mere pointers at the total chaos in our understanding of this phenomenon:

  1. BooksThe value of education and knowledge is ingrained in and through religion, myth, ritual and a general cultural ethos.
  2. It is not without reason that our cultural history is sprinkled with systemic and individual efforts of devotion to knowledge, efforts that generated a whole social ethos closely related to the Brahminic culture. This association became so close as to become a metaphor – the brahmin is a synonym for a knowledgeable man.
  3. Quite conversely, this ethos of knowledge survived among its practitioners by systemic denial among others. A whole system of proprietorship was evolved, developed on the foundations of crafted religion and morals – a system that sanctified such knowledge as divine, and hence, only practitionable only by the chosen elite. The corollary was ignorance of this knowledge (this is never to allege that Brahminic knowledge is the only form of valid knowledge and knowing) among the vast majority.
  4. Independent India paid handsome homage to the value of knowledge, to the utlity of demolishing this structure and system of denial, to the logic of social benefit through dissemination of knowledge. And this homage was occasioned by and met with Herculean efforts at being an Ostrich. Our contemporary history is a peaen to our myopic objectives, of compromising the future for the present, of sacrificing the many for the few. This period saw our allegiance to the notion of education and to the practice of hypocrisy. Sixty years of ‘freedom’ and our social indicators are a mess when compared with the numerous success stories drafted at around the same time.
  5. Lately, our service sector is showing a stupendous buoyancy, and a few shrewd observers have commented that our penchant for and success in white collar jobs has much to do with this social ethos that generated today’s crop of achievement. There is confusing and controverted thinking involved here – while most deplore the low social expenditure of yore, many celebrate today’s achievement as a fallout of yesterday’s investment, however minimal.

It is obvious to find that as a society, as a polity and as individuals we have still not been able to define our approach towards education and knowledge, our committment to the idea of education as a panacea, and to its utility as a tool of social engineering.

Many a times I am personally perturbed, however, when eduation is thus championed as a panacea. Many months back during the Foundation days, we had the occasion to write essays on different topics. I chose a topic that assumed much the same in its very title – it said ‘Social Harmony is Possible Through Universal Education’. I wanted to counter this assumption, and hence I wrote my essay as a rebuttal to that assumption. I am presenting here that article to forward my arguments.

Social Harmony is Possible Through Universal Education – A Counter-View