In India, servants sit on the floor, often use separate entrances to the houses, and eat the leftover food, on plates reserved for them. They have no freedom, are abused, work very long hours, at least six days a week, and get no vacations. They can be laid off without any notice. Children are not exempt from being servants.
In condominium buildings, servants are not allowed the use of elevators. They must walk up the staircase. They are refused entry into malls and restaurants or are asked to sit at tables reserved for servants.
Stories float around about the sexual exploitation of women and children in the servant class. They get beaten up, but hardly ever does a legitimate case go to the police. When it does, bribes take care of everything, including disappearing the victim. The predatory Indian police — mostly made up of those from the lower caste — has no concept of investigation. Society is apathetic, driven by expediency, and lacks moral consciousness.
When you ask a middle-class person about the quality of life in India, he will tell you glorious stories, because in his mind, his fleet of servants, maids, and chauffeurs consists of mere automatons.
Hardly ever does a legitimate case go to the police. When it does, bribes take care of everything, including disappearing the victim.
This is the story of India in posh localities of urban centers, the ones I have witnessed at close quarters. As you move away from the urban centers, depravations worsen rapidly.
I have often been a silent spectator of such things. This is because the society I am seeing is complex. Aspects of a culture that are very different in themselves have a symbiotic relationship to one another. They are organically connected. They are entangled. If you try to change one part without an awareness of why it exists, you will likely fail and, worse, create unseen complications and new pathologies. Moreover, what looks like a bad thing to someone naively imputing to himself a higher moral ground might be something that is natural and cannot be changed. What he might see as the suffering of others is perhaps not experienced as suffering by the so-called victims.
One might say that something must be done through the strong arm of government. But armchair do-gooders have made the situation worse. And there is no shortage of do-gooders, particularly among the urbanized who went to Ivy League colleges, those who have learned to see the world in black and white, devoid of the complexities of life. Hordes of people who have no ideas of their own and who want to look cool tag along. These exist in their own modern-day symbiosis with the unscrupulous and those who like to lord it over the lives of others. But I hardly need to tell you that. The consequences of top-down social engineering are all around us. When bigotry — real or imagined — is attacked in a simplistic, naive way, it makes the situation far worse than it was.
I went through a highly competitive process to go to an engineering college. A vast majority of the seats were reserved for those from the lower caste. In an entrance examination where wrong answers carried negative marks, those who had access to reserved seats were better off if they left the paper blank. Some with negative scores actually “passed” the entrance examination. Once in the engineering college, they struggled, and many dropped off. Some stayed put for years, some for decades, although the examiners were politically pressured into passing them. The same happened in other professional courses and jobs in the government.
Armchair do-gooders have made the situation worse. And there is no shortage of do-gooders.
Even competent people from the lower caste are branded as incompetent because of affirmative action policies. No one I know, not even those from the lower caste, would visit a doctor from that caste.
The consequence has been more than just a simple, linear infusion of incompetence in the institutions. Because of the quota system, competent people have either left the institutions, emigrated, or had to adjust to the ways of the incompetent people. What else would you do if your boss was several notches less skilled and competent than you were? What would you do if you realized that your incompetent subordinate would eventually become your boss, given the preference he got in promotions?
Knowing that they went up despite their lack of competence, the “beneficiaries” of the quota system are gravely insecure and inflict most of their tyranny on those of their kind. What you read about as news of a caste conflict is usually a conflict between two groups of lower caste fighting for tribal supremacy.
To address crime against women, anything they say has come to be seen as valid by the police. On the one hand, when they get raped, decent girls do not go to the police. On the other, a vast majority of police cases are fake. The result is that many worthy people I know no longer offer jobs to women.
What would you do if you realized that your incompetent subordinate would eventually become your boss?
Today, India has gone a long way in trying — and failing — to eradicate the caste system and other social pathologies. A vast majority of those in the government offices are from the lower caste. India’s president is from the lower caste. Its prime minister is from the lower caste. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines had female heads of government before most nations of the West. But what looks, from the ivory tower or the higher ranks of government, like an improving situation for those from the lower caste has become worse with the affirmative action policies. Moreover, the unseen collateral damage to the institutions and civilization has been massive.
Fifteen years back, I visited South Africa for the first time. The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), an affirmative action policy to push blacks into positions of power and wealth, was gaining ground. I visited the office of a Canadian-owned venture company. The office’s parking lot looked like an exhibition of flashy, high-end cars. This had to be expected from those who got easy money. Those who thought that requiring companies to offload part ownership to blacks and enable them to move up the hierarchy faster were going to improve equity and race relations were living in a fool’s paradise. As time has gone by, race relations in South Africa have worsened. Instead of equity being achieved, everyone seems to be a few notches poorer, and South Africa, now in the hands of incompetent and utterly stupid people, is falling apart.
This does not mean that BEE will be reined in. Once you have taken the path of irrationality, once you have started to pray to Dionysus and given up on Apollo, you will keep doing more of what created the original problems.
Recently, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG), Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI), etc., have become new-age religions in the institutions in the West. The need for diversity — obviously at the cost of merit — has spread like wildfire among publicly listed companies in North America, even the small ones.
At a conference, a few of us analysts were publicly grilling the CEO of a small venture company. The first question he was asked was about the alleged lack of diversity in his company. Hoping against hope, I thought he would say that a small company does not have the liberty to compromise on meritocracy and that taking on the seemingly highminded but otherwise naive challenges isn’t what he would deliver on. Instead, he gave a long lecture on the need for diversity, inclusion, and equity. Soon after that, he appointed “a minority” to the board of directors.
Once you have taken the path of irrationality, you will keep doing more of what created the original problems.
I partly sympathize with him. If you don’t have at least a woman or a person of color in a senior position in your company, you are unlikely to get funding from powerful financiers. Because of his distance from the moment of truth, the ulterior owner of the invested money thinks that his apparent good deeds come at no cost.
Honorable women, people of color, and LGBTQ people I know find the affirmative action policies, the expectation for “diversity” in organizations, deeply repulsive, patronizing, and condescending — and, contrary to the views of the naive, high-minded planners, extremely bigoted.
These mindless policies would not have gained ground had they not come to exist with another pathological cultural development, that of the cancel culture, which prevents objective examination of purportedly progressive policies. With the critical mass on the side of virtue signaling — and why not, when a majority of people have no ideas of their own and merely go along with whatever is popular? — decent people have no choice but to stay quiet or risk getting ostracized, losing their jobs, their friends, and sometimes even their families. This is the current condition of the world, from India to Indianapolis.
Jayant, you need to write in Liberty more often. Your hard-hitting essays have informed me for quite a few years now. Thank you for this one.