Saturday, September 16, 2006

Leaders in thought and action

Yesterday, as I was sitting at my comp, working, my colleague M, an foreigner dropped by. He had been to some village during the weekend and was amazed at it's primitiveness. He remarked that he felt like he was going back in time.

His remarks left me thinking. Here was a man from the Caucasian stock, a race of people who went through the same process of evolution as us. But look at them!!! Almost every advancement in modern day world can be credited to them.

As I looked around my office floor, I could not spot a single item except the Zero’s written on my notepad that was either discovered or invented by an Oriental. Even the concept of justice and equality is borrowed from them and our Constitution comprises of the salient features from many western countrie's Constitutions.

The computer I work on, the software I was using, the chair and table, the pen and paper I used, my mobile everything, directly or indirectly was made by the white man. What is it that sets apart them from us, as both the western and eastern civilizations went through the same process of evolution from primitive beings?

While we evolved culturally, they evolved and progressed on all fronts. We send droves of Software Engineers to the US, while they discovered Computers and Software Engineering. In fact even the fertilizer used in the village, which my colleague visited, would have been invented by someone in the western civilization. Almost every enhancement in our life, from birth to death can be attributed to them.

Overlooking the obvious criticisms of the western society, I must admit that they are definitely superior to us in intellect. We excel in everything they invent, but rarely invent or discover anything new on our own, even today, when we have IISCs and IITs.

I still wonder what sets them apart from the other races on this planet.

34 comments:

Immigrant in Canada said...

Education! that is the only explanation.. As someone who studied in Malaysia, India and England, I can tell you, it is the way we teach our children..
Westeners teach their kids to think "Why", while we teach our kids"Listen to what I am telling, I know better than you!"

My kids go to an inner city school here, no home work, no text book. Though at times I am worried, especially when I myself had tons of home work, when I was my daughter's age, I also know, she has been taught to think..She gets a new library book each day from her school, she knows more about her rights, responsibilities than i ever did..
So though we invented 0, we stopped progressing, because we are so worried about destroying/damaging our century old tradition, that we forgot to evolve.. and the westeners.. they don't have any such worries!

Abhay S said...

First let me clarify that I do not write this in a "patriotic" sense of way that we have done this or that etcetra.

But the fact is the Eastern counterpart has been very much responsible for the advancement of world civilization.
E.g Paper making, Gunpowder, Printing techniques and Compass were invented by Chinese. The importance of paper making and printing cannot be emphasised enough. European navigators couldn't have discovered the new world without the compass.

The important thing we fail to recognize is that we have been made to think through "propoganda" and "education" that the contributions have come only from western civilization.

Not only materialism but also on the fronts like philosophy.
Take the example of agnosticism. Most of the people I know have attributed it to T.H. Huxley as if the idea did not exist. But agnosticism and atheism has been an important school of thought in India ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carvaka )
Buddhism is the only agnostic religion of the world.

The problem lies with the loss of history. Strangely the only subject not taught in anciet Gurukuls was history. The history which we learn at school has been written by James Mill without leaving the shores of Great Britain.

>I still wonder what sets them apart from the other races on this planet.
Secondly, if you attribute the inventions to races then contributions by people of "eastern civilization races" need to be attributed to eastern civilization. So a lot of research being done by Chinese and Indians (sitting in US) should be added on the side of eastern civilization.

All I want to say is that we need to be more objective in our assessment. It would be wrong to say that a particular orange is not tasty because it is not as red as the good apple you ate.

silverine said...

Sarah: I think you have a point!! We do not inculcate the spirit of enquiry in our kids. They just learn by rote. Even in the ancient Gurukuls, the Gurus were supreme and the pupils learnt all that he taught subserviently. Which is why the West is the thought leader.

abhay: I am aware of the contribution of the Orient, but our achievements are pitiful compared to the West.Thanks for dropping by :)

Fleiger said...

I would not be so crazy as to call this a rant against India, it's a critisism at most.

Anyways, talking about modern inventions, what we fail to perceive is that India was under british rule for a long time, which caused severe changes in our habits, our educational system and everything. Rulers are often reluctant for their aam janata to be learned and compete with them. So, essentially what we are changing/learning/inventing now is product of 60 years, not 400 years as european nations had to invent.

On the other hand, that does not account for failure of our "cream" institutes. Our education pattern may be a reason here, which is from what I see is changing, even if slowly. I refuse to think that India which gave the world many inventions (even apart from zero) has lived past its prime.

Anonymous said...

The east spents more time pondering over religion, spirituality, creating and maintaining social inequilibrium and reproduction:-) If we had come past this, we might have gone forward. It is depressing to think that most of the religious crimes come from the east and that they are done by governments. In the west, the only difference is rich and poor, at least, among the whites.

But don't you think that it is changing? Intellectually, the east leads right now.

-Kajan

Alexis Leon said...

I agree with Sarah on Education. But it is just not the lack of awakening the curiosity of the kids. There are other factors too. We won't allow the children to take risks. We want everything to be planned.

Would we allow our kids to drop out of college to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams? We won't. We are afraid of the possibility of the failure. So we play it safe. We make them doctors, engineers or employees.

In the West people get a chance to take responsibility of their lives. So they have more freedom to follow their dreams. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are college dropouts. They created two most successful product generating houses.

Even in IITs and IIMs, they focus is not invention or innovation. There is a question one of the characters of 'Five point someone' [Yes, the Chethan Bagath's novel about his IIT days) asks: How many patents do an IIT professor hold, how many inventions they makes as compared to a professor in MIT. How many students in the IIT and IIM are encouraged to do product development projects?

So it is basically our educational system, social values and no risk attitude that prevents us from becoming inventors and innovators. People who have graduated from Indian universities have gone to the US and have become the major inventors there. Many of the prominent figures of Silicon Valley are Indians. Another example is Bose music systems, another great company by an Indian and again a market leader.

Another factor is our bureaucratic system and political environment, which will sap the energy of any inventor or innovator. There are so many roadblocks here before a person can start a company. When other countries encourage more and more entrepreneurs to start companies our policies and practices are designed in such a way to prevent this from happening.

So we have only ourselves to blame.

Very relevant post. I only disagree with you on the intellectual superiority of our Western counterparts. We are equally good if not better. But the way we use it or how much of our capabilities and potential is utilized is the thing that makes the difference.

silverine said...

fleiger: Most of the inventions were done when India was not under the british rule! :)

kajan: "The east spents more time pondering over religion, spirituality, creating and maintaining social inequilibrium and reproduction" Very true!!


Alexis: I agree with you on all counts and you have listed some exhaustive reasons for our lack in innovation, invention and independence. However about the last para, when I read about western inventors and discoverers I see that most of them went through poverty, hostility, religious persecution (church) and tremendous odds to get where they are. Then why couldn't Indians?

Mind Curry said...

As I looked around my office floor, I could not spot a single item except the Zero’s written on my notepad that was either discovered or invented by an Oriental

i have felt the same thing a lot of times..sometimes i look around and i feel i am the only Zero! :(

:)

we are late bloomers or something perhaps

ok seriously i think to a certain extent its because of two things:
1. the many wars we have faced over the years, which perhaps is a basic reason.
2. the population: example,consider the money earmarked for healthcare. we can hardly make medicines and treatment available to the entire nation. most of the people dont receive healthcare at all. in this situation, there is no scope for funding research. add to it, scumbags who oppose privatisation as a blanket rule without seeing the pros and cons - that sort of pegs the alternatives too.

silverine said...

mind curry: "i have felt the same thing a lot of times..sometimes i look around and i feel i am the only Zero!"

grr doc don't say that, I can't think of a more noble profession than yours. Remember my threat? I am quite capable of carrying it out,
(if only I can get a Lancet from somewhere!!! :p)

Doc, the western inventors too had it tough and had to face insurmountable odds to achieve what they did. I think Sarah and Kajan have a point.

Jiby said...

Reading your post i am reminded of the observations made 1000 years back by a moroccan traveller, al-beruni, visiting india. The gist of what he said then was that indians are arrogant of superiority of their sciences, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, culture and religion and their unwillingness to imbibe the good in other civilizations.

Obviously that closed thought continued for a millenium and the west outraced us while we chanted our mantras and accentuated the caste system. But fact is i think, it would be interesting to see that looking at it as if we are starting from a clean slate to see if the asian and african nations can match the west in the further progress of modern civilization...the challenges are big, villages, poverty, disease, wars, everthing is against us...education like sarah said will be the key!

the east kickstarted civilization, the west furthered it, now hope everyone works together to sustain it! wonderful post!

emmanuel said...

our education system is completely based on a lucrative job offer coming in your way after you study "a lot".
in the west, they can pursue their interests according to their wishes...
so the outlook is one reason....

research is another keyword....the intellectuals in west draft papers and theories to implement a new thing.....we depend on those to make our papers and seminars.....when we were in college we were asked to make seminars based on some foreign university papers or IEEE papers; no body asked to try for a new one....

then i think family is also a reason....we are bound by a family being an influenced individual and in west they are more individual on their own........

once our maths teacher in engg. college told in the last day of his class that he considers himself to be lucky to reach the position where he is. the reason he stated that, in his village he has seen many students with high mathematical skills who are not able to make it because of their financial limitations. so here ultimate aim is a job. if u see the maths competitions or spelling bee in US, chinese and indian children rule there at present, since they are not limited by their circumsatances.....so i don't think that "we" r inferior in intellect.....

when we find that only 3% of our GDP is spent on education, we can clearly feel the 'importance' of education in our country....

science drives technogy and vice versa in the west but here technology makes us lazy.....

we expect high technology from outside....they make it for themselves........

so outlook, education, lack of research, financial backwardness, social backwardness etc and upto an extent even family are the reasons.....

the MNCs started outsourcing services at the beginning, but now they even transfer "high knowledge required" areas to the east.....even some R&D centres are here.....the best automobile engines come from east....the low cost electronics revolution came from east.....the fabrication of almost all electronic appliances happen now in china, thailand etc.....

one more thing, when the west developed they didn't have to fight for freedom.....but we had to......because they ruled us....i think that is also a reason....

some basic anomalies are there......if we also have resources, climate, population etc. same as the west, i think the world would not have had much differences as we see now.....

to conclude, i feel that religions are also a greater deal against our progress.....i feel religions always limit free thought.......

one more thing....we r not so behind them....the green revolution is a classic example....i'm sure that no other country can be so sufficient in the way we are....even though the googd doesn't always reach everyone...then there is white revolution....

one more thing, don't be so "intimidated" by ZEROES. if that wasn't there, how would have you differentiated 1,10,100,1000,10000 etc.????

so, think big....at least you will feel to be in a comfort zone.....

emmanuel said...

actually they were some random thoughts.....written in a hurry......so not well drafted.....

btw, the topic is nice to discuss....but, frankly i can't support all ur opinions.....i had pointed above.....

i just say that there are obvious reasons, some of them may be lame excuses...but the reasons are genuine...

kudos that u took up such a nice and "should be thought of and discussed" topic.... :)

silverine said...

Emmanuel:

"our education system is completely based on a lucrative job offer...one reason"

Most western inventers were prosecuted and ridiculed for their inventions. They didn’t have it easy :)

"research is another keyword....the intellectuals in west draft papers and... try for a new one...."

From what I have read, the western inventors conducted research on shoe string budgets because no one believed in their theories!

"once our maths teacher in engg. college told in the last day of his class that he considers ... "we" r inferior in intellect"

Most western inventers held regular jobs to keep the home fires burning and burnt the midnight oil in their pursuit of science.

"when we find that only 3% of our GDP is spent on education, we can clearly feel the 'importance' of education in our country...."

Education was given nil importance too in the west when these inventions took place, infact only the rich had access to education.

"so outlook, education, lack of research, financial backwardness, ...even family are the reasons"

These are the very same hurdles western inventors overcame in their pursuit of science

"the MNCs started outsourcing services at the beginning, but now they even transfer "high knowledge required" ... in china, Thailand etc"

We make what they invented cheaper, but they still have the credit of inventing these technologies.

"one more thing, when the west developed they didn't have to fight for freedom.........i think that is also a reason"

That is no excuse, as I said earlier, most western inventors went through poverty and hardship yet did not abandon their pursuit of knowledge. Most of them died penniless too.

"some basic anomalies are there......if we also have resources, climate, population etc...i feel religions always limit free thought"

The Church persecuted free thinking while ancient Indian temples were centers of learning.

"one more thing....we r not so behind them....the green revolution is a classic example....then there is white revolution"

The green revolution is a western concept which we followed due to our agrarian economy.

"one more thing, don't be so "intimidated" by ZEROES. if that wasn't there, how would have you differentiated 1,10,100,1000,10000 etc.????"

I never said I was intimidated by zero, but I am taken aback by what it depicts-lack of any initiative on our part to ponder, search and discover.

"so, think big....at least you will feel to be in a comfort zone"

I am not in a comfort zone as it evident from this post :)

"btw, the topic is nice to discuss....but, frankly i can't support all ur opinions.....i had pointed above"

No one has to agree to my views :)

"kudos that u took up such a nice and "should be thought of and discussed" topic"

Thank you Emmanuel :)

silverine said...

JibY: Thank you! That observation by the Moroccan traveler, al-beruni was an eye opener. Well...our slate is clean , we have everything at our disposal now, lets see what we can make of it!

jeseem said...

yeah, we slowed down 'cause of restraints in our society. also we had rigid views, which prevented us from accepting new ideas (even now it does).
ofcourse we r changing. cultures take a few generations to change, not a few months or years. so u will hav e to wait till u b'com a great grandmom possibly :) As a culture, we are realising that we r way behind so we are already into the first step of the fast path.
few more things, most of the basic maths that is used today was not developed by the caucasian race. and ofcourse the concept of daily bath came from india. if u had gone to europe in middle ages, u would hav certainly needed a nose plug :) .
As for great indian leaders/ceos, giv it another 20 years and u will see them.

emmanuel said...

hmmmm.......didn't expect such pinpointed replies for each.....

u interpret that way, i interpret my way....

one thing....one thing called renaissance was happened in the west.....thus they could come out of the darkness of the middle ages and church.....
what all u mentioned has happened due to that.......the intelligentia of that period could die for the knowledge in which they believed.....

but we didn't have such a renaissance.......why did the renaissance happened only there???
i don't know......

btw, u didn't discuss all of my points...... :(

one more thing, when i said the present u countered it with past.......and also i honestly i feel that i can clearly counter "all" of your arguments....but each of them require explanations......i can't write so much here.....

i agree with u ma'am.......i'm also not in the comfort zone.......my friends used to (even now!!) laugh at me when i try saying something like this......our discussions always fall into the new ads, films, cars, girls.....they always want those to be discussed......

don't know why......

emmanuel said...

hey....
sorry....
thanx for such an elaborated reply.... i can make thoughts broader....

but i felt one thing.....what u r trying to say doesn't reach me and vice versa.....these are to be discussed and debated face to face.....

take care.....

silverine said...

emmanuel:"one thing called renaissance was happened in the west" Why didn't it happen here? That is the crux of my post!! Why did the western inventers make things happen against all odds. No offense meant, but we have to stop making excuses and defending ourselves and accept that we just didn't have the enquiring mindset to make inventions happen!!! :)

Krishnan said...

Insteed of trying to be "western" in culture... If we copy their eduaction system in addition 2 a whole lot of things that we do! Things will b fine

emmanuel said...

u repeated what i had told about the renaissance.....
these aren't excuses.....i've also thought in the same way as yours.....i listed just a few of the answers to those "why"s.....

and as u asked, why them and not us? that makes u and me out of comfort zone....

a discussion thru' the comments doesn't go anywhere and as i told you, what i say doesn't reach u and vice versa.....
if possible, v'll have a face to face...... ;)

Rodent said...

This reminds me of a foreigner I meet when I was traveling. As we went through our conversation I came to know that he was Dutch. He told me how Dutch people are so intelligent and hardworking. Most of the great companies have Dutch as founder members, how the Dutch are the leading ship builders etc. He was so proud of his country.

Scene II: on my journey back, I a student, who just finished his Graduation and was preparing for GRE, it seemed that he was quite an intelligent fellow because he happened to be from BITS Pilani. I asked him what he wanted to do, he said I wanted to do higher studies in US and tries to get hold of a green card and settle there permanently.

Do you see the change in attitude? Apparently most of the inventions and discoveries in the recent past have Indian brains involved but they(scientists) are not Indians anymore!!!

We have hundred and 50 castes, 300 sub castes and what not, do you realize how much mental energy is needed to remember which one belongs to? Inspite of this don’t you think we are doing good ;).

To invent or discover something you need great inner strength and support, which is almost non-existent in India. Silverine, just one fine day if you told your folks that you are planning to do research for life would your folks agree? And if they agree then they will have to look at the possibility of supporting you throughout your life. And what would your friends say? Most of them would ridicule.

The other reason why whites can pursue their passion is because they have a social security which is way higher than what you and I enjoy. Their bread and butter are assured, but we have to earn ours.

We are undergoing revolution, Indians have started thinking, and we now understand that west is in no way superior to them. I am sure the generation next would be our answer to the west.

silverine said...

Jeseem: That does not answer my question, the Western inventers excelled during times of restraint.

Krishnan: The epoch making inventions were made when the West too had a fledgling education system. Education was spurred on by their inventions. But I agree that we should copy only the good things about the Western civilisations.

emmanuel: This post will become easy to understand when you realise that I am talking of inventions that were made when the West itself was evolving. I am not talking about present days.

Rodent: "The other reason why whites can pursue their passion is because they have a social security which is way higher than what you and I enjoy. Their bread and butter are assured, but we have to earn ours."

If you read up on Western inventers, you will see that they came up with their inventions and great breakthroughs in science amidst persecution, ridicule and in a time when science was almost non existent. I am not talking about present times!! Thanks for your comment :)

Pradeep said...

Education. Respect for time. Investment in intellect.

Look at the US. How much ever we criticise them, it's the most sought-after nation. Its strength lies not in its military, but in its educational institutions.

Somehow we just lack self-respect, self-esteem. We don't value our time, our own intellect.

Look at the amount of time we waste.... Why not waste it when it has just no value, was the answer once I got.

We have a lot more to learn. Our heritage and traditions are valuable, but that's not enough to take us anywhere.

venus said...

I disagree with you that Caucasians have superior intellect to asians. Western civilization had an advantage of freedom long before we had. Westerners were aggressive when eastern philosophy was very much peace oriented, which helped them to rule esat, which eventually suppressed our quest for knowledge. Which is the main factor for "so called" inventions from west.

And btw, if you are aware of vedas, which were existant even before christ, which is pure science, which we are learning today in our textbooks. Western knowledge is more popular because, western language is more widely spoken/understood today, and also they have more organized education "industry". Another major reason is as Abhay has pointed out- loss of history. We are believing in story what westerners are suggesting us to believe as history today!

Hence, the premises you have presented here can not be used to conclude that asians are inferior in intellect than westerners!

silverine said...

Pradeep: Absolutely true. I cannot add or improve on that assessment of yours. Thank you :)

Venus: My reply to emmnual and rodent would apply to your observation too. What has the Vedas given us? Antibiotics? Life saving drugs? Surgery? Trains, buses? Nothing! Apart from it's literary contribution it has done nothing to enhance our life. While western inventers have fought tremendous odds during the Dark Ages and even before that and bought science to the level it is today. And inspite of that we are yet to produce a single notable invention, whatever we have achieved has been done on the foundation provided by the West.

venus said...

today, yes, we have lost the science our ancestors had passed on to us. it was being practiced very successfully 100s of years back, it was very prevalent back then. And then, there was a period when major asia was subservient to the rulers of west, and then our practices, our quest for knwoledge, inventions- if you want to call them that, got hampered. When you are not free, your priority is to survive, not to invent! in this survival, these practices were lost somewhere in time. the science which is not prevalent today, does not mean that it does not exist!

silverine said...

Venus: The bottomline is that the West is a thought leader...if you read up on western inventers you see the tremendous odds that they went thru to further science. We on the other hand did nothing except for a few contributions.

Ramakrishnan said...

Silverine....

This had been a thought provoking right up indeed..Kudos to you at the outset, for the same...

What i personally feel is that we have lost the self reliance factor at some point of time in the history ...Niether are we fully western in terms our thoughts and approach nor are we aware fully eastern in terms of awareness of our roots...The knowledge factor which for which this country had been epitome in ancient times has become a faded memory...

Its true as you mentioned that almost everything that we observe in and around us has a western touch in it..But it also a sad fact that our knowledge on medicine,science,mathematics,religion,culture and almost all aspects of life for which we were held in high esteem has been lost in its glorious past!!!

I beg to differ with one of of the post that the ancient gurukula mode of teaching has made us servile..In fact the kind of respect and obedience that the student had for teacher at that point of time is nowwhere to be seen now..Nowadays values like respect comes at a very high premium!!!!!

The erudite ones of the lot after their gurukula used to specialise in their fields of interest and patronise the same(eg:Sushruta who was father of surgery,Bhaskaracharya specialist in astronomy etc)..But since most of the information at those times where propogated by rote and has ,it has faded off in the course of time...

Just to quote an instance,one of my acquiantance was inflicted by an acute bout of jondis.The bilirubin count went to such an extend that he was practically written off by the doctors.By word of mouth,the relation came to know of an ayurvedic practioner.The man who came down as a god sent messenger treated the boy in 3 doses using nothing more than syrup made out of crushed herbs..!!!!He humbly refused to accept a single penny stating that the knowledge he practised came down from generation to generation and would loose its sheen if it is commercialised....!!!Such is the power of knowledge....that it would make even the even the wisest of the wise all the more humble...

I have the highest respect for the inventors of modern era who have made astonomical change in our lives...Life would never never have been the same but for them..... The key lies in rediscovering our knowledgeble self parallely imbibing the goodness of the west...Its my contention that our research should be channelised in this direction...

silverine said...

Ramakrishnan : thank you for that detailed overview :)Even I went through the green leaf medicine when I had jaundice! Rediscovering our knowledgeble self parallely sounds the right way to go, but I still maintain that the Western inventers did precisely that those centuries ago!

Manoj said...

"I still wonder what sets them apart from the other races on this planet."

I beg to differ, this has absolutely nothing to do with *race*. Case in point - the achievements of the same race (that you chastise here) in another environment.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/8/29/1091/84205

These are fundamental (not *incremental*) contributions made by the same race in an alien country.

silverine said...

Manoj: Checked out the link and thanks for the same. This post was not about racism. It was about the contribution of the West to the bulk of scientific study that is our legacy now.

Manoj said...

Silverine,

Your post might not be about racism, but the point I was trying to make by referring you to the article was that Indians are in no way inferior to people from any other part of the world. I agree that the west has pioneered advances in science and technology, but it's more because of the presence of the right environment in their midst rather than due to an inherent capability or advancement of their "race".

silverine said...

Manoj: Let us look at this from the angle with which you presented the link. Night Shyamalan is a great ScriptWriter for movies...but who invented the talking movies? That is the gist of my post. It is no point making a swankier version of a car without giving due acknowledgement to the person who first thought of and made the first automobile.

I do not agree that these people had the right environment. Most of these pioneers battled tremendous odds and a hostile church to give us the body of knowledge that we have today.

I am not saying that the 'whites' are superior, but we are yet to prove that we are equal to them...yet. Let us not ride on other people's feats and do something unique.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Here's thing thing: What sets the white race apart from us is not superior inherent intellect,but education. Education came into their society much before it did into ours. That was thanks largely to christianity of course. Around the 12th and 13th centuries, schools and colleges were set-up in many places in Europe, that's when their intellectual phase began really. I'm sure you're aware of the dark ages prior to that, and the shocking atrocities committed during those times? It was the same white men. India, if you notice, has had the structured schooling system only for the last 150 to 200 odd years may be(i.e,since the British introduced it here)? Since then, we have been growing in leaps and bounds too. Which is why, we are presently one of the most highly regarded societies in terms of intellectual capability. Invention and discovery has not flowered as much in India, for other reasons. The process of invention and discovery are such as require time and isolation, and most importantly liberation from the bondage of daily affairs, so that the mind has sufficient idle time for abstraction. In India, even for the educated, their education is often spent on the struggle for survival rather than such refined pursuits as invention and discovery,which is why we make great engineers but not great scientists. Did you know that many of the greatest discoverers and inventors were actually Lords and Earls and people so well off that they had all the free-time on their hands for fruitful thought? Of course, all the credit goes to them for utilising that time so well, but i'm merely highlighting the differences in circumstances. The comparison you drew was a little akin to the comparison people make to say men are of a superior intellect. Given enough time and circumstances, the women are just as capable, and they'll prove it.