April 6, 2007

The Lost Centurians

The future of thousands of candidates who have got admission to central educational institutions, including top medical, engineering and management schools, is in limbo with the Centre asking all institutions to put on hold their final admission lists till "further orders".
Shiv Sena’s labour wing Bhartiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) will launch an agitation to ensure that “sons of soil” get 80 per cent of the jobs in BPOs, malls, organised retail, multiplexes and hospitality industry.
[Announcing exclusive quota for minorities in TN] Mr Karunanidhi, while talking in the state assembly, traced the history of reservations in the state and said the famous Government Order (GO) of 1921 had extended reservations to Muslims and ‘Indian Christians’.

Do you have an octogenarian grandpa or grandma? Yes? Now, let's suppose that you are the Founder and the Chief Executive Officer of a successful start-up, which is worth a billion dollars. Be honest,would you give the reins of your enterprise to either one of them? Would you, really?

I wouldn't. A sleeping partner or a honorary chairperson, yes. The CEO? No sir, not likely at all. In the rarest of the rarest circumstances, a qualified may be, but only under my up close and personal, watchful, eye. Heck, I won't even let them manage my mutual fund!

Then, why do millions of voters insist on betting their lives on relics like Karunanidhi, Arjun Singh, and Bal Thackeray? Why do the masses bleat in delight every time they promise the moon for them? Some of these fellows come across as more dim-witted and less communicative than the octogenarians that I know personally. Mind you, that's after they are washed and spun through the audio and video machines of the media!

I am quite serious, and not trying to flame anybody here. Research in cognitive and neuroscience provides ample evidence for age associated cognitive decline (AACD for the acronym addicts). For example, Schönknecht et al report from a study of 500 subjects born between 1930 and 1932 that:

... subjective complaints about cognitive decline were found in 226 subjects (46.6%), and 200 subjects (41.2%) scored below one standard deviation of age- and education-adjusted normal values on at least one of the cognitive tests applied...

In my former trade — academics, many of us believed that we were past our prime when we reached thirty-something. We might be tenured, chaired, and hailed as emeritus, but these were mostly rewards for past performance. As Daniel Dennett had observed in his Consciousness Explained, we were more like the

... juvenile sea squirt [that] wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)

What applies to the academics, applies to the career bureaucrats as well. Permanent government servants are no different from the tenured professors. They eat their brains, too, perhaps earlier, for, they are "tenured" from day one. Fortunately for us, most bureaucrats have a mandatory age of retirement. Unfortunately for us, a few of them — I respectfully decline to name anyone in particular — choose to become politicians, and then become ministers, and even prime ministers or presidents.

Politicians seem to belong to a different breed altogether. They refuse to acknowledge their AACD, and the cronies that surround them nod in admiration. The media plays its part by keeping the myth of the wise old Yoda alive. And the masses... I wonder if the masses had any cognitive ability at all! Otherwise, why would they trust these fellows who have failed miserably to deliver on something as basic as universal primary education, after sixty years of non-governance? Why would they meekly surrender to their blatantly divisive politics, even after they have implicitly acknowledged that the nation is as backward today as it was in 1931?

You know what, I think it's about time that the demographic dividends are distributed to whom they belong. Before it is too late, there ought to be a constitutional amendment to enact quotas in the assemblies, cabinets, and the parliament for every decadal age group - that's the need of the hour. Lest these laost centurians, who are mired in their ancient ways of thinking and discredited systems of governance, should destroy the future of India.

  1. World started long back. Unfortunately it didn't start the same way for all people everywhere.
    Humans have used their thinking power, made innovations, made laws and made "countries" and "religions" and so on.
    At all points,the objective was to adapt nature to increase comforts without affecting 'others'
    interests directly or indirectly.The objective was never realised fully though the trend is towards that. History can't be erased and its scars are still there.Until there's 'near' level playing field for exhibiting one's abilities ,reservation or more appropriately' preferential' treatment has to be there. Only the method of identifying the eligibility should be objective, and definetely not based on the human invented'caste' alone.

    Reg. Octogenarians and setogenarians(who at the best can only be marginally better) it's the system which is at fault. People think only popularity and public speaking abilities are enough to become 'democratic heads' be it India or the U.S.But the real intelligent and thinking people have evolved and will evolve even better systems which are already producing awesome 'tangible' results and would very soon become models and benchmarksd for the entire earth.
    After all everything ends in economic well-being. All others are only abstract and carry no 'real' value.People and ' countries are respected and recognised by their wealth/economic status respectively, and only very rarely by other factors such as expression, 'freedom' etc.

  2. "..mired in their ancient ways of thinking and discredited systems of governance.."

    As long as the academia is left-leaning, most people in every generation will continue to believe in discredited systems of governance!

  3. Raju,
    You try to create a 'level-playing field' or give preferential treatment with YOUR money, NOT with MY tax money. Simple!


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