Beating the Americans

by Roopinder Singh

“Ah! That’s one thing in which we are far ahead of the Americans!” I wondered what had brought out this ironically delivered pronouncement from Jaspreet, since yours truly considers himself a bit of an authority on the US of A, having spent a number of youthful years there.

Now for the disclaimer. I did see the inside of cop stations, but purely because of my journalistic pursuits. I was never arrested and nor did I serve any time there. Neither, have I, for that matter, been able to set up anything like a multi-million dollar empire, but then I digress, as has most of the country in the past few weeks.

President Obama was on his pulpit, addressing the world, glancing left and right for the slim electronic teleprompters that provide him with the right words which he delivers with such eloquence. The leader of the Land of the Free asked politicians to “think more about the next generation than the next election”.

Think of the next generation….the penny dropped. We have a strong tradition of thinking of the next generation. Anyone seeking the validation of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “family-resemblance” theory just has to glance at the Indian political pantheon. When a few families control the destiny of a nation, we call it a dictatorship. When they are elected, we call it a democracy…it gives us a moral high ground, you know.

How we take care of the next generation! First we provide for it – at least for the next seven generations is the norm. Then we secure their future by “getting them into a suitable line.” Matrimonial alliances are entered into to secure their future, and religious intervention is sought to leave nothing to chance. In case a prodigal son stumbles, we are there for him, assuring him our full support, and maintaining that he could have done nothing wrong.

The darling was denied a drink and someone was shot? Too bad. A few people were mowed down after a few too many were consumed? Sad. However, witnesses maintained that it was not a BMW but a truck that had done the deed. A foreigner was raped? No way could our dear have done it! Besides, you know how the French are, and she never returned to the city of her trauma to testify. A scuffle and shots fired? Come on, these little things happen when boys are growing up!

Not that the Americans did not have their Chappaquiddick incident, but it was an aberration and ensured that Ted Kennedy could never lay to rest the ghost of his party companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in a car he was driving.

American children learn early that actions have consequences. The privileged in India seldom have to face the consequences of their actions. We can take care of the elections as well as (our) next generations. We beat Americans, but at what cost?

We could better them sometime, but only after we learn to equip our children to take care of themselves, rather than devote our lives to “taking care” of them and crippling their growth potential.

This middle was published in The Tribune on April 29, 2010

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