Monday, November 26, 2012
A question of loyalty - 1
I have this really whacky theory and I am curious to find out how far this flies.
We all know that the British occupation of India started with the idea of doing business and then they up-leveled their relationship to make themselves rulers of the area. Since the British were fewer in number, they were majorly assisted by native Indians to perform administrative, police and military tasks. So these natives became clerks, jawans, administrators and police personnel. These people served the British loyally for 200+ years. For many natives of Indian subcontinent born in 1700s and 1800s - their reality and normalcy was defined as serving the British. This is because their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers had served them. That was the only way of life known to them as their lifetime was spent under British rule. Their loyalty was to the crown. They were people of good integrity and loyalty and so were very sincere to their masters and showed excellence in that sincerity by getting titles like 'dubash' etc. Given this it was natural that these people on the payroll of British government initially resisted and were even aghast at the early rounds of the Indian freedom struggle. One could make an argument that if this large workforce was less cooperative with the British rulers, Indian freedom could have been achieved much earlier.
History looks upon these Indians (largely belonging to a group of upper castes) - who served the British loyally - with considerable disdain. These people have been regarded as traitors and as selfish. Looking at their own interests instead of the interests of the nation. No historical footnote has been added to mitigate their evilness. It has not been mitigated by the fact that there was no unifying concept of a nation at that time. There was no concept of India. These were people who were serving the numerous chieftains and kings who existed before the British and were slowly merged into the British government as the chieftains surrendered to the British. By virtue of serving British for generations it was logical to assume that these natives (delusionally) thought that they were an integral part of the British government and loyal subjects of the crown - just like any other white guy. They might've allowed themselves the luxury of calling Britain, the King/queen and its colonies as 'our' country, 'our' majesty etc. Now can you find fault these people? Are they really bad. They were accused of fighting their own brothers and fellow 'Indians' and accused of abetting the British to try and extinguish the freedom struggle. Most Indians cringe at this knowledge. On the surface it seems like heinous and stupid thing to do. But at a detailed level, in a very micro view of things - they were just doing their duty and what they thought was 'ethically right' (i.e. to be loyal to their country, crown and those who paid them). Like any other generation they had their free will manipulated by their ruler's perception of what was 'right' and what was 'wrong'. But at a macro level, with a lot of hindsight they were wrong. They missed the point and couldn't see the forest for the trees.
The recent US elections has allowed me to form a theory and I really want to write it down before I forget it. This is not to poke fun. Just that this opportunity to observe US based desis (with vote or no vote) at election time has allowed me to make observations about a category of people who may have similarities with certain categories of people from history. Most 1st generation Indians who have immigrated to the US and obtained citizenship refer the US, its president as 'my' country, ''my' president etc. Strangely, even people with no citizenship afford this luxury. In the event of conflict of interests (i.e. a situation that benefits US but is detrimental to India) these Indians - largely belonging to same caste groups as that of the people who served the British - use the 'loyalty' card to express support to USA. Again, these people aren't evil or inherently bad. They get paid and live in a country and are being loyal to that setup.Their notions of right and wrong has probably undergone similar 'free will' manipulation. The difference is these people have grown up in a unified India. They are aware of the country called India. Unlike their historical counterparts.they have reaped significant benefits from the country (decent life, democracy, right/access to education, rich supply of food, recognized education system, consulates, diplomatic relationships with other countries, basic infrastructure such as airports to passports). Yet at a micro level they are quick to support the US. They cite several 'logical' reasons to support (i.e. they have a US passport, have taken a oath to serve the country, Obama is doing the right thing for his people, this is good for the US and it is not necessary that they should consider what is good for India as my priority etc etc). The question is - how will history judge these people?
I understand that nothing significant has happened between US and India that tests the strength of the loyalty of Indian immigrants. But if we take the liberty of extrapolating current behavior to projected behavior in a confrontational situation - my guess is you will find more than a handful of people expressing support to the US and state several micro level 'logical' reasons in favor. My theory is less on taking a dump on Indian immigrants but mostly on the subject of how confusing the concept of 'micro level loyalty' can be. If you decide the correctness of each individual issue at a micro level without a sense how those issues tie up at a macro level - how good is your overall ethics? On the other hand, does macro level ethics trump the need to be correct at each individual micron level issue?
p.s:1: I am not particularly patriotic. I don't see myself going out of my way to express love for India or do awesome deeds to show my patriotism. But I don't see myself causing harm to India or acting against its interests as well.
p.s.2: I understand that these analogies aren't perfect and the situations aren't necessarily congruent. But I have a strong sense that they do have similarities. I am just wondering how big is the common denominator is between these two categories.
p.s.3: I do not consider people living in India to be inherently more or les patriotic than NRIs or immigrated Indians. Just that the latter set are put in a more vulnerable position. Chest-thumping patriotic Indians would change behavior once they become NRIs. Infact I think the early Comp Sci based immigrants were instrumental in India becoming a software superpower.